On Monday 17th September 2018, the ELTC kicked off a new academic year with a training day. It was a particularly special day as it brought together teachers based at both Hoyle Street (ELTC) and Solly Street (The ELTC at USIC, which is the University of Sheffield International College run by Studygroup). Usually it is a case of “never the twain shall meet” – not because we dislike each other, but because timetabling just doesn’t allow it. Times that might be convenient to at least a fair number of teachers based at Hoyle Street aren’t possible for the majority of teachers based at USIC and vice-versa.
In the morning, there were parallel sessions running in two rooms, put on by teachers (including me) who had volunteered sessions. (The good news is, the teachers who volunteered sessions have all been asked to make a bite-size video about their session as sessions weren’t recorded on the day due to technical issues. So despite technical issues, we will be able to catch up with what happened in “other room”!)
In the afternoon, we came together in one room and we had a guest speaker talking to us about Mindfulness, a conference feedback session and a session about copyright issues. Before lunch, first I attended a session about the ELTC E-learning strategy which was a review of what has been done E-learning-wise over the last year followed by looking ahead to the forthcoming year and things that it is hoped will happen. For the second session, I repeated the talk/workshop I did at IATEFL about using the British Council Framework to systematise development. The third session in “my” room was the TD team and again it was looking back at TD over the last year and forward to possibilities for future TD.
E-Learning Strategy ELTC
Things we have done in the 2017-18 academic year:
- We now have the audio and video for various course books available on our (password protected) Resource Bank website. All relevant permissions for that have been acquired.
- The Teacher Portal website has been given a makeover to make it more accessible in terms of layout and, amongst other things, now includes a link to teacher development materials (recordings, links etc) that have been and will be shared via email. The idea is to provide a central location where it can all be accessed so that when you finally have a bit of time, you don’t waste it trawling back through emails looking for something that was sent when you were up to your eyeballs in marking and didn’t have time to look at it.
- The Student Portal website has also been undergoing development to make it more user-friendly and useful. USIC students are able to use it as well as ELTC students.
- The International Summer School Pre-Sessional this year used a flipped learning model for the first time, meaning that half of the content was delivered online and half was delivered face to face. This also meant that a dedicated team produced 60-80 hours of interactive content (defined as “a combination of media such as text, audio or video combined with clickable elements [quizzes, questionnaires, typing in answers etc]”). Welfare-related content was also shared online. We looked at some examples of interactive content that were made for the International Summer School Pre-Sessional and I discovered that the OALD now lets you access Oxford collocations dictionary information when you search for a word:
Things we want to do in the 2018-19 academic year:
- Develop more interactive content, including for year round courses. There is already a project underway working on materials for the SpLD service. Other ideas include induction materials, interactive rubrics to explain assignments e.g. essays, specific materials to support a particular programme, cultural and social guides, guides for particular tools and teacher training guides/content. To these, we were invited to share our ideas too, using a padlet which brought out some more interesting possibilities.
- Continue working on the portals and the resource bank, to make them more accessible for teachers/students as relevant.
- Try and link our digital literacy/technology training more closely to university policies/tools in use and “graduate attributes” as put forward by the university so that students . The library has a digital literacy framework with the skills/competences needed so that will also be linked.
- Develop online courses for teachers. The Learning Technologies in EAP course has run successfully a few times now with participants from all over the world. In addition, a new course will be piloted in January – “Corpus linguistics for language teachers”. This is a 6-week course to familiarise teachers with online corpus tools and help them use these in their teaching. (Sounds good!)
…In a nutshell! There was plenty of opportunity throughout the session for us to discuss and share ideas for future directions/developments which was nice.
“I don’t want to be a manager – now what?” How to systematise CPD using the British Council Framework (My session)
Here is a write-up of my session from when I did it at IATEFL in April. It was nice doing it at the ELTC as I could link specifically to aspects of CPD available here e.g. the Peer Development Scheme – confidential staff room peer review activities which could involve observing a colleague, team teaching with a colleague, assistance in finding materials, observation with specific developmental focus and discussion. Teachers can contact the Peer Development Team to organise any of these things. One of my goals for this term is to use it! A possible future goal might be to join the team…
“What’ve we got and what d’ya want?” What’s new in terms of TD resources, reflect on TD activities, and what you would like
We reflected on the TD activities offered in the last year. This involved looking at slips of paper, each of which had an activity on it e.g. Bitesize TD (15-30 minute videos made voluntarily by teachers about different things e.g. teaching multi-level classes, using Kaltura, using Googlekeep, Prepositions, Engagement through audio feedback), Training day, emails with mini-reflective tasks and, in our groups, identify which we had engaged with and select a top three. After that, we had to “shout out” (do you know it? It’s a site which allows students to use their mobile phones to send short messages to a central page which can be displayed on the interactive board) ideas for TD activities in the next year.
- Bitesize TD
- Training Day
- Emails with mini-reflective tasks
- Emails with links to webinars/journals articles
- TD Bulletin
- Ad-hoc TD sessions
- Scholarship circles
- Sharing ideas around a particular topic on a padlet
- Google Hangout discussions
Everyone was a big fan of the Bitesize TD! One thing that came out of the discussion around what could happen in the forthcoming year was a desire for more activities that bring ELTC and USIC together and, connected, opportunities for team-building as well as knowledge building.
Mindfulness and ELT
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is returning to the present moment, being aware. You can ask yourself the following questions:
Am I aware of…
- my feelings now?
- my physical body?
- my language?
- my impact?
- my state of mind?
Where is my mind?
Feelings change from moment to moment. Do you notice the transitions? Which one is you? Where is the anchor (when encountering difficulties etc.) ? Knowing and being aware of the feelings is an anchor.
We looked at two mindfulness exercises. One was a sitting mediation in which we sat with our hands in our laps with the position of facing upwards, four fingers above four fingers and thumbs joined at the tips. We had our eyes closed. We had to focus on all the different parts of our body and our mind in turn. The second was a walking mediation which entailed walking VERY slowly around the room and being mindful/aware (focusing on) of the entire movement of walking, bit by bit. Walking up and down stairs is another space to practice mindfulness but we didn’t try that.
Thoughts are like guests, while you are the home-owner. Knowing is always present, while thoughts/guests come and go.
In terms of ELT, you could:
- use mindfulness activities (not necessarily the ones above but for example choosing one or two 2 minute activities from the Eight Form Moving Mediation – Sitting Posture of All Forms) at the beginning and ending of lessons. Being mindful of posture in this way can help maximise oxygen intake and energise students.
- do a self-communication exercise: Get students to complete the sentence “When I encounter a difficulty, I usually say to myself….” and then “Next time I encounter a difficulty I can say…” This encourages them to think/self-talk in English and to acknowledge what is there, become more aware of it and tweak it to something more positive. This is an example of using awareness.
- do a peer support conversation: students need reassurance and peers can reassure each other if they have the language to do so.
During the rest of the session, she talked to us about her time spent on retreats in Taiwan and China and the similarities and differences between those experiences (the subject matter of the research she is currently doing), showing us lots of pictures too. It was a very different session and we all felt remarkably refreshed afterwards! We also agreed that it was really nice to have something so different within the training day.
Conference Feedback Session
Five of us had five minutes each to feedback to everybody about a theme or a particular session or sessions that we attended. I spoke about inclusion (which covered differentiation, special needs, LGBT and materials development) and briefly mentioned professional development, in terms of the shift towards bottom-up rather than top-down development programmes that came through in the CPD forum – you can get a flavour of what I said here). Other topics from IATEFL were Action Research, Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill’s sessions. Two more sessions fed back from a BALEAP conference and one of those focused on assessing speaking skills, particularly interaction, and another was about acculturation. I couldn’t make notes about what any of them said because I was also at the front of the room! Once we had all had our five minutes, we each went to a different part of the room and teachers could choose one of the themes to hear more about and ask questions etc. It all seemed to work quite well. My group wanted to hear more about SpLD and I will admit to using my blog posts from the conference to help me tell them what they wanted to know! It was a nice interactive kind of session, rather than purely presentation, which it could have been if organised differently.
Two members of the library team came and did a session with us about copyright. We were introduced to the Copyright Hub which provides staff with information and guidance about copyright as well as signposting to relevant information. Obviously the information on it is tailored towards the licenses that the university holds, however, for anyone reading this who isn’t from the university, you can still have a nosy without being logged in to the university system!
After talking to us about copyright, the team gave use a board game to play which involved considering various situations and answering questions, while they monitored and helped where necessary. A useful session!
Overall, everybody participated very enthusiastically in the training day, which was very varied, and it was a lovely way to start the term. 🙂