The World is Your Staffroom: Using the Internet for Professional Development Part 1 - Seminars and WebinarsIf you work at a large institution, you have access to experienced teachers, in-house workshops, seminars and (possibly) travel assistance for presenting at, or possibly, attending conferences. Additionally, your line manager has probably assigned you a mentor who can answer the day-to-day questions like "What happens if I need a new CD?" as well as fill you in on the "culture of the school" or the "unwritten rules."
Yep, if you work at a school with a growth mindset, you will always be reminded that a teacher is a learner first and foremost and, therefore, will always be challenged to improve not only their content knowledge but also their pedagogy. In this type of school, in-house professional development workshops will be mandatory and there will be competition to see who can generate the highest turn-out for workshops.
Do you do things because that is how they have always been done?
But what if you don't work in "that" school? What if you work in a school that has a fixed mindset, one that believes that if you have a BA/BS in anything and a CELTA or TESOL Cert then you know "enough?" What if you are THE English teacher at your school? Well, in that case, you can either:
choose to be the valedictorian of summer school (aka "the biggest fish in a small pond") or
embrace the web and create your own personal learning network (PLN). Since you're reading this post, you're in group 2. The problem with the web isn't the lack of information, it is actually the opposite: known as The Paradox of Choice, the number of options is so overwhelming that instead of doing something, people feel overwhelmed, don't know where to begin and ultimately do nothing. The goal of these posts is, if you're a new teacher, to point you in the direction of some resources that could REALLY help your teaching. If you're a more experienced teacher, maybe you'll come across some sites that will help you fill in some of the holes in your game or get you to rethink something you've been doing. Additionally, please feel free to post your favorite sites in the comments section below but beware, I have final say on what gets posted. Translation: if it's off topic, or off color, it gets deleted. Without further ado, lets begin.
Seminars and Webinars
So you can't make it to a conference or a teacher training seminar because it's too far away. Fair enough. Thankfully, organizers of conferences are starting to realize that the vast majority of teachers can't attend conferences for financial and family reasons (not to mention time and distance) and are starting to put their conferences on the web. Therefore, if you have a decent internet connection, then you have access to a number of world class seminars and webcasts for free.
So what distinguishes a seminar from a webinar? In a word, interaction. When you watch a seminar, you are doing just that: watching; however, if you are taking part in a webinar, you have the opportunity to ask questions, take part in polls and help shape the discussion in real time! While you will have to download some software to participate, rest assured that it is free and easy to operate but please be sure to download and install the software at least 30 minutes before the start of the webcast.
And what happens if you miss a webcast? Luckily, the hosts archive the recorded webcasts (does that make them seminars/webinars?). Best of all, they are now on demand; I can't count the number of times I've watched them during my lunch break. Where can you find them? Well here are a few of my favorites:
TeachingEnglish: British Council and BBC
Image via BC English Agenda
The professional development carried out by the BC is second to none. Luckily for those of us who don't work for them, they video tape some of their seminars and post them to the internet.
Two of my favorites seminars are:
20 Steps to Teaching Unplugged by @LukeMeddings
This seminar was my introduction to Dogme.
Teaching IELTS: Skills and Techniques to Link English Speaking and Writing by Sam McCarter
Need some ideas on how to prep your students for the IELTS exam? Check out all four of McCarter's seminars on IELTS plus his seminar onPutting EAP into Focus.
Additionally, the BC also conducts webinars. To keep up to date about upcoming webinars, be sure to follow them on Twitter @TeachingEnglish. To view past ones, click here.
Finally, here is one I wholeheartedly recommend is Learner Autonomy by @LizziePinard. Everyone likes to say "I don't teach content, I teach learning" but how do you actually teach people how to learn? This webinars tackles that question and provides some ideas on how to shift rhetoric to reality.
Image via TurnItIn
TurnItIn designs and sells plagiarism prevention/detection software. Even if you're school doesn't have a subscription, you can still take advantage of their professional development resources. All you have to do is create a free account and then start streaming their recorded webcasts and downloading their white papers.
Here are a couple to get you started:
Stopping Plagiarism at the Source: Why Assignments Matter by Barry Gilmore and Jason Chu
It may sound obvious but if you want students to write something original, give them something original to do.
The Accidental Plagiarist: The Myths, the Truths, and What it All Means for Teaching & Learning by Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant and Jason Chu
There is a massive difference between copying a paper wholesale and forgetting to add a citation and this webcast delves into how to distinguish and respond to plagiarism.
Oxford University Press - English Language Teaching
Image via OUP ELT
OUP is one of the major publishers in the field. As such, they have webinars on every aspect of language teaching which you will have access to after you create a free account. One that I highly recommend is Oxford Big Read - An introduction to setting up a class library and using Readers by Verissimo Toste. This webinar is fantastic because it gets into the details of what you need to do to create and cultivate a classroom of readers.
Additionally, be sure to check out Patsy Lightbown's webinar on Content Based Teaching which focuses on how to strike the right balance between teaching content while still providing language instruction.
Image via Macmillan English
And finally, from the people who bring you onestopenglish, there is Macmillan English. On their site you can search their archives since 2010 to uncover gems such as The Sound Foundations Phonemic Chart by Adrian Underhill.
In Conclusion, know that there are more, way more, places to look on the internet for webinars. Doing a simple Google Search for "TEFL Webinar" returns over 30,000 results. As I said at the outset, this post is by no means exhaustive; it is, however, meant to provide you with a starting point on where to look to improve your teaching. In my next post, I'll be looking at how you can use YouTube to teach yourself any number of technologies and teaching techniques. Until then, happy teaching!