I’m really happy to kick off a new page on my blog called ‘The Edtech Experts’ Corner.’ Outstanding colleagues who have warmly embraced the use of technology in the EFL classroom will be answering 10 short Qs about educational technology. More specifically, they’ll be sharing practical teaching ideas, tried and tested tools as well as tips that can help us teachers stay informed in the fast changing world of learning technologies and teaching methodologies.
Today I’d like to present Dimitris Primalis, a colleague whom I respect and admire for his hard work and the innovative ways he uses new technologies in class.
So here are Dimitris’ answers to my 10 Questions:
1.Technology has changed my teaching practise… in the sense that it has opened a window on the real world in an artificial classroom.
2. I use technology because…it motivates learners and accommodates different learning styles. It also allows me access to a plethora of material I can use in class.
3. A tool I would definitely recommend is…Microsoft Office Mix. Why? Because it allows screen capture (record what I am doing on my computer screen into a video that I can then share with my students).
4. 2 ways I use it… in a flipped classroom context are: A) I give students personalized feedback on the projects they have handed in or texts they have written. I email them the video and then they can watch it at their own time, as many times as they wish. B) I can easily record short presentations using video, sound and the PowerPoint slides as a blackboard. Students can access it through the school’s Learning Management System again and again.
5. Has technology made your life easier as a teacher?
In the past I had to carry cassettes, video tapes and the necessary equipment (cassette player, VCRs and TV) to the classroom whenever I wanted to give an alternative to students who were fed up with books. Now I can access all my digital access material, teaching resources provided by publishers or authentic material at the click of a mouse. This allows me to be flexible in class and respond to students’ needs on the spot.
6. A great website for learning English is…the British Council website for young learners: learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org It is full of creative and motivating activities for young learners in a safe environment without ads.
Why? Because it helps students develop their creativity by creating a virtual puppet show. In the process of making it, they practice script writing skills, communication skills and collaboration as they often work in pairs or in groups. The fact that they use virtual puppets lowers inhibition – just like when wearing a mask- and even shy learners, who would not dare speak in front of the class, practice their speaking skills. Learners often improvise using language in a witty way. The end product is exported into a video and can be easily shared with the rest of the class.
8. How do your students usually react to learning English with technology?
They love it!!! Their generation is being brought up in a high tech environment and they feel confident to use it. If used wisely, technology can act as a gateway to learning because students feel familiar with it and they are far more likely to respond positively to homework that involves using technology – even to a limited extent – rather than to the traditional homework using pen and paper.
9. My tip for beginners with technology is…to take it easy and choose apps or tools that serve the educational needs they have set for their students. It is very easy for a teacher to get carried away and use technology only for the sake of using it.
10. Which website/blog/ FB page e.t.c do you follow for your further professional development?
I find most of the articles posted onEdutopia very interesting, I followSylvia Guinanon Facebook. She always writes or shares very practical articles. I also find Sophia Mavridi’sblog insightful. I need to add that very soon the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG is about to launch a brand new website. Being a member of the website editorial team, I can assure you that some very interesting posts, blogs and articles are coming soon.
Dimitris Primalis is an EFL teacher, author and Cambridge English Language Assessment oral examiner. He has been teaching for more than 20 years and applies his knowledge and experience to introducing innovation and change into the daily teaching practice. He believes that motivation, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication can be the driving forces in TEFL. His views and work are shared in his columns in the ELT News, the BELTA Bulletin and his blog, “A different side of EFL”. He has presented his work in many conferences in Greece and abroad. Dimitris was awarded the 2013 IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG scholarship and was selected as an Expert Innovative Educator by Microsoft (2014-15). He is working at Doukas, a private primary school in Athens, Greece.
‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’. Such a wise phrase that you can magically experience the moment you overcome your fears and meet a challenge that seemed unthinkable before!
Last April, I was given the opportunity to step forward, out of my personal comfort zone. My dear friend and colleague Isil Boy invited me to give a talk about my digital storybook ‘Dylan& Lydia at the Fortune Teller’s’ at a great conference in Istanbul, Turkey. (#Educational Technology Summit ’15)
At first, I was delighted! On second thought, I panicked! It was a really busy period for me at school and I had little time to prepare. On top of that, I would have to speak in public before colleagues for the very first time!
For some unknown reason, I’ve always dreaded public speaking. As a child, I used to be so shy that I even avoided being photographed! I would feel very uneasy when I had to deliver a poem in front of an audience at school celebrations. I still remember my mum helping me memorize the words and rehearse with me until the last minute!
Of course, over years my studies abroad along with my job have helped me face this feeling of stage freight to a great extent. Yet, when it comes to speaking at conferences, you can’t help but have some butterflies in your stomach…
In this case, hard work and positive thinking were my only means to make my stress work to my advantage! Although, I was really nervous before the speech, the moment I started speaking, I felt an unexpected euphoria. I was genuinely happy and proud to be sharing my experience of making an educational App with other teachers! Seeing the smiling faces of my dear friends Dimitris Primalis and Hanaa Jaber in the audience encouraged me to go through with this too!
Snapshots of Educational Technology Summit, Istanbul 31st May 2015.
ETZ 2015 was a very successful event with a big variety of speakers and interesting talks. Two weeks later, I also had the unique chance to co- present with my sister and co-author of the App, Marina, at the 22nd TESOL Macedonia- Thrace Northern Greece. Once again, we both felt very welcome at this teacher- friendly and well- organized conference.
You can download a pdf version of my presentation slides from the box widgeton the right bar of the blog. Additionally, if you wish to use Dylan& Lydia in class during the next school year, make sure to download the Handbook I’ve written for teachers. It includes supplementary, photocopiable ELT activities, games, DIY crafts and recipes that your students will enjoy!
Special moments from our presentation @TESOL Macedonia, Thrace, 28th March 2015.
At this point, I’d also like to share with you some personal thoughts regarding public speaking and the reluctance many of us feel to find ourselves in the spotlight. I do know many remarkable colleagues who are held back from presenting at conferences because of their fear of exposure.
Judging from my experience as a public speaker, this fear is kind of foolish. If you rationalize it, you’ll realize that as teachers, we expose ourselves to our students on a daily basis. Students can often be a much tougher and judgmental audience than our colleagues. Who hasn’t had to deal with completely unmotivated, sleepy or naughty groups of students?
Speaking before colleagues has so many pros! For starters, this type of audience is there by choice! As teachers, we are all in the same boat. We share similar anxieties and problems so learning from each other and picking up new ideas are absolutely vital!
For those thinking to themselves:
-‘I fear criticism’:
-Well, no one can actually escape this no matter what. Of course, constructive criticism is always welcome and absolutely necessary! However, nasty comments and people with negative energy are part of the process too. Accept that not everyone will like you or what you’re saying and that’s ok! If you have something to share, go ahead and do it. You’ll be the first to benefit from the experience and feel awesome when you hear that a colleague has found your ideas relevant and useful!
‘There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing’ -Aristotle
– ‘How can my presentation be successful?’
– For me, the key to success is practise. ‘Practise makes perfect.’ It takes a lot of time, effort and self- correction to improve and feel confident as a speaker. It’s really important to know what you are about to say very well. Watching other renowned speakers in action can also do wonders! Copy the things you like and create a style of your own. Below is a list of inspiring videos for you to watch:
A week later and I still seem to be under the ‘Oxford spell’… To be honest, I was a bit reluctant before enrolling on the English Language Teachers’ Seminar again because my first time there was utterly amazing! However, going back was really worth the while!
Feeling more mature professionally and having set new goals, I decided to avoid making any comparisons with the past and enjoy this new experience afresh! So, once again I found myself in atmospheric Oxford and the beautiful, old surroundings of Exeter College.
A wonderful group of 62 English Teachers from 27 different countries were my family for the next 15 days! All highly motivated and willing to share their teaching experiences and positive energy! As expected, the course was intensive and very informative with daily morning lectures and workshops that covered different areas in ELT and addressed individual teaching needs!
We were taught by the best team of teacher trainers who inspired, broadened our horizons and made us want to become better teachers and well- rounded human beings.
During these two weeks, we learnt so much that time for reflection is absolutely necessary! However, I’d like to single out some of the things I learnt from each teacher trainer and really cherish:
Charles Boyle: ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.’- Quote used by Charles at our closing dinner.
Hanna Kryszewska– ‘How to become a teacher trainer’:‘Never give up teaching even if you become an expert teacher trainer’.
Edmund Dudley– ‘Teaching Teenagers: Challenge Accepted.’: ‘When dealing with difficult students, make them feel valued, irrespective of their performance.’
Jon Hird– ‘Exploring Grammar’: ‘Allowing students thinking and planning time can result in greater accuracy on a grammar level.’
John Hughes-‘Writing Materials for ELT Publishers’: ‘Always test if your materials work with the public. Ask other colleagues to try them out and give you feedback about how they worked for them and their students.’
Ken Wilson: ‘All our students are different and differently talented. We need to find ways to access their way of learning.’
Russell Stannard: I loved one of the iPad/ iPhone apps Russell demonstrated in his lecture called Brainshark! Use Brainshark to make impressive presentations: upload your pdf/word files/videos or images, add your recordings (up to 15minutes) and share via e-mail or post to your blog and other social media.
For me, if you are an English teacher seeking inspiration and fresh ideas, Oxford is THE place to go because there you can combine high-level education with loads of fun and entertainment! For more information about this course, click here: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/details.php?id=X162-2
Finally, for many people studying in Oxford is a dream! In my case, this dream has come true twice! So, I can’t help but feel blessed… I’d like to say a big, sincere thanks to our teacher trainers, Richard& Joe and all my dear new friends who made this another unforgettable experience! Hopefully our paths will cross again…It’s a small world after all :-)!
Last summer I decided to do a more focused teacher training course at Pilgrims in Canterbury, Kent. This time I picked a weekly seminar on ICT& the Use of Social Media in Education which is a field I’m particularly interested in. Kristina Smith, Işil Boy and Beyza Yilmaz earnestly shared their knowledge on how language teachers can make good use of major social media like Facebook and Twitter as well as a set of amazing Web 2.0 tools like Goggle docs, Jing, Diigo, Animoto, Scoop.it and Pinterest, while making sure that students are safe online and familiar with copyright issues. What’s more, they encouraged us to develop and extend our PLN (Personal Learning Network) and this is one of the main reasons I decided to start this blog :-)!
What made a very positive impression on me is the fact that the majority of my classmates were people in their 40s- 50s. My fellow trainees were proof of very committed teachers, determined to become tech- savvy despite the age factor so as to meet their students’ contemporary expectations and needs. Respect :-)!
This experience differed from the one in Oxford but it was surely beautiful in itself. The campus at the University of Kent was wonderful and we were lucky to enjoy the sunny weather during our stay!
Hopefully, I’ll get to meet some of my fellow trainees and our three lovely trainers in December at the 1st International Symposium on educational technology at the Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul.
When I enrolled on the annual summer seminar for English teachers at Exeter College in Oxford, I really didn’t know what to expect. This would be my first visit to Oxford and the first professional development course I would attend… Luckily, the overall experience turned out to be more satisfying than I could ever imagine!
The seminar lasted for two weeks that literally flew by! We were a diverse group of 54 teachers from Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Slovakia, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, China, Japan and the USA! Our daily schedule was very demanding yet highly motivating! Each morning started with some very informative lectures given by inspiring teacher trainers among whom Ken Wilson and Shaun Wilden.
The workshops to follow covered a wide range of ELT areas for ‘every taste’ like language testing, developing materials, how to become a teacher trainer, successful pronunciation, teaching grammar, working with texts, promoting speaking skills and teaching teenagers. Our tutors, Charles Boyle, Hanna Kryszewska, Jon Hird, Edmund Dudley and Adrian Underhill were great- I’d say the elite of the ELT field!
Aside from all the learning, we had our share of entertainment too! Indeed, we had lots of fun doing some Scottish country dancing, going on a pub tour, walking in the countryside ‘the English not the Latin way’ 😉 as well as talking about our countries while trying local delicacies and drinks on a special cultural exchange night!
Experiencing the Oxford student life at the beautiful premises of Exeter College, going around this lovely city with all its historical buildings, the old colleges, the Botanic Garden, the Bodleian Library was dreamy to say the least.
Most importantly, in Oxford I made some lifelong friends :-)! It’s so nice to feel part of a worldwide ELT community and even better to have special people to visit wherever you choose to travel in the world!
I consider myself very lucky and privileged to have attended the seminar at Exeter and if you ever get the opportunity to do this course, just don’t miss it!
A big thanks to everyone who made this course so memorable!