Six talks worth watching

Professional development is often associated with attending conferences. In my experience, you can usually tell within the first five minutes if the talk or workshop is going to be any good. The positive effect of moving such events online is that you don’t need to worry about being spotted while trying to sneak away from a lecture that you find excruciatingly boring. To be fair to the speakers, it’s impossible to please everyone when you are talking to a group of teachers with varied experience, qualifications, interests, etc.

Fortunately, there are recordings of some useful education-related talks available on YouTube. I have already mentioned a couple of them on this blog, so I thought it would be a good idea to select a few more videos, write a short summary of each of them, and point out some moments I found humorous. If you’d like to recommend any other talks, let me know in the comments section.

Scott Thornbury: What’s the latest method?
You know that you can always rely on Scott Thornbury to deliver an engaging talk because he is an experienced presenter and skilled public speaker. This talk is an entertaining overview of teaching methods used throughout the years. There are plenty of references to literature and hilarious examples from obscure books for students. I think this talk serves as a pretty good argument against strictly adhering to a magic method that promises amazing results. The talk ends when some guy tentatively walks onto the stage to tell Thornbury that he has run out of time, which shows that issues with timing don’t affect only Delta Module Two candidates.

Stephen Krashen: The power of reading
Everyone remembers Stephen Krashen for his hypotheses related to second language acquisition. He later became involved in educational policy activism, and one of his priorities is improving access to books. In this talk that focuses on the benefits of reading, Krashen refers to relevant research and provides pretty convincing arguments for free voluntary reading. He states that reading influences more aspects of life than just academic results. The talk also includes a Bill Cosby reference, which is something that most likely wouldn’t happen these days.

Russ Mayne: A guide to pseudoscience in ELT
I wonder what strange contraption was used to record this talk because the video definitely doesn’t look like something made in 2014. Anyway, I highly recommend that you ignore the poor audio and image quality and watch this gem of a talk. It has everything you’d want from a guide on myths on ELT. Russ Mayne mentions horoscopes, refers to Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit, and provides a helpful slide with names of major organisations and authors who are complicit in spreading nonsense. Brilliant stuff!

If Karl Pilkington’s superhero idea ever gets made into a movie, I will personally contact film studios with a pitch for a spin-off. Imagine that: He’s just a normal guy who doesn’t need a special costume. When he hears someone somewhere in the world promoting the use of learning styles and multiple intelligences in the classroom, he flies in and…

Philip Kerr: The return of translation
This is a very useful webinar for teachers who work in places that ban using L1 in the classroom. Philip Kerr makes it clear that we should be more open-minded when it comes to using translation because our students can actually benefit from it. I like the fact that he shows practical examples of translation activities that you can use in your teaching practice. If you watch the whole video, you will be rewarded with a funny swear word and the speaker’s heartfelt Christmas wishes. Nice one!

Rod Ellis: Using tasks in language teaching
This webinar will provide you with basic tenets related to using tasks in the classroom, including focus on form. It was nice to see Rod Ellis confirm that TBLT can be used in the online environment because the theory of language learning isn’t affected by the fact that you’re talking to your students through Zoom. There is nothing revolutionary in the webinar, but it’s good to hear everything straight from Rod Ellis’ mouth. By the way, that body part features quite prominently in the top right corner of the video because Cambridge University Press forgot to include the upper half of the speaker’s face in the recording.

Luke Meddings: 3-2-1: A classroom for everyone
One of the main proponents of Dogme gave this thought-provoking talk on the approach twelve years after its creation. Luke Meddings makes some interesting comments about this alternative to coursebook-driven teaching. He briefly mentions learning styles and multiple intelligences. I guess Russ Mayne wasn’t in the audience that day because I didn’t hear any audible groans in the recording. To his credit, Meddings says that we should try to build a community and include a variety of task types rather than pay attention to those theories.

Follow-up post: Six ELT talks raising important questions

Webinar: How to use Web 2.0 for professional development

Centro Colombo Americano is a private language institute with branches in major Colombian cities. Last Friday, I delivered a webinar at a national ELT conference organised by CCA Bogotá. I had previously run a few workshops for students and teachers, but this was the first one focusing on a topic that I had chosen by myself. My webinar was one of many sessions taking place at the same time, so it was a low-key event attended mostly by people I know from real life.

How to use Web 2.0 for professional development

This is the abstract of my webinar:

Professional development is associated mainly with workshops and conferences, which are part and parcel of our teaching lives. It is also important to mention that there are additional sources of information available to teachers. This presentation aims to highlight the value of user-generated online content for professionals involved in ELT.

Social media sites can serve as much more than a platform for sharing memes and photos of food. They allow teachers to create their own personal learning network and learn from more experienced colleagues. It is valuable to stay in touch with teachers from around the world and share ideas with them, which can include ready-made lesson plans that can be used in one’s teaching practice.

There is also a plethora of useful information on ELT blogs. This type content is based on the author’s personal experience and it may provide the readers with inspiration for their own actions. Blogs also include guides for successfully obtaining advanced teaching qualifications.

Web 2.0 empowers teachers to get involved in the parts of professional development they find relevant to their own needs and interests. The presentation focuses on practical tips for taking advantage of this content and for getting involved in its production.

I know very well that Web 2.0 is just a buzzword that was popular fifteen years ago, and that it isn’t really used anymore. I figured that using fancy terms like that would increase the chances of having my proposal accepted. I was right because the organisers asked me to deliver a 40-minute workshop with a short Q&A session. This is how it went:

At first, I used Mentimeter to find out what ideas the participants associate with professional development.

Mind map: professional development

I then referred to Matt Ellman’s excellent blog post CPD is dead and here is why. I am sure that most teachers have attended workshops that turned out to be a complete waste of time. Ellman provides valid explanations for ineffectiveness of some CPD sessions, and suggests combining expert-guided learning with self-guided development. In my webinar, I stressed the importance of taking responsibility for your development as a teacher.

The main part of the session comprised of demonstrating how teachers can benefit from using social media and blogs. As I have mentioned before, there is a really nice community of ELT professionals on Twitter. I also find blogging very useful because it makes me reflect on my own teaching practice. By the way, I recommend watching Jim Fuller’s interview with Rachel Tsateri because they talked about the benefits of blogging and discussed other topics that developing teachers will find relevant.

There most likely isn’t a recording of the whole session, so I will leave only my slides here. I hope that you find some of the links to social media posts and blogs interesting. I imagine that a couple of the images may seem a little bit weird without an accompanying commentary, but I’m sure it’s obvious that they weren’t meant to be taken completely seriously.