On November 3rd 2009, I posted my very first blog post. When I first started blogging, I honestly didn’t know where it’d take me. I’d tried creating blogs on topics completely unrelated to education, but now, when I look back, I believe the reasons and the drive were not right. Or at least they were not right for me. You see, when I thought of creating blogs on many different topics I was a lot more interested in being able to write a blog that’d have thousands of visitors after the first post. That’d never work for me, or at least it wouldn’t work currently. The thing is I suck at advertising, especially when it comes to self-advertising, which is something I’ve learned about the hard way after (no puns intended) doing some thinking about a lot of things I’ve been through.
I must say that creating a blog on ELT had never been a goal – I usually feel like I’m preaching to the choir when writing or when presenting a workshop or lecture to teachers on ELT. I mean, what usually springs to mind is that if I know it, pretty much everyone else must know it as well. But I do have a passion for teaching and learning, this is something I can’t deny. I can easily spend hours of my free time discussing education – ELT has always been the starting point, but education in general is a point of interest. It was only after I started following a couple of blogs on ELT that I found out how good it was to have, in blogs, a space to share my views. It all started with the comments. A blog was still not in mind.
To be honest, having found myself amidst conversations with loads of teachers who also shared a passion for education was enough. That’s when I saw it even more clearly that writing helps me organise my thoughts. And then some comments felt like they were just way too big to clutter somebody’s post. I never had a problem with how big the comments are, but I read somewhere it’s good practice not to do so. In case you’re wondering, I do love thoughtful comments, regardless of how many words they may have. Fortunately, the reason why I started blogging was to have a place to share my thoughts. I write what I believe in, and I don’t really have a problem with changing my mind later on.
It was through the blog (and twitter, I must say) that I was able to “meet” lots of other interesting teachers who have helped me do some MORE thinking. I never thought I’d be able to keep writing for 2 years, and sometimes I did feel like not writing here any longer. I still hope I’ll one day be able to meet you all in person. This is what I’ve gained from blogging. If nothing else, it’s been nice to hear praises, compliments, criticism and exchange ideas with all readers who paid Doing Some Thinking a visit. If you look on the side, this blog hasn’t received any kind badges for awards, nominations or anything like that, but I can guarantee that what I have gained from keeping it going for these two years is worth a lot more than any kind of award. It’s already been mentioned by people I respect and admire, and what’s better than having the recognition of those you look up to?
I guess finding your true passion does make a difference, and to me, the passion is being able to interact with all of you who read the blog. There are just way too many fantastic blogs on ELT in the blogosphere, and the fact that some of you do take a little of your time to read what I’ve got to say means a lot. I only wish I could have already met most of you. If only I’d been to one of the many conferences in Europe, I’m sure I’d have even more reasons to be thankful for all that Doing Some Thinking has done to me.
Now, two years on, I’d like to ask you two things:
- How many posts do you think there have been in these 2 years?
- If you may, is there any old post you particularly enjoyed reading? One of the challenges I participated was about finding the gems in the blogosphere. I’d love to hear which blog posts I’ve written were somehow interesting to you.
And one last time, I’d just like to thank you for your time to read the posts, for sharing your thoughts, and for helping me grow professionally. I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it this far if it weren’t for all the feedback I’ve received. You’ve certainly helped me keep it up!
Here’s to some more time doing some thinking together.
A while ago, I wrote a post about what had brought me back to twitter. As we’re on this subject matter, another post I wrote was on the effect of PLNs on my professional growth. I’ve also written something about my fond memories of Braz-TESOL conventions and how much I treasured them. That’s all fine, and I do believe all those things, namely twitter, PLNs, and conventions do add a lot to my professional life. But how so? And, even more important than that, why bother?
How does being the member of a community help?
Even though this is not the most important question, the answers to this question are just too many to be written in a single blog post. Pretty much all posts you can find on this blog were the result of some sort of interaction I had with other teachers, students, or just people who weren’t even in the field of education. When you join a community and become an active member of it, you’re allowing yourself the chance to reflect on lots of things you believe in. However, you must always keep an open mind as this activity is bound to show you ways of thinking you couldn’t probably fathom before.
A lot comes from online communities, building your PLN, sharing and contributing with like-minded people as well as people who disagree with you, but know how to do so reasonably and also in attempt to get something out of the discussion. When we’re online, we also have the chance to interact with people from different countries a lot more easier than you can do face-to-face. However, I always feel there’s something missing in the online component of interaction.
Despite all the benefits that arose from Web 2.0, it’s still hard to beat the atmosphere from a face-to-face convention. Having had the chance to attend the last Braz-TESOL national convention with more than 1200 teachers from all over Brazil and all over the world, I can certainly assure you that the things you experience in such a convention are a lot more intense than what you usually get online. It’s like one thing complements the other.
Finally, joining a teachers association, online or face-to-face, is helpful because it puts you together with people who, just like you, believe that teaching means acknowledging you must constantly be learning. Teachers who are members of a teachers association are willing to share information, experiences, and anecdotes that might help other teachers. Members of these associations aren’t selfish and believe that the ones who benefit the most of such exchange of information are they themselves. Oh, really? But why is that?
Why should I join a teachers association?
I believe that sharing what I know with others and listening to what they’ve got to say, and trying out new things in class is done with the sole purpose of helping learners. I usually tell my students that teachers should care a lot less about their teaching and a lot more about their students’ learning. This means teachers should learn how to truly listen to their students. In language teaching, I very much agree with the idea of working with language that’s produced by learners themselves as this is more often than not a lot more personal and meaningful to learners than a pre-fabricated chunk of language used to show a point. If you’ve paid a visit to this blog before, you probably know what I mean by this.
That’s fine, but what’s this got to do with joining a teachers association? In a nutshell, the better the teachers are, the better students will be. If you believe you’re a fantastic teacher but you don’t share what you do in class, you’re likely to have to start from scratch every semester or year. I honestly can’t think of an educational setting in which students only have one teacher. This means that the better our peers are, the easier our job will be every new semester or year. Instead of having to teach students from scratch, you can just continue what had been done in previous semesters. Now, if that happens, and if you believe you’re such “a fantastic teacher, like, the best teacher in the world ever”, how much do you think you can accomplish if you haven’t got to worry about teaching your students the basics, or things they should have learned long before they were your students?
If we accept that teachers who join teachers associations as teachers who are always willing to seek what’s best for their learners, then it’s likely that students who have been the students of teachers who participate in such associations are better prepared than students whose teachers do not take part in such associations. And the better prepared our students are, the easier our job is. Would you agree with that?
Where to go now? Well, if you’re reading this and you’re an English teacher in Brazil, you could start by clicking here (or on the image below).
I have decided to give twitter a second go a bit more than a month ago. After having misunderstood the full potential of the tool, I had simply abandoned it. However, after a while, I decided I should really try to understand it and make proper use of it. This second attempt at twitter was successful, and I’m so glad I found the right people to learn from. I still remember it was only then that I finally learned what these three letters, PLN, stood for. And even though I hadn’t actually met any of these people face-to-face, I learned a lot from reading the tweets of certain people such as @kalinagoenglish, @ShellTerrell and @burcuakyol. These were highly influential people in motivating me into starting my own PLN. Oh, and the weirdest thing is, I don’t think they even know that. I have been following them for a while now, and have even exchanged a word or two with them, but that was it. They were teaching me without even talking to me.
I guess this is what has happened to me in other online sources of professional development I’d been participating in. One of the tools I had been using, and that changed quite a bit my way of looking at teaching was the Dogme Yahoogroups. I have never written a word there, but I’ve been following the discussions diligently for more than five years now. I consider myself a Dogmeist, but this is something for another post. As an English teacher for about 13 years now, it was just a great opportunity to be able to be on the same list as my favourite authors, such as Scott Thornbury, whom I had the chance to meet in person and take a picture with while I worked as the Master of Ceremonies in the 2006 Braz-TESOL in Brasília (thanks to Shaun, whose twitter account I can’t find right now). Mr. Thornbury wasn’t the only one I met whom I’d been anxiously waiting to meet. I had the chance to meet Penny Ur and Luke Prodromou, among others whom I had the chance to attend sessions from, such as Leo Van Lier. It was just like looking at all those books you’ve always read – but now there was a real face to go with it.
Anyway, going back to Twitter, I learned from the three ladies I mentioned above that there were others I looked up to that I could find and follow on Twitter. Ken Wilson, for instance, has been responsible for one of my dearest projects in ELT – a drama club. It sounds as something easy to be implemented, but it really wasn’t. I got the idea after attending a 3-day workshop given by Mr. Wilson in 2000, at another Braz-TESOL conference, this time in São Paulo. It was through Twitter that I learned Ken had started a blog, and it was on his blog that I could, 9 years after that lecture, thank him. I also started following other important people in my teaching career, such as Jeremy Harmer, Scott Thornbury and Gavin Dudeney. And I learned that there are tons of interesting people online, and the major benefit of PLNs is that you can learn from anyone. I read in a blog post (by one of these people I mentioned – can’t remember who) that technology, blogs and twitter have made it posible for everybody to be heard equally. And there is so much can we learn from all people who are willing to collaborate online.
I took the advice passed on by some bloggers and tweeps and started to slowly build my PLN. It’s not about how many people you’re following, or how many visits you get on your blog; it’s all about how you’ll benefit from those you’ve decided to share with to learn and grow professionally. This week, two posts inspired me to write this one: Shelly Terrell wrote a post about PLNs, and the Chickenman (I’m sorry, I just love this name!) wrote another one on using Skype in the classroom. Just like the drama club idea, these aren’t exactly ideas that required a lot of thinking to come up with. It simply makes sense. Yet, it takes dedication to write about them so neatly and in such an organised way. And this is the kind of people I’ve found online.
It was through #edchat that I met lots of people from my PLN, and this week I truly saw it in action. I finally had my first two skype sessions with people from my PLN. One of them is an English teacher (@bealup) from Argentina whom I met through the Virtual Roundtable Ning. And I’d learned about this ning through Shelly and her tweets. I had the chance to show her around the basics of Twitter, and I hope she’ll benefit from it as much as I do. The other person is an educator whom I met through #edchat, @BrianDowd. We’ve also waved together for a while and it’s been a priceless cultural and educational exchange. Having had the chance to Skype with these people this week I’m sure I’m on the right track of what I’d set off to do when I decided to give twitter a second chance. And the examples above are just two out of the many other things I learned from my PLN, such as a lively discussion about assessment on Wave.
The same thing is true with this blog. I created it also to be a place where I could voice my opinions and help myself overcome writers’ block. Slowly, I’ve been able to receive some comments and exchange ideas with other people who have also helped me grow as a teacher – and I’m talking of a month and a half experience.
I also have to thank a person I’ve had the chance to work with, @feedtheteacher. The fact that we had worked together and are friends also played a role in showing me the benefits of building my PLN. If all this has happened to me in a couple of months, I can only look forward to what is yet to come.
What about you? Have you been working on building your own PLN?
PS: OK, so, now, I only have to learn how to keep my posts shorter than 500 words. As a new blogger, I’ll allow myself to write some more.
PS2: I hope people are OK with my writing their name here. If they aren’t, then I do apologise. Just let me know and I’ll immediately delete it from the post.
If you’ve taken part in today’s #edchat, you know we discussed about how to motivate teachers who are resistant to technology to initiate in this world to benefit their learners. If you haven’t participated, well, you just read the topic. As the conversation is just over, I still need to organize my thoughts, but there are a couple of things I feel I should write down (even if I write another post contradicting this one later).
1. I still believe the most important thing is listening to and responding to your learners’ needs. If you try to impose on them something which is not part of their reality, you’ll end up getting nowhere. A student of mine mentioned once, ‘we only make use of what our friends are making use.’ It’s the old idea of tribes, or we could also put it in other words: Great minds think alike.
2. We are living the age of information (or am I misinformed?), and one of the key skills we need is filtering what is applicable to our context. The fact that we can discuss with educators from all over the world through #edchat is indeed awesome. But we are talking to people who might not have a clue of what we have to face in our own teaching situation. We need to learn how to read critically, just as we want our learners to do.
3. I’ve seen great educators walk into a classroom equipped with laptops, Internet, TV, and what have you, not make use of any of these, but still succeeding in teaching their learners. Not only that, but usually the students wouldn’t trade these teachers’ classes for any other class in which teachers made large use of technology. Why is that? Tech is just another tool. It might be a very effective one in the hands of a teacher who knows how to use it, but it can squash students’ motivation in the hands of those who only rely on it. TEACHERS HAVE TO BE RESOURCEFUL. Funny anecdote on that? There was once a power shortage in the whole city. The lessons started at 2 pm, and there were lots of large windows in the classroom. Teaching wasn’t a problem. Suddenly, a teacher says, ‘Oh my! I had such a wonderful class ready on PPT.’ Upon hearing this, another teacher replied, ‘It is now that we can see the difference between good teachers and great teachers.’ If teachers are not resourceful, they’re bound to miss the point more often than not. Be careful not to let the tail wag the dog. (Granted: apart from being an enthusiast and a believer in the power of technology in the classroom, I strongly agree with Dogme. There it is!)
4. The Internet is not the only place to keep learning. I’ve just talked to highly respected people in their own fields of education about their use of Twitter, blogs, wikis and alike. Their answer was a mere, ‘Hmm… people in my area usually communicate through scientific magazines, journals and articles.’ Even though most of these are online these days, they’d still rather write an article to comment on what they read instead of posting a comment. Appalling? I guess it all boils down to point #1. If the people in their circle isn’t making use of these tools, they’re useless. The important thing is communication, regardless of the chosen means.
Well, I guess these four points will get me started. Maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow after re-reading this post, or after some comments. Any thoughts???
The first time I visited Twitter I didn’t think it was a very interesting website. I created my account, but I simply didn’t have time to update it by saying what I was doing. He who tweets about the daily grind or the trivial facts of an ordinary day has got too much time in his hands, if you ask me. In addition to that, I didn’t know many people on Twitter from my social network, which rendered it even more useless to me. Whenever I talked to someone about it, the answer was, more often than not, ‘Tweet who?’
Fortunately, I’ve decided to give Twitter a new lease of life. Twitter has turned out to be a great asset for my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and it’s helped me connect with people I’d never dream of. The idea of sharing thoughts and opinions with people from different places in the world has definitely made me change my mind. I’ve got to thank many people in my PLN for that change of attitude, and you can read what they have to say about Twitter by following their blogs (check the “blogs to follow” to your right).
Anyway, today I also participated in my first #edchat. “What is #edchat?” you ask me? Well, I won’t even bother to come up with an explanation when you can find all you’ll need to know here. Tonight’s conversation was about how administrators could evaluate tech in teaching. Needless to say, with teachers and educators from all walks of life, the conversation was fruitful and engaging. A bit hard to follow, that’s true, but still, lots of interesting insights. Oh, not to mention the number of like-minded people you can add to your own PLN.
What about you? Do you tweet? Why is it that more and more people are talking about twitter these days? How do you use twitter? How important is it for any professional to develop their own PLN these days?
The world is out there, and it’s easier than ever for you to go and get it.