IATEFL Conference 2017 – My week in Glasgow

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Clyde Auditorium and SEC, Glasgow

This is the first of three posts about the IATEFL conference held in Glasgow, 3-7 April 2017. It is my personal, reflective experience of the week. It is not a review of the sessions I attended or watched online.  That will be in my other two posts, which is part of my requirement of being one of the registered bloggers for the event.

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Sunday 2 April 

I travelled to the conference by train on Sunday 2 April, listening to my own Spotify playlist of Glasgow related artists.  The only conference delegate I met on Sunday, purposefully, was Diana Eastment scholarship winner, David Dodgson, at the Weatherspoons on Argyll Street. I stayed at a fellow Deacon Blue fan’s flat in Anderston. The last time I was in Glasgow was in December to see the band play at the iconic Barrowlands. The band retweeted my reference to one of their songs as I travelled back to the city on Sunday. My friend, who is wheelchair bound, mostly wanted to talk about her work at Kilmarnock Railway station – a local community project for disadvantaged people, many of whom have diagnosed mental health difficulties or are on the autistic spectrum.  My father has both a connection with Kilmarnock and the Barras as he used to ‘preach’ there in the 1960s.  He studied theology at the Bible Training Institute, Glasgow.   My first IATEFL conference was also here, in 2012.

Monday 3 April

On Monday, I attended the joint Learning Technologies / Teacher Development Special Interest Groups PCE. Stylised as ‘unLimiTeD professional development with technology’. I have been a member of the LTSIG since I joined IATEFL in 2012 and recently rejoined the TDSIG, having been a member for one year.

There were several talks and workshops.  There was an opening plenary on  ‘Applying startup thinking to teacher development’ by Nick Robinson and Jo Sayers of ELTjam and tech-related talks on the following:
● Teaching Old Dog New Tricks: Collaborative Inquiry (Patricia Reynolds)
● Design Thinking and Online Professional Development (Gabriel Diaz Maggioli)
● Click Like for Language Development (Teresa Carvalho)
● Teaching Teachers – How to Support Teachers Navigating the World of
Technology in Teaching (Katherine Anderton)
● Crowdsourcing the #MFLTwitterati, hashtags, Twitter lists, Padlet and
Storify for teacher development and classroom impact (Joe Dale)
● Integrating digital games: engaging young language learners and teacher
trainees in innovative learning environments. (Maria Diakou & Stella Kourieos)

In the afternoon there was an opportunity to meet each of the speakers and an open space where groups, who had been allocated a Digital Teacher postcard, circulated the room and discussed the topics raised by each of the table hosts.  In addition, there was a ‘moustache’ table about The Digital Teacher, which was led by Andrew Nye and Anna Lloyd of Cambridge English Language Assessment.  This new website is currently in the BETA stage, so is still being developed.  It was ‘live’ for the duration of the day so that participants could access it. In their workshop, Andrew and Anna displayed the resources available on the site via posters and asked for feedback from participants.  In my group was current Hornby scholar from Nepal, Sagun Shrestha. I had lunch with him and Tilly Harrison, from the University of Warwick.

Things were wrapped up at the end by Nicola Meldrum, who guided the participants on reflecting on the day’s innovations and invited them to share their experiences.  Michael Harrison took some photos of the PCE on behalf of TDSIG and can be viewed here.   Also present was LTSIG scholarship winner, Leung Wai Tung, who acted as a roving reporter and put together a fine video report of the day.  There are also some collected moments from the event hashtag #LTTD here.

After the event I attended a debrief session with the LTSIG committee members, during which I was formally welcomed as a sub-committee volunteer. I have been co-opted with an undefined role at this stage, but it might initially involve collecting and proof reading articles for the LTSIG blog and working with Sylvia Guinan, the website editor. I can’t be more involved in the committee at this stage as I would have to be elected.

On Monday evening, I attended the civic reception, during which outgoing IATEFL president, Marjorie Rosenberg, welcomed delegates. I caught up with a few more familiar faces, Jo Gakonga (also University of Warwick), Sue Annan (BESIG PCE) and Sandy Millin (MaWSIG PCE), before going for a meal with them alongside IATEFL committee member, Pecha Kucha 2017 host and current ELTchat moderator, Angelos Bollas.   I later had the pleasure of meeting psychology and mind mapping fan, Ron Morrain, for the first time.

Tuesday 4 April

On Tuesday, after Gabriel Diaz Maggioli’s opening plenary on ‘Empowering teachers through continued professional development’, I attended Johanna Stirling CUP talk on activities for low-level literacy in EAP.  This session was recorded by Cambridge University Press and I was briefly involved in creating some words using the prefix ‘-un’ as Johanna briefly demonstrated some simple spelling points.

After this, I attended Theresa Clementson and Gary Hicks talk on ‘International students: can bridge the academic and cultural gap?’   As someone who has just been accepted to teach on a presessional course this summer, I was keen to attend a few EAP talks.  This one focused on designing effective courses and feedback from students at Brighton.

In the afternoon, I attended Tony Prince’s excellent workshop of ‘Activities that affect attitudes’.  I have previously met Tony at the Norwich Institute of Language Education (NILE) where he is Academic Director.  For many years he ran the INTO_UEA presessional course. He drew upon his own personal experience of learning French and the common assumptions that are made about language learners.  He referenced the fixed and growth mindset (Carol Dweck) and Anders Ericsson.  He invited the participants to structure feedback based on failure and success, finishing with some myths (and reality) about attitudes.

I attended John Hughes’ presentation on ‘The Selfie Classroom Observation’, during which he shared his survey of 121 teachers, which I took part in last month.   I took extensive notes and photographs from this session and shared these via Evernote – here.

Later on, I cancelled my planned attendance of the British Council signature of refugees ‘Language for Resilience’ – knowing it was going to be recorded – in order to attend Outside In.  This very interesting Cambridge English panel discussion brought together four technology experts Geoff Stead, Donald Clark, Paul Driver and Yvonne Rogers.  They brought their experiences from outside the ELT world, talked about the technology we already use often without realising, the gap between what we do and what we could use in teaching. They looked at artificial intelligence, chatbots and machine translation, amongst many other things.  There is a recording of it here.  I will write a review about this in my follow-up post.

Outisde In - Panel DiscussionOutside In Panel Discussion Questions

Later in the evening, I attended the Meet The SIGs event in the Crowne Plaza. I initially felt overwhelmed by the huge numbers of people crammed into the room.  I don’t really ‘do’ claustrophobia.  But I got into it once I realised that all the SIG committee members were wearing a committee badge and had to be asked simple questions – 16 in all, one for each SIG.  It took a while, but I eventually got round to meeting someone from every SIG, which included the brand new IP & SEN SIG – the committee were giving out flyers (see below).   Two Facebook friends, Sharon Noseley and Rachel Harris are involved in this.  As well as briefly reconnecting with Lienhard Legenhausen (LASIG) and Rachael Roberts (MaWSIG) I also met, for the first time, representatives of LITSIG, Daniel Xerri (ReSIG), Dave Allan (TEASIG / NILE) and the incoming IATEFL president, Margit Szesztay (former GISIG coordinator) – who had been interviewed by IATEFL online earlier in the day.

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Wednesday 5 April

I took it easy on Wednesday, taking lots of breaks and selecting the occasional session. The day was bookended by two talks which had well-being at the centre. These were Sarah Mercer’s excellent plenary ‘Connecting minds: language learners and teacher psychologies’ and Rachel ‘fabenglishteacher’ Harris’ talk on well-being of teens.

There were two EAP related talks placed together in Ness. Susan Esnawy’s talk was about how to avoid plagiarism using journalists questions, while Barbara Howarth looked at paraphrasing with note taking.    After this, I bumped into and chatted to Nik Peachey just before he conducted an online interview with IATEFL patron, David Crystal.

I particularly enjoyed Laura Patsko’s Cambridge session on giving feedback on learner’s pronunciation.  She is very clear, as you would expect for the deputy journal editor of the Pronunciation SIG and specialist in English as a Lingua Franca.  She spent a lot of the session simply analysing ways to teach the word ‘cello’ and the question ‘What are you studying?’ Along with Johanna, she provided us with one of the glossiest handouts I received all week.  There is a recording here.

I spent a lot of this day going round the exhibition hall and talking to people, publishers and choosing a coursebook for two of my current students.  In the end, I chose to purchase Speak Out – Intermediate (2nd ed).  I spoke to English Teaching Professional editor in chief, Helena Gomm about a possible article, and caught up with Chia Suan Chong – who tweets for the publication.  I also held the fort and a cupcake for 5 minutes. Whilst I was there, I managed to snap this photo opportunity with the ETPedia authors..

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ETPedia Tweet

In the afternoon, Jamie Keddie ‘rocked’ the Clyde auditorium with his comical take on developing teacher talk, flanked by a ‘zombified’ cartoon image.  The recording is here.  I had earlier met Jamie in the exhibition hall as he signed his new book ‘Videotelling’.

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Feeling more chilled, I had a couple of drinks at the SEC bar before heading to Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery, a specialist fish restaurant that happened to be located next door to my friend’s flat in Anderston.  Great company and great food, albeit quite pricey.  It was my one extravagance of the week. Otherwise I remained mostly sober all week 😀

Thursday 6 April

Thursday was the most active day of all, which I somehow negotiated with a hangover. I dragged myself to Chia Suan Chong’s early bird guidance on how to be a freelancer, before breakfast!  Following JJ Wilson’s disappointing plenary on ‘ELT and social justice: Opportunities in a Time of Chaos’, I took in several talks on a learning technologies theme. This was the LTSIG day, with presentations by David Read on ‘creating interactive EAP content’, Diana Conheeney & Maria Guiney on using student created videos for assessment and, before lunch, David Dodgson on ‘connected development and teacher reflection’. Immediately after this talk, I watched Sophia Mavridi being interviewed by Spanish vlogger, Amadeu Marin.   I make a brief appearance. That recording is here.

Joanna Budden presented on teenagers thriving in the digital world. There was Joe Dale’s quick fire green screening  app smash with included lots of funny moments, Nicky Hockley on myths and monsters and, finally, Gavin Dudeney’s teacher technology toolbox guide, which rounded off the day in a light-hearted way. Half way through was the LTSIG Open forum, where I was introduced by joint coordinator, Shaun Wilden, as a sub committee member.  I will write more about this whole day in a separate post for the LTSIG blog, once I have access to the recordings.  Meanwhile, there is a small slideshow of some of my photos below.  There is also a Storify of tweets and images from the day put together by Marisa Constantinides here.

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In addition to this, there was the annual Pecha Kucha (20 slides, 6min 40secs).  This was probably the funniest thing I saw or heard all week, aside from Marisa Constantinides coming up with the concept of the ‘flopped classroom’. Her very irreverent Pecha Kucha had the audience in hysterics. Although this event wasn’t streamed or recorded, Tyson Seburn manage to capture it – see here.  For the first time ever, so our presenters informed us, there was a PK debate where the ‘house’ proposed the motion that teachers should be paid more than bankers. Jo Gakonga and Sandy Millin were involved in winning the somewhat biased argument.  There is a recording somewhere..

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The evening was rounded off at a karaoke bar in Drury Street.  I wore my Deacon Blue ‘#Raintown’ T-Shirt but wasn’t brave enough to sing the song in front of a crowd of rowdy Glaswegians.  Those conference delegates that were present shall remain nameless, as they were relaxing after a hectic week.  But I enjoyed it and got to meet some more folk I had otherwise not spoken to up til that point.

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Friday 7 April

I didn’t stick around on Friday as I had to catch my train from Queens Street station in the morning and head back to Norfolk.  There wasn’t really time to pop back to the venue to say goodbyes. People would have been in sessions or busy anyway, so I decided to take my leave of this great city.  I failed to find all the places in the Day That Jackie Jumped The Jail but I’ve since heard that ‘the Budgie’ is a rough place, anyway!  The only people from the conference I saw were Adrian Underhill and Amadeu Marin at the hotel.   There are so many other things I would have liked to have seen or planned to see but never managed to get to.  Given that I am now involved in a refugee integration project in Norwich, I regret not seeing the presentations and discussions on refugees, especially Nick Bilborough talking about The Hands Up Project, which I have supported, and the British Council Signature Event – Language for Resilience.  The latter is, however, available online – here.  I regret missing Angelos Bollas original session on ‘De-idealising the hetereonormative self in the ELT classroom’ but there is an excellent Scott Thornbury hosted interview with Angelos here which I also tweeted about.  I also missed my former tutor at Warwick, Richard Smith, give a presentation on the history of IATEFL – but gladly received his and Shelagh Rixon’s book in the post once I arrived home.  Here it is pictured with the ELT METRO t-towel, which I bought off Tyson.

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It was definitely the best conference I have ever attended and that includes Glasgow 2012.   I compare that experience with how I approached the Glastonbury music festival for the first time. I was running around like a headless chicken trying to catch everything. When I returned in 2004 I was more measured and selective in what I saw, taking more breaks.  This applies to Glasgow 2012 and 2017.  This time around I felt able to pick and chose a little more, take lots of breaks and speak to people in the exhibition hall and other locations, rather than going to talk after talk.  Only on Monday and Thursday did I feel I needed to be part of the whole day, and even then I didn’t try to do too much.  I wanted to enjoy the conference as a delegate, not with any particular responsibility. In next year’s event in Brighton I hope to have more responsibilities and may do my first workshop.

All photos in this post are mine, except for ‘unnatural’ (Tyson Seburn), the still from the PCE Periscope stream (Shaun WIlden), the stills from the Outside In panel discussion, from the IATEFL online recording and Michael Harrison’s quiet image of the SEC below. Tyson also designed the logo for the joint PCE.

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Blogger

Going Self-employed

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New Social Media Cover Photo

A few weeks ago, I came to a personal decision.  I had a successful interview in my home to teach individual students with a Norwich-based Homestay company.  If this happens later this year, which seems likely, I will need to be technically self-employed. It got me thinking.. why don’t I simply register myself as self-employed with HMRC and, therefore, be responsible for paying my own tax and NI contributions in future. After a series of job applications, at the end of last year, in which I didn’t hear anything back, I got a bit despondent.  So I thought if no-one else is going to hire me, then I should ‘hire’ myself.  I’ve always been ’employed’, never ‘self-employed’. There are advantages in this change of employment status for me personally.

It is a state of mind.  My own health and well-being has often been adversely affected by being in full-time work with one employer, the pressures of intensive teaching and living away from home.  It is exactly four years to the day that I found myself in a secure unit in King’s Lynn, with little hope and bleak prospects.  It is just over three years since I previously pressed the ‘reset’ button and started volunteering as a teacher for Norwich Mind, the mental health charity. I wrote about my future intentions in November 2013 in a post here.

Variety is the spice of life, so they say.  By taking on 3 or 4 different roles, I can mix up my working life.  Rather than teach regular classes, I will focus on tutoring 1-2-1, mostly in Norwich.  Today, I launch my Facebook page advertising my services.  I believe that I have to start small, build up a reputation once more and work on promoting myself. I will be extrinsically motivated to get involved in different things and to make it sustainable.  I have just started volunteering as an ESOL teacher and mentor with a refugee charity. I also hope to be doing some IT and social media work soon for Mind.  This still leaves me free to teach online and to do some promotional work for the Teacher Training Videos website.

By going self-employed I am regaining control of when and where I work. I can mitigate some of the pressures that caused me to start jobs and not stay in them for long.  I am feeling fairly positive now, buoyed by my decision, but it will take some effort to ‘rebuild’ myself. Especially over the next few weeks as I recover from an unexpected road traffic accident on 4 February, which I walked away from with just a minor fracture of a metacarpal in my left wrist and a badly bruised rib cage.

If you are reading this and live in the Norwich area and would like to have lessons with me or know someone that might be interested, please do not hesitate to get in contact.  My first lesson (meeting) is free and further lessons can be negotiated.  More information can be found on my ‘About’ page on here.  Even if you are not an English student but am interested by my change in employment status, I would really appreciate your support and advice. Especially if you have made this move yourself.

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Birds over Norwich market

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Mind mapping Tools

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Classroom Management Mind Map: Brainstorming ideas for a job interview

This post is about some tools that are available for creating mind maps. These are used widely in education, not exclusively in English language teaching.   I have created tutorial videos for each of the tools.  It also follows on directly from an excellent Business English SIG webinar (see below) given by Ron Morrain, on using mind maps in the classroom, which I attended yesterday.

Mind mapping techniques are used in business for problem solving and decision making. They are used for strategic thinking, giving presentations and used for coaching others. They can help a prospective employee in getting prepared for a job interview, as in my own real example above. For the student, a mind map can be a very useful ‘aide memoire’ to review notes taken in a lecture or for exam revision.  Brainstorming is often done individually or in groups and many mind mapping web tools allow for this to happen collaboratively.  There are some sound reasons for using mind mapping and tools should only really be used if there is some pedagogical benefits.

“The combination of technology, mind mapping, and L2 skills acquisition (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), make for a high energy and very interactive L2 learning experience.” (Ron Morrain interviewed by Phil Wade – here)

This is not one of those posts entitled ’50 mind map tools you must use in class tomorrow’. That kind of list is counter-productive. There are plenty of freely available tools out there, which you can find for yourself, as well as some premium ones.  I’m only going to focus on and compare three in this post.  Each one has its own appeal and I will offer some advantages and disadvantages for each one.

Some available software is highly technical and recommended more for the professional, such as web developers, who need to map out program decision making. FreeMind, for example, is free, premier  mind-mapping software written in Java.   The landing page itself will be enough to put off most people. Similarly, you can expect the inventor of mind mapping, Tony Buzan, to have has his own patented software called iMind Map, currently in its 9th edition. He charges a mere £2495 per person, by the way, to attend one of his courses.

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Free Mind

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iMindMap9

Some considerations when choosing your mind mapping tool:

  • Can it be used offline as well as online?  Is there an app version or a browser plug-in?
  • Is it free or do you need to pay for the full features?
  • How does it look?  The aesthetic appeal is important if you are to export the maps or to use them in presentations.  Beautiful looking mind maps can draw the eye.
  • What templates can you integrate into your design?  These can be useful for saving time and presenting your work in a more visually appealing way.
  • How accessible are they?  Is there an ease of use? Do they improve on using a pen and paper?  Are they quicker?  Do they produce better results?  These matter a lot in rapid brainstorming.
  • Can you collaborate easily?  Another critical feature if you need to work together away from the workplace or classroom.
  • Can you create a flowchart?  Not all of them do this as they don’t allow for directional arrows.
  • Can you cross link information in one part of a mind map to another related part?
  • Are you able to save and share the maps easily?  Is it secure or is there a risk with the particular tool?  This is important as you wouldn’t want to be restricted to downloading your creations in one format.  You may have the option to export a .jpeg or .png image.  An export format like PDF is a good additional option. You may want to integrate your creations into Word, PowerPoint or other software.

I took a closer look at three mind mapping tools out there, which all offer something different from each other. There are links to tutorial videos for each one.

Text2MindMap

Text2MindMap is great for creating quick mind maps from a text list.  Each text line becomes a node in the mind map. A new branch of nodes can be created with an indentation. It is a very simple piece of software, which does not appear to be maintained by its creators.  Indeed, when I used it the security certificate for it had just lapsed.  You can bypass the security warning which comes up in Firefox and Chrome by clicking ‘advanced’ provided you are not entering any personal or sensitive information.

It is a web-based, browser-based tool.  It acts like a spider diagram or a tree, with a ‘root’ being the central topic and ‘branches’ coming off this.  Subsequent branches can be created by adding new levels by indenting text in the window on the left-hand side.

  • Advantages:
  • It’s free.  You don’t need to sign up or pay anything.  There is a pay-for option but I can’t see this makes any difference to the features.
  • It’s simple, quick and easy to use.
  • It converts linear text which can be copied and pasted in from another source, if already indented.
  • You can drag individual text boxes or the whole mind map around the screen.
  • You can edit the colour, text size and general appearance of each ‘branch’ (box) and can do this by branch or level.
  • You can write directly on the connecting ‘nodes’ (lines) – although this doesn’t work that effectively.
  • You can save the mind map or get a URL link for accessing later.
  • Disadvantages:  
  • There is no app version for tablet or desktop.
  • You can’t collaborate with others.
  • It currently has an invalid security certificate, which I address in the videos, so don’t part with any money!
  • The connecting ‘nodes’ are simple lines. You cannot create flowcharts with directional arrows.
  • You can’t add images or shapes.

Popplet

A full set of tutorial videos for using Popplet 

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Popplet is a great-looking tool which has been around since 2010.  It has a large community of users worldwide who share their finished ‘Popplet’ boards in a public area. It is fairly versatile, intuitive and has a very clear and clean design.  It can be used by any age group and there are lots of options to share and work on boards collaboratively.  What I like about this most is the way the mind maps appear.  You can edit individual ‘popples’ (boxes) by colour and have nametags associated with each one – great if students are collaborating.  You can upload or copy images into popples and even add links to Vimeo or YouTube.  In addition, there is a fantastic blog called ‘Poppletrocks!’ which has lots of suggestions for how to use the tool.

There is a version for iPad or tablet which costs £3.99 or a free version called Popplet Lite.

  • Advantages:
  • It’s free to use, but you need to pay for additional features and options, which I would recommended if you are in an educational setting where the institution can pay.
  • It’s intuitive and fun to play around with.
  • Navigation of your board is straight forward with zooming in/out and dragging options.
  • Collaboration is not only supported but actively encouraged.
  • Boards can be set to private or public or shared in a number of ways.
  • There are formatting options, such as grid layout, which you don’t get in many mind mapping tools.
  • Comments can be added to individual ‘popples’.  This could be a teacher’s opinion or can be used to show image references.
  • You can present your board in one of two ways.
  • Adding content is relatively easy, although you might need to download an image first before uploading into the board.
  • You can export to .jpeg or .png or .pdf.  Or directly to a Pinterest board.
  • There is well-maintained blog with useful tips, ideas and a support team (powered by GetSatisfaction) with many existing queries already answered.  They also get back to you very quickly!
  • Disadvantages:  
  • The connecting lines are non editable. You cannot create flowcharts as, like the above tool, there are currently no directional arrows.  You can’t add lines off other lines, either, making family trees difficult – I tried in vain.
  • Adding videos is great but playing them currently brings a minor technical issue about how the video is displayed on the screen, which I address in the tutorials.
  • Adding an image directly from a URL link doesn’t always work.  It depends on the size of the original.  The dialogue box (screenshot below) doesn’t always appear, although I’m told it’s not needed if you copy and paste the link directly into the ‘popple’.adding-an-image-via-url-dialogue-box

There is an introduction (part 1) by Russell Stannard showing you what you can do with Popplet, followed some more detailed videos (part 2) by me here.

Sketchboard.io

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Sketchboard  has an .io domain name, suggesting the name was chosen with ‘input/output’ or a binary system of 1s and 0s, in mind.  It is a very sophisticated piece of software, designed by a Finish computer coder, Saiki Tanabe.  Sketchboard is more of a collaborative whiteboard rather than a dedicated mind mapping program.  It was designed for colleagues to work from remote locations.  It came from his own frustration with software development.  Teams can co-create their visual thoughts using structural sketching. Workspaces are vital for collaboraite brainstorming paired with a good chat app.  You can create boards with endless drawing space by dragging the canvas area. It allows for freehand drawing, ready-made templates and numerous shapes, which can be edited to the user’s specific needs. Like the majority of mind mapping tools, Sketchboard.io also comes with a choice of free and paid plans. The free plan is for 5 users. There is a fantastic Sketchboard user gallery for showing off some fine examples.

The main advantage I found with Sketchboard over the two other two tools is the ability to create flowcharts, because not only are a range of directional arrows allowed, but you can attach these arrows to shapes and drag them around the board effortlessly.  Only single lines or ‘nodes’ are available in Text2MindMap and Popplet.

  • Advantages:
  • It’s free to use to use for public boards.  To have numerous private boards you need to sign up to one of the pricing options.
  • You can add shapes from the on screen ‘toolbox’ plus there is a huge library of existing templates.
  • You can create flowcharts, because there are a range of directional and connecting arrows.
  • It is great for more technical projects as was designed with software or coding in mind.
  • The freehand drawing tool gives you the option to replicate hand-drawn maps.
  • You can create teams for collaborative work and assign admin rights.
  • Boards can be annotated and commented on by team members.
  • Boards can be presented in a visually focused way.
  • Boards can be exported as SVG, PNG and PDF.  Apparently these include a watermark, on a free plan, but I didn’t find this happened.
  • You can also integrate Sketchboard with team tools like Slack, Google Drive, HipChat, GitHub, and FlowDock.
  • Disadvantages:  
  • It might be a little tricky for low level users.
  • You need to have a paid account to embed images from your hard drive.
  • It’s a bit more expensive to have full features compared to other tools, but there are many pricing options.
  • It looks a big messy on mobile:

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Introduction to using Sketchboard

Using the Library

Presentation Mode

Conclusion

Each of the three tools I looked at offer something different.  I liked Popplet’s design and functionality. It is the most appealing, in my opinion, for use in the classroom. However, I really recommend Sketchboard. It is great and you can potentially do more with it, such as creating a family tree or more intricate maps.  It is better, however, for more technically-minded folk, while still not being intended for web developers or professionals, like FreeMind, for example.  The people at Sketchboard have already liked my tutorials, commented on them and have shared links on social media (see below). Text2MindMap is unfortunately let down by the lack of support and its expired certificate.  But it does a decent, basic job, especially if you already have a list of the notes you want to convert.

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This is a longer version of a post that was originally written for the Teacher Training Videos website.

For some beautiful hand drawn designs see Mind Map Art: http://www.mindmapart.com

References:

I looked at these two online articles in researching this topic:

Basu, S. 2015.  ‘8 Free Mind Map Tools & How To Best Use Them’ – http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/8-free-mind-map-tools-best-use/ November 27, 2015

Mind Tools, 2016:  https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newISS_01.htm

Mental Health and ELT

I am starting a conversation about mental health in English Language Teaching.  I am not sure if this has ever been discussed or debated widely within the industry.  In doing so, I am sharing some personal information about my experience of suffering from poor mental health at work. I do this in the hope that other teachers will open up, too, leading to more understanding and support for teachers as workers.  I have never known professional development or training within ELT deal with these kinds of issues. For many, a stigma still exists.  There is still a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance.  It is an ongoing challenge.

In the past, I have volunteered for the mental health charity, Norwich Mind, and am hoping to do something for them again in the near future. I was and still am intrinsically motivated. I also follow the Time To Change campaign which is foremost about ending discrimination, mostly in the workplace, against people who suffer with mental health issues.

I’ve always considered my own issues to be a personal thing, not one of institutional discrimination or workers’ rights. Nonetheless, to coincide with the national Time To Talk day, I’ve been interviewed by Paul Walsh for the Teachers as Workers Special Interest Group (TaWSIG). You can read the interview here.

The image on the right shows a censored version of my diary note (written on 10 October 2016) listing the 11 times since 2006 that poor mental health has impacted on my teaching career, including 2 trips to the IATEFL conference in Liverpool (2013) and Harrogate (2014).  I have redacted the details to protect myself and colleagues who worked with me or were my line managers at the time.

If the post proves to be popular then I might consider the possibility of speaking about it at a conference at a later date.  I’ve never seen this particular topic presented within our profession but am curious to know if it has been.

Please feel free to comment here or on the TaWSIG  site. I promise to personally respond to each and every one that leaves a message.

*update 6 Feb:  The interview post received hundreds of views in a few days. In the week following its publication, it was shared many times on social media. It inspired at least two other bloggers, Sandy Millin and Elly Setterfield to write their own personal responses to coincide with Time to Talk day, including lots of links and resources on this topic.  I was thrilled by the response and hope to follow this up at a later date.  In the meantime, I am planning on approaching Mind once more to see if they have any work for me.

1-2-1 Teaching Tips – an #ELTchat summary

Startup Stock Photos

This is the summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 18 January 2017.  The full topic wording was ‘1-2-1 teaching tips – advice and best practice’.  It was moderated by @Marisa_C and @SueAnnan with @tesolmatthew taking over for the 24 hour slow-burn. Lots of great links and resources were shared during the chat and these are listed at the end of the summary.  A similarly themed topic was previously discussed on 16 February 2011 – see here.  A good introduction to 1-2-1 teaching can be found here.

I was personally interested in this topic because I have taught 1-2-1 before (both paid and as language exchange) and have just started doing so again.  It is very common for English language teachers to tutor students one at a time at some point in their career. Support and resources for doing it are less so.  For many it is a fundamental aspect of their teaching.  It requires a development of strategy, approach and material creation.

Needs Analysis

@SueAnnan kicked things off by stating the importance of doing a Needs Analysis.  You might be surprised by the number of Ts who don’t do it. You also need to revisit it from time to time.  Tailoring and finding the right material is important. @thebestticher stated that she tends to ask 1-2-1 students what topics and language they want as there is more opportunity to personalise.  @fionaljp thought this was vital.  @MConca16 said she always starts with a (structured) conversation class as a diagnostic.

@Marisa_C felt that doing a pretest and/or Needs Analysis was obvious to those participating, so asked who [currently] teaches 1-2-1 and wanted to hear some ideas.

Who teaches 1-2-1?

Most of @SueAnnan’s Business English students are 1-2-1 – both oral and written. They have super interesting jobs. She thinks all levels are interesting and learns as much as her students sometimes.

@MConca16 said she did 1-2-1 as well as 2-2-1 exam preparation. @fionaljp said she wasn’t but needed to give advice to those who may. @TeresaBestwick didn’t have any either, while @teacherphili said he was about to start again soon, but had previously focused on exam preparation as well as one young Chinese learner who mostly played games and did pronunciation practice.

@David_Boughton stated that he likes the two ends of the spectrum, basic or very advanced.  He finds the classic intermediates work so much better in group classes. Most of the activities out there are for them.  @Marisa_C felt any age is suitable but activities are very different with young learners – mostly play.

@fionaljp said she asked them to bring in texts of interest for discussion, to summarise and explain interest.  Local newspapers provide material suggested @SueAnnan.

There was general consensus that you can’t switch off in 1-2-1.  It can be more tiring. You can’t set pair work. @fwalkerbcn said that you have to be on the ball, and be prepared to change the lesson plan on the spot. @thebestticher said she often tends to ask 1-2-1 students what they want – both topics and language – as there is more opportunity to personalise…@joannacre agreed, saying she often changes her lesson plan based on what her learner wants. It’s easier to do this with 1-2-1.

@SueAnan said that if students bring work with them, they can become the teacher as they explain it, which is good for presentation practice. @thebestticher found that 1-2-1 young learners like to ‘be the teacher’ otherwise interaction is intense. It is a good idea to walk away or do another task  while the student is working to make it less so.  Or give them a research or listening task, added @Marisa_C. @fwalkerbcn felt this was difficult if you were in their living room, but you can always do something else to break it up, said Marisa_C . @fwalkerbcn hadn’t really found this as her classes were not long anyway. @MConca said that time is money …  she doesn’t ‘waste’ time for quiet individual work or written feedback.

mconca16-tweet

@Marisa_C said they give them lists of extra listening and reading to do as self access and asked if anyone else tried this. @MConca16 replied ‘self-access practice for general English 1-2-1. [For] exam prep, she does a few with them for exam strategy then switch[es] to self-access.’

A popular blog post on eflrecipes (Jonny Ingham) was highlighted by @fionaljp.  In this the author says that the less structured approach can benefit from is “a good amount of overt feedback and error correction. One approach is for the teacher to take notes throughout the lesson on new language and areas of difficulty.”

Teacher Talking Time

ttt-boughton-tweet

Teacher Talking Time was a concern for @David_Boughton.  He asked how it can be kept down in 1-2-1.  Did we care as much as a group class?  @teacherphili said good planning. Silence & processing time is important, too.  @David_broughton liked that. We probably are more likely to cut the processing time shorter in 1-2-1. It’s just natural, he replied. @Marisa_C said it was difficult because the teacher is the only interlocutor. It’s very easy to get carried away with TTT.  @joannacre said she makes her students do most of the reading, text and theories etc then comment on stuff.

@SueAnnan asked if  the participants do roleplays or simulations when you have to play a part? @David_Boughton replied ‘All the time. My favourite thing to do in 1-2-1. You have more control, so they often go much better.’  Role-plays are essential, according to @MConca16, especially when you’ve taught a student for years and need new stuff.

Tech

@Marisa_C asked the chatters if they blended their 1-2-1 classes at all? even f-2-f classes do u flip or assign online work? She said Russell Stannard presented on her Delta course how to use Edmodo and it’s great.  She wasn’t previously aware of all its functions. @fionaljp said she was going to use it next week. @fwalkerbcn said her students watched TED Talks before class.  She also uses Edmodo for online quizzes, etc and asked if anyone else uses it for 1-2-1?  @Marisa_C said not but they did use wikis, often dedicated to one student. @MConca16 used emails for writing tasks and marking/feedback. She added that reasons for 1-2-1 students to ask for individual courses is to have a real person to practise language orally with & get feedback. @SueAnnan felt they don’t want much tech. @David_Boughton agreed, saying that tech can take away from what they signed up for, namely access to a teacher.

off2class-tweet@thebestticher mentioned Off2Class, which offers an online placement test and games which she is planning to start investigating. @fwalkerbcn said Off2Class is fantastic. She uses it a lot with my 1-2-1 classes and is great for online use. It’s well worth exploring. They’re always updating- if you need a topic, they do their best to create a class for it, she added.

Tools

@Marisa_C asked what tools were used to engage your 1-2-1 adult vs 1-2-1 young learners. Listening are perhaps issues for Ts.  Audioboom and Vocaroo were mentioned by @fionaljp, who also offered two recording tools – Audioboom, Vocaroo – which still exist, unlike Voxopop which appears to have finished.

@SueAnnan used podcasts. There are some great podcasts available from BBC world service.  @joannacre pointed out that Harvard review org has some good free podcasts for adult learners. Later on, @rapple18 said Harvard has GREAT stuff inc. both reading, text and audio. @tesolmatthew added later that an ongoing podcast would be great.

MConca16 said that @tablets & mobiles phone for teens work as motivators. @fwalkerbcn stated that linguahouse  and OneStopEnglish have great lesson plans for adults.

@Marisa_C offered several more tools during the chat, including @educreations, Voice Thread (for connecting more than one student), Schoology, Voxi, Explain Everything and Show Me. She mentioned in-browser apps such as Google docs or Primary Pad for collaborative writing and gave a shout out for the prolific Sean Banville (who was given a mention in the previous weeks’ chat).

@SueAnnan said she liked working with English Central, which students can do at home and improve pronunciation, but the latter feature could be improved according to @Marisa_C.  @fwalkercbn said she never really got on with it.  @SueAnnan added that it works well when they do it as blended stuff. @tesolmatthew was impressed with the way the tool works.  The principle of isolating and highlighting phrases is one that appealed to @Marisa_C.

@David_Boughton said he had used English360 for a few years with a school he worked for. Although a lot of the resources are not useful. You only pay for the student – but there are LOADS of resources available, added Marisa_C. @David_Boughton added that he built out about 6 levels worth of courses. It must have been 100s of hours. @Marisa_C said it was an opportunity [for] long turn speaking activities, like storyboard karaoke and board games.

Slow burn

In the slow burn, @rapple18 added her thoughts. Her list includes must-haves: a phone (=diary, map, aud/vid recorder), A3, coloured pens, today’s newspaper, relevant article, rods.  She always try to add 3rd dimension to break the teacher-student eye-contact line, eg postits, cards, A3, ie lots hands-on activities. Student has goal e.g. a conference presentation. On a recent 12wk course: videoed a presentation at work. 1st. Input: personal’d+focused. Motivation high.  If 1-2-1 ESP (re motivating the T!) use as opportunity to learn about student’s area of speciality. Can be bizarre but rewarding and fun!  She also linked to material she wrote for OUP.

@tesolmatthew said that his most involved ‘1-2-1 teaching happened +/-8 months, 2014. Met a Thai eye doctor in residence @ Boston hospital 2ce/wk for 2rs. Something we did was we wrote into the same notebook, sat very close, both wrote in, so prez+notes = same.’ Examples here.  He also believed that it can be EASIER to keep TTT down in the 1-2-1 context, using prompt-listen-respond-prompt sequence etc.

During the slow-burn @joannacre posted her 200th blog post about ‘websites, videos & random stuff I use in class’ which has some relevance.

Conclusion

This was a great chat with lots of ideas and resources shared.  It is one that I will come back to, along with the previous #ELTchat on this topic, as I do more 1-2-1 teaching myself.  There were lots of tools and resources – links listed below.  I have consistently used the phrase ‘1-2-1’ to mean ‘one to one’ although for brevity some participants used ‘1-1’ in the chat.  If you have any more ideas or thoughts please add a comment below.

Participants who were present and/or tweeted during the chat, alongside the moderators:

David__Boughton@fionaljp, @thebestticher, @fwalkerbcn@teachingright, @TeresaBestwick, @MConca16, @joannacre, @teacherphili, @bar_zie, @aahk888, @amauryrez, @SerraRoseli  and @rapple18.

Links and tools shared during the chat:

Appleby, R, Bradley, J. Brennan, B, Hudson J, Leeke, N and Scrivener, J. Business one:one Intermediate Plus. Oxford University Press. http://bit.ly/2jNe8ym

BBC Learning English  http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/

Educreations – https://www.educreations.com/

English 360 – http://english360.com/

English Central – https://www.englishcentral.com/videos#/anonymous-player

English File (Oxford University Press) – http://bit.ly/1wHPqR5

Explain Everything – http://appcrawlr.com/ipad/explain-everything

Harvard Review Org (podcasts for adult learners) e.g. ‘Productivity Secrets of a Very Busy Man Harvard Business Review’. 7 Apr 2011.  http://bit.ly/2kgHDcB  and http://bit.ly/2j1c01S

Ingham, J. 3 May 2015. Recipes for the EFL classroom: ‘My one-to-one students just wants to chat’. https://eflrecipes.com/2015/05/03/one-to-one/

Kaye, P. 18 July 2007. British Council ‘Teaching one to one’.   https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/teaching-one-one

Linguahouse – http://www.linguahouse.com/

Off2Class – The ESL Teacher Toolkit https://www.off2class.com/

One Stop English – http://bit.ly/1rrXu7e

PechaFlickr – http://pechaflickr.net/

Primary Pad – http://primarypad.com/

Sean Banville‘s many websites including Breaking News English http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/index.html

Show Me – http://www.showme.com/

VoiceThread – http://voicethread.com/

Voki (for young learners) – http://www.voki.com/

cover image: ‘one to one teaching’ from startupstockphotos.com – reproduced under a CCO licence.
– 22 January 2017

tutoring

Teaching Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Issues

This is the summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 23 November 2016.  It is the first summary I have contributed for over two years. It was moderated, expertly as always, by @Marisa_C, @SueAnnan and @angelos_bollas.

The full topic wording, proposed by current IATEFL president, Marjorie Rosenberg (@MarjorieRosenbe), was ‘How can we discuss diversity, inclusivity and social justice in the classroom in times as these?  

Marjorie shared many examples of reasons for the topic proposal with me outside of the chat: Brexit (the UK’s vote to leave the EU), the refugee crisis in Europe, the election of Donald Trump in the US, general division in the UK and US, and the rise of far-right groups, especially in Austria, where she is based. Her family has a strong background in public service. Her cousin is in the Obama administration and his wife founded a charity in Washington for underprivileged teenagers.  Her mother volunteered for years for several casues and this is one of the reasons she originally got involved in IATEFL – in order to give something back. Marjorie also highlighted a  forthcoming plenary by JJ Wilson at the next IATEFL conference in Glasgow 2017 on this very topic.

@SueAnnan led the discussion by stating that she teaches diversity in her Business English class.  Both @angelos_bollas and myself (@teacherphili) stated that it was not something they explicitly taught and asked how Sue includes this in BE classes? She replied that she does scenarios for employment roles. We discuss black, women, different religious, disabled and LGBTQ applicants and such like, she stated.  It gets the class started. She suggested that dealing with diversity actually meant discussing inclusivity at the same time.   She stated that her classes are always mixed, [so] tolerance is an absolute must. She later added that she has been discussing the recent cryogenics case in the UK. She had a class of doctors who were dead against it.

@fionaljp felt diversity is, maybe, more about what you do. @GlynsHanson agreed before adding that it depends on age of the students too.  She didn’t assume that she knew more on these subjects than her mainly adult students. Except for preparing TOEFL etc, her students chose the subjects – almost never the ‘hot’ subjects.  She added that she hadn’t had enough time for discussing the ‘big’ questions [of social justice].

marjorie_rosenbe

@MarjorieRosenbe stated she had her students talk about things important to them. We had lots of refugees here in Austria, for example.  She covered these topics by talking about traditions, holidays, etc. My students opened up a lot and explained personal things.

@Chris_Myth said it can be hard. He sometimes get students with prejudiced views. ‘Do I argue with them for the sake of challenging prejudice’, he asked, ‘or do I take a teacher role where the teacher is not an authoritarian figure and students can speak without fear?’. @Angelos Bollas answered that it is very important for teachers to model what freedom of speech is – the teacher should monitor though and deal with sensitive issues. @Chris_Myth agreed and added that ‘if a student is being sexist/racist, then that could upset others, which shouldn’t be allowed to pass.’  Phil Bird (@pysproblem81) asked, that in some contexts, wouldn’t it be a legal requirement to challenge it?@Chris_Myth said that in the UK it is now a legal requirement to report potential terrorist sympathies. Whatever that means. @Angelos Bollas said that ‘also the opposite [applies] … some countries/institutions would not allow any discussions on these topics – sad. I think it boils down to what each thinks important: doing as said or what one thinks is right,’ he added. Fortunately, for @Chris_Myth, whenever this [prejudice] has happened, usually sexism, other students have argued against the prejudice.  If a student is being sexist/racist, then that could upset others, which shouldn’t be allowed to pass.

@TesolMatthew emphasised that, in his opinion, diversity, inclusivity and social justice are ON THE TABLE in all classrooms.

tesolmatthew

@Marisa_C agreed with this but, playing devil’s advocate,  said that some teachers think it is not their job to take care of such issues.  Maybe it’s more about promoting, offered @fionaljp.   @GlenysHanson tried to stoke a political fire by saying that she adored playing devil’s advocate, offering the suggestion that ‘I voted for Trump because of his hairstyle’. 😇 Something that neither @SueAnnan nor @angelos_bollas  could manage to say, even on a good day.  A role play with Trump, however, would be fab, according to @Marisa_C.

@MarjorieRosenbe pointed out that, in respect of the US election, TESOL has a statement about it on their website. It could be discussed with students or trainees. @SueAnnan thought that IATEFL did something similar. However, IATEFL is not an advocacy organisation the way that TESOL is, added Marjorie. We wrote to members after BREXIT about our goals.  Marjorie also referred participants (trainees) to the recent joint IATEFL-TESOL web conference where ‘we walked the talk’.

@Marisa_C proposed that some people think modelling these behaviours is better than preaching and asked if the participants agreed. Does this work with all kinds of contexts? To which @angelos_bollas answered ‘Absolutely. [It’s] still important to highlight them in class, isn’t it?  Especially now? Given [the election of] Trump and extreme right wing parties.’  @fionaljp thought it was good to include authentic material -news items for sure. To which Angelos replied that it opens up some room for learners to express their ideas re current events.

@Marisa_C later added that she thinks tolerance, justice, empathy, inclusion are won with knowledge, not the lack of it. To which, @MarjorieRosenbe agreed totally. Marisa added that she was inspired to do this by one idea Mario Rinvolucri used to do – called absent observations. In which one teacher taught the lesson but a DIFFerent teacher took and answered feedback on this lesson. She thought it was crazy at first but it really works in a TP group.

chris_myth

@Chris_Myth believed that ELT materials were very good for some diversity issues but not for LGTB inclusivity.  @angelos_bollas said that there are no LGBTW (sic) references in global coursebooks – only in Germany.  Chris responded that it is our duty, therefore, to talk about LGBTW issues in class or use texts with people from those backgrounds, or to make additional material, according to @SueAnnan.  Angelos replied that we should push publishers to start including all people equally.   @TesolMatthew said all of these, and confessed that he had teared up at the sight of Ellen DeGeneres receiving a medal of honor.  @MarjorieRosenbe said that advanced students can talk about news they hear or read and give opinions. They have to stay polite to all. @Chris_Myth concurred, but at lower levels it is easy to miss the mark from a lack of language and say bigoted sounding things.

Sadeqa Ghazal (@sadeqaghazal) asked how do we handle it if a text in a coursebook is biased? Both @fionaljp and @Chris_Myth said ‘don’t use it’, but, unfortunately for her there is no choice. @Chris_Myth added that you can get students to notice it as a critical thinking exercise. @MarjorieRosenbe stated that she likes the idea of this. Her Austrian students learned so much about different cultures from the others, it was eye-opening, she added.

@sadeqaghazal also asked if any of [the participants] teach classes where all the students are of the same community or background?  To which @angelos_bollas replied that he used to.  What can be some of the ways to make these students aware of a diverse world? asked @sadeqaghazal.  I used – a) role play, b) reading or watching about different cultures, followed by c) discussions among the students. Angelos replied that role-plays are always good for that matter. @MarjorieRosenbe commented that role plays with students taking opposite opinion from what they really believe can build tolerance. @GlenysHanson thought that Jesuits invented arguing for what one doesn’t believe. She was not sure that their aim was to build tolerance, however.

There was only one comment – a screenshot – left in the 24 hour slow burn, from @TesolMatthew, who said this was somewhat relevant:

tesolmatthew-cambridge-elt

This was a very interesting and topical #ELTchat, which demanded opinions.  As Wilson’s plenary next year will seemingly argue – teaching is never neutral.  Teachers advocate certain values. These values depend on one’s beliefs, conception of education and the teacher’s role. Some believe that all teachers should use their creativity and passion to bring about social change.

I hope I have done this chat (ahem!) justice. As I often find with these kinds of summaries there is a risk of decoupling – that is taking a reply out of context or to dissociate it from the original question asked. Please add a comment if you think this is the case or if you have been misquoted and want to clarify what you said.

Links shared during the chat as follows:

@SueAnnan – The No Project https://t.co/4aVaIUxgQo

@fionaljp shared this on using awareness raising activities on initial teacher training courses to tackle ‘native speakerism‘: http://bit.ly/2fxx29L

@Marisa_C shared two readings:

(1) Developing Teachers As Agents Of Social Justice Nataša Pantić & Lani Florian http://www.education-inquiry.net/index.php/edui/article/view/27311 https://t.co/EvDe0yTlUt

(2) This British Columbia booklet called ‘Making space : teaching for diversity and social justice throughout the K-12 curriculum’ has a great questionnaire on pages 13 & 14 bit.ly/2fGfFBc

@MarjorieRosenbe shared a book – Thirty Games for Social Change by  Dorothy Zemach | Wayzgoose Press http://wayzgoosepress.com/books/thirty-games-for-social-change/

The joint IATEFL-TESOL web conference: 2016: http://conference.iatefl.org/webconference/index.html  (note: recordings only available to members after 30 November)

Greetings from Bahrain

 

20160926_052109775_ios

Bahrain City Centre Mall, viewed from 27th floor of S Hotel, Manama.

Greetings from Bahrain, where I arrived on Saturday 24 September.

This is my first proper blog post for over two years.  OK, I did post briefly about the 50th IATEFL conference in April this year but have since deleted it.  Since then I have taught Chinese students online, mostly IELTS speaking test preparation.  This was an interesting experience but not one I wrote about on here.  I can see myself teaching again online in the not to distant future.  But I had the urge to go abroad again as I have not retired from being in the classroom or travelling to work.

So now I’m ready for my next adventure in ELT, at an esg vocational college in Al-Quaiwaiyyah, right in the centre of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  I was interviewed for the position on 16 August and accepted an offer three days later.  This relatively new college was built as part of the ‘colleges of excellence’ initiative in the Kingdom, and the parent company is Interserve, a large UK-based FTSE250 construction company, support services and facilities management provider.  There is a large requirement for a rigorous, comprehensive set of ESL lesson plans and scheme of work, in collaboration with colleagues, with a western testing system (Cambridge) and inspection by Ofsted (or equivalent).  The students are relatively low level. It will be a challenge for sure. I hope to post more about it when I get settled, subject to the terms of my contract.

I have been looking into a return to KSA since last December. I taught at King Saud University in Riyadh in 2010 and 2011. I was inspired by Kim Chibou and Luke Phillips, two great friends I first met at the Barron hotel in Riyadh and who returned to work in the country this year, both for around three months.

esg  (Interserve) Al-Q is not the original position I was interviewed for at the Hilton, Park Lane, back in January and had a medical for in April. It took too long, however, for the University of Dammam to organise my mobilisation and I, therefore, sought alternative employment.

On Saturday, I felt jet lagged, not having slept at all on the overnight flight from Heathrow.  I checked in to a hotel in Manama and later met up at Bahrain city centre mall with British Council Bahrain teacher, self-proclaimed ICT specialist and games-based learning enthusiast, David Dodgson.  It was the first time we had met in the flesh after four years of online friendship.  I left my passport at reception for collection the next day.

On Sunday, I met up with a guy who worked for Interserve for 21 years and was getting a visitor visa to work in Riyadh.  I also thankfully met Andrew, a Glaswegian, who is the other new recruit for esg at Al-Quaiwaiyyah. He has been teaching most recently in Seville, and was only interviewed for the role on 5 September.  He arrived in Bahrain one day later than me, via Glasgow and Dubai, so while I was experiencing jet lag on the Saturday, he was going through it on the day we visited the embassy to sort out documentation. We both had our stay in Bahrain extended to allow time for the visa agent to return our passports.

On Monday, I had a swim, went to the mall one last time for lunch and waited for my passport to be returned  It finally came, via the agent, at 8pm local time, leaving me all clear to board a Saudia Airline direct flight to Riyadh the next day.