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IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Jeremy Day’s “Experiments in self-publishing”

Here’s the second in the series of IATEFL 2014 sketchnotes. This set comes from Jeremy Day’s high informative talk on self-publishing. I especially like the idea of creating your own materials that can be sold directly to the students ūüėČ

Again, do let me know if some text explanations are desired!

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IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Katherine Bilsborough’s “Becoming a digital author”

This year, I decided to abandon my usual BESIG crowd and sit in on the MaWSIG PCE (that’s the Materials Writing Pre-conference event for those of you who don’t speak TEFLese). The first talk of the day was by Katherine Bilsborough, who took us on a path to becoming a digital writer, with lots of concrete tips, resources, and insights as to what it means to be a digital author.

Here are my sketchnotes from the talk. I’ll leave you to look at them then connect and process the ideas on your own, rather than me describing the notes. However, I’ll be posting all of my notes from IATEFL 2014 as sketchnotes, so if you feel you’d also prefer a bit of text, do let me know. And if you see any mistakes, also please let me know! This is sort of an experiment in conference note-taking and sharing, so do let me know what you think!

MaWSIG PCD - p. 1 K Bilsborough MaWSIG PCE - p. 2 K BilsboroughMaWSIG PCE - p. 3 K Bilsborough MaWSIG PCE - p. 4 K Bilsborough

And if you’re curious to learn more about sketchnoting and how you can get started, read this post: “For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…”

 

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For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…

During the 2014 IATEFL conference last week, a few people noticed me doodling away in a notebook (with real pen and paper!) during talks. Several people were even so kind as to ask to take photos of my notes, compliment¬†them, and share them with our friends on Facebook. I’ll be sharing my notes on this blog as I finish coloring them¬†(yes, like a 5-year old!), but since so many people seemed interested in the process of visual note-taking, here are a few resources and tips if you too want to start doodling rather than typing or writing your notes. It’s done as a sort of FAQs, based on questions I got during the conference.

What are sketchnotes?

Basically a visual form of note-taking that combines drawings, lettering styles, colors, icons, dividers, arrows, and whatever else you want to put into them to make your notes pretty and relevant to the content you want to capture.

Do you have to be a good artist to sketchnote?

Nope. I’m certainly not, unless you count stick figures, cubes, and the cat I learned to draw when I was 8 (and have been drawing that way ever since). That’s not modesty, it’s honesty. When I did do lots of artsy stuff in high school, I did collages. Why? Because you don’t have to draw, you just have to cut and paste. You don’t have to be an artist to create sketchnotes. In fact, the fact that the drawings are just sketches adds a certain graphic appeal. The whole minimalist design thing seems pretty trendy at the moment, so maybe that’s why. But you certainly don’t need to be an artist or even a good drawer to do sketchnotes! Just start doodling and keep at it!

How long does it take to learn how to sketchnote?

That’s like asking “How long does it take to learn English?” The answer depends on what proficiency level you’re aiming for.¬†Before the IATEFL conference, I had done sketchnotes for 2 talks and 3 webinars. Not exactly years of experience then. Which means that it doesn’t take tons of training. You just have to start and keep at it. Of course, the notes you create will probably become more fluid, better organized, and more concentrated in key info as you get more experience, but there’s not better way to get experience than to just practice, practice, practice! (Hint: try sketchnoting the videos of all those IATEFL talks you missed but that are now available online. And there’s no stress of someone watching you create your notes!)

How do you draw and write and listen at the same time?

This does take a bit of practice, and I’m certainly still working on it! In my notebook there are several spots that are just blank and that will be filled after I get the speaker’s slides, read other people’s blog posts about the talk, etc. Presentations often contain some spots of intense info and some spots of down time (or “talk to your neighbor” time). You can use these to complete your notes, add little embellishes, or sketch a quick figure that can be fleshed out in more detail later. This has the added advantage of encouraging you to go back to your notes after the talk because you really want to fill them in, so you make that extra bit of effort. Again, storing things in your short-term memory while writing, drawing, and listening is a skill that improves with practice, but we’re all teachers, so don’t we enjoy a bit of mental work?

Why bother?

Sketchnotes are just prettier than scrawls of text that never get looked at again! But on a deeper level, there seem to be some cognitive benefits:

  • Trying to find images to illustrate the message helps you connect with and process the words.
  • Non-linear note-taking means you can arrange concepts on the page in a way that makes sense to you. You can also easily draw connectors to show relationships between similar or contrasting ideas.
  • You may be more artsy-fartsy than you think. Most people stop drawing because they think they’re not “good at it”. You don’t have to be good at drawing to sketchnote, but it does help¬†to master a few basic shapes and ways of¬†combining them to make simple images.
  • People (especially yourself) will want to read and re-read your notes. This means you review them more often and the stuff sticks better than if it just rotted away in a notebook (or computer file) somewhere.
  • The mind-body connection, or embodied cognition comes into play, since you are physically creating representations of the ideas you are processing. Scott Thornbury wrote a great article on this, published in the TESOL France¬†Teaching Times in 2013.

How can I learn more about sketchnotes and how to do them?

There are lots of resources out there!

The first resource I’d recommend is the book The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde. There’s a Kindle version, but I personally prefer¬†the paper version. It’s just nice flipping through the pages!

Sketchnoting has also carved out some cyberspace for itself. Here are a few resources¬†you’ll likely find useful:

Not sure what’s with all violent metaphors, but it makes¬†me think of this endless Soviet-style army marching forth wielding a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other!

Hope that answers some of the questions that you may have had about sketchnoting as a way to record your conference experience! If not, feel free to add other questions in the comments below! And keep your eyes out for the posts of the sketchnotes that I made–they’ll be posted here as I finish them!

 

 

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iTDi + Shelly Terrell: Learning to go, webinar notes 1

At the beginning of March, I signed up for one of iTDi’s Advanced Teaching Skills Courses: Language Learning to Go, led by the brilliantissime Shelly Terrell, who is probably about as near to a living encyclopedia of apps, mobile learning, and the joys of Web 2.0-based learning as anyone’s ever seen. ¬†Shelly and iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) have set the course up on a private Google+ community (the course is not free, but for what you get out of it, it’s a steal at $50) and during the week the learners (me and about 30 other teachers in various places around the world) have “missions” to complete, consolidated by weekly webinars hosted by Shelly and iTDi faculty member Barbara Sakamoto.

Continuing with my experiment in sketchnoting, I’d like to share some of the tips and tools we learned about in the first weekly webinar. I have to admit I’m struggling to keep on top of teaching work, association volunteering, incoming projects and preparing for IATEFL Harrogate (in just one week!), so I’m a bit late with the notes. You’re all busy, busy teachers too, so you know what I mean!

Anyway, here are the notes–hope you get something out of them! (Disclaimer: I’m no artist, so apologies for the AWFUL drawing of Shelly–it looks absolutely nothing like her!)¬†These are from the webinar back on March 9, 2014 but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with the our “missions”! As you’ll see, we’ve already learned a lot in just the first week!

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I’ll try to catch up and post notes from the other webinars if possible!

I’m really enjoying the course and have already started using some apps with a group of my clients, who have agreed to be the guinea pigs for the experiment. After seeing how engaging it can be to learn as a group on the Google+ community, I’ve set up a private Google+ for a group of 5 A2-ish level learners. I’ve also started giving “missions” for learners to do on Audioboo to help them practice their speaking skills outside of class. They can then post their Audioboo recordings to the Google+ community and comment on each other’s work. The group has just started, so we’ll see how they take to it. I’ll be blogging about that project as well in the near future, hopefully to encourage other teachers to try setting up something similar with their learners if they want to try!

And while working together in a virtual learning environment (VLE) is just plain fun, it is also based on sound theory. Here are a few resources that Shelly shared to help us understand how VLEs take advantage of social learning theories:

Howard Rheingold’s Peeragogy and Co-learning theories

Siemen’s Connectivism Theory

Vygotsky’s Social Cognitive Theory

To be continued…

 
 

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So, is that your real job?

It’s happened so often that it just doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I’ve come to find it amusing, in a bittersweet sort of way. You know, when you start off with a new client or group, you’re doing the first-lesson introductions and after you say “My name’s so-and-so and I teach business English to adults in companies,” you get one learner who asks innocently “Is that your real job?”

Now, surely they do not mean it as an insult and it’s doubtful that they’re implying that teaching English in companies isn’t in fact “a real job” (whatever that means). In fact, if they’re asking, it’s probably because they’ve likely had teachers/trainers in their past lessons for whom teaching English wasn’t their “real job.” After all, no one asks their doctor “Is this your real job?” simply because they’ve never come across a doctor who was just doing that job because they needed to do something to earn some money. Not the case for some English teachers.

Again, the learners aren’t to blame. It’s an innocent question that reflects their experience. The teachers aren’t to blame either. After all, when you land in a foreign country you may or may not speak the language. You may or may not have qualifications recognized by the system. You may or may not have training and experience in other fields that can be practiced in your new homeland. These problems apply to foreigners (native and non-native English speakers alike) teaching English in a country that is not their own. Unfortunately, in the companies I’ve worked for in France, I’ve never come across a French person who teaches English to other French people, so I don’t know if they too get asked “Is this your real job?” Wait, there was this one French guy I remember way back when I started teaching, in 2004 when I was a student looking for a job a bit better than flipping cr√™pes . He was French, teaching English to other French people. And he always told clients he was Canadian. But the whole native-speaker requirement to teach is a different question entirely, that I’ve ranted about in another post.

So where does the problem come from? Why is it that respectful, professional adults see nothing wrong with asking their professional trainer (who has been hired by their company to help them learn a skill that will make them more efficient in their job) if the job they are doing is their real job? Probably because English language teaching is a field with very low–even non-existant–entry-level qualifications. After all, I got my first job because I was American. That was the only credential I had going for me, but for the place that hired me, it was sufficient. In fact, for the next six years of my working life, the fact that I was a native speaker got me two other jobs in different places. Then I decided that if this was to be my “real job” I should probably get some training and qualifications.

And so, yes, teaching English to professionals is my “real job.” It’s my career. I know that and my colleague-friends in the ELT world know that, . But without going into the the details of one’s projects, qualifications, past experience and future ELT projects, there’s no way for a client to know if the trainer in front of them is a career ELTer or a “I couldn’t do anything other than teach English” ELTer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking new trainers who are still finding their way into the ELT world. I’m not saying all ELT trainers should dash to get a DELTA, a Trinity DipTESOL, or an MA in TESOL before knowing that the investment is worth it.¬†I’m not knocking employers who give fresh-off-the-pre-service-program trainers their chance to develop themselves. I’m not even knocking those clients who ask “Is this your real job?”. Forgive them for they know not what they do, let’s say.

What I’ve got a problem with is the fact that a trainer with no experience and no qualifications (like me when I started in 2004) gets the same wage as a teacher with years of experience, proper training, and continuous investment in one’s professional development (where I was when I left my last company to go freelance, in 2012). The hourly wage was basically exactly the same.

Fortunately there are some companies out there that recognize quality trainers and are willing to pay salaries that reflect the investment the trainers have made in their career and the quality of the training they provide. I wish there were more companies like that. On the flip side of the coin, there are companies who offer the same salary (give or take a little) to all their trainers. If you want more money, you can look elsewhere, because there will always be some fresh face ready to take your place. Maybe the problem is there. Maybe that’s why clients feel it’s normal to ask “So, is that your real job?”

To finish, a bit of good reading on the same or similar topics from around the web:

TEFLing at 35: A life gone right by Ptefldactyl

ELT Community forum: Is ELT a real profession?

Sandy has a real job, thank you very much!: An interview between Barbara Hoskins-Sakamoto and Sandy Millin

Teachers Tread Water in eikaiwa limbo

The European Profiling Grid project website

And a disclaimer: This post is not meant as a mere rant about ELT conditions in various places around the world. I love my job, I’ve got good work, and a variety of interesting projects going on. Plus, I’ve gotten to the point where I know it’s my real job and I’m happy to invest time and energy to make it so. This post is meant to point out yet another absurdity of our profession that we as teachers can take steps to rectify by being proud of who we are and what we do. We are ELTers and yes, it is our real job!

 
 

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ELT Teacher2Writer webinar notes: How to become an ELT materials writer

Last week (March 5, 2014 to be precise), Sue Kay and Karen Spiller of ELT Teacher2Writer led an hour-long webinar titled “How to Become an ELT Materials Writer.” The event was full of useful insider info on how the whole publishing industry works, the knowledge good writers need, and tips for aspiring authors from both publishers and accomplished writers.

Rather than just write up classic verbal notes with their outlines, bullet points, and line after line of text-text-text like I usually do (which usually ends up stuffed on a shelf somewhere, sadly to rarely be read again), I decided to try something different: sketchnoting. While not all ideas are captured, I tried to get the essentials, sketch them up into something visual and memorable, all the while hoping they would make some sense to someone who didn’t attended the webinar.

I’ll let you decide…

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How Publishing Works1

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How Publishing Works2

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How Publishing Works2 1

Something I didn’t manage to capture here though and that will be appreciated by aspiring ELT writers is the ELT Teacher 2 Writer database.¬†It’s free for writers to add their details to the database and it’s free for publishers to use the database, so it’s a great way for (presently) little-known or new writers to come into contact with publishers. It’s simple to add your name to the database: you fill in the registration form, which includes all the basics plus information about countries you’ve taught in, age groups or levels you’ve taught, and the type of materials you’re interested in writing. That way, when publishers are looking for someone with your profile, they’ll have all your contact information right there!

Hopefully the notes are helpful (and pretty to look at)! If my notes aren’t enough or you just want to watch Kay and Karen in action, you can watch the full webinar here.¬†You’ll also be able to catch the ELT Teacher2Writer team at IATEFL Harrogate 2014. On Friday April 4, 2014 (time TBA), they’ll host a practical workshop demonstrating practical materials from their training modules.

Either way, the webinar helped add a bit of clarity to the whole mysterious process and also made it seem like something accessible to experienced teachers looking to expand their teaching careers beyond the classroom.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in Webinar notes

 

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Teaching Conference Calls: Funny and useful video (with transcript)

Admittedly, this post is not the most original, as I’ve seen this video going around on Facebook pages of several colleagues’ (Carl Dowse, I’m looking at you ūüôā ) However, I thought I’d share it because it really is a good video to have on your hard drive to take into class.

So without further ado, enjoy “A Conference Call in Real Life”:

There are a few reasons why this video makes a good resource:

First, it’s just funny. Anything that gets learners laughing earns a mark in my book.

Second, business learners who have already participated in conf calls will definitely be able to relate to it. We’ve all experienced the frustration of distracting background noise, people who can’t connect, and maybe we’ve even been the one who quietly slips away (shhh!)

Third, it has a lot of useful language that can be focused on after having just watched for gist (and for fun). This is one of the important benefits of the video, since most materials on the market are poorly lacking in modules on the language of conf calls. The video transcript (downloadable here)  may be useful in helping learners highlight the useful language.

While, yes, the language of conf calls is basically the same language as meetings, beginning a conf call, handling technical problems, and overcoming the challenge of understanding someone you can’t see (and who’s speaking in a foreign language) are unique to conf calls.

Hopefully this video will help bring some laughter and language to an necessary business evil that is neither fun nor funny for many language learners.

I know a lot of trainers have already seen this video. How have you used it in class? What did your learners think of it? I’m curious to know…

On a post note, I must recommend Barry Tomalin’s book¬†Key Business Skills¬†(published by Collins) for its very good chapter on dealing with both phone and video conf calls. You can also find more conf call tips in this summary of his talk at IATEFL 2013 in Liverpool, “Make Meetings Work.”

 

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