English Language Teaching

Training English Language Teachers
One of the problems that native English speakers can have when they begin to train as English teachers is that, although they speak the language fluently, they have often never had the cause to  learn the nomenclature associated with it (‘what’s a modal verb’, they cry!) or to really consider why certain parts of the language are difficult (articles?  They’re only three little words, aren’t they?!). At the centre where I work, we had thought about developing a pre-course training course for a long time, but the practicalities of the thing (How much? Where? When?) meant that it never got off the ground.

However, when I started an MA in 2010 and started learning about the possibilities that on-line learning afforded, I resurrected the idea and began to play about with different ways of delivering it, thinking that this may be a reasonable substitute for a face-to-face course.

Teaching and Learning with Technology
My first thought was that Second Life might be the answer – I liked the idea of virtually gathering in a group- it seemed only a stone’s throw from really being there, but I never got very competent at moving around and getting dressed (my avatar spent her first few weeks with no hair as I ‘lost’ it somehow and couldn’t get it back…) and I realised that the barriers to entry to a course were probably going to be too high for all but the very motivated.

Teaching in a Virtual Classroom
I then discovered the idea of a virtual classroom and again here seemed to be the answer. I signed up for ElluminateLive (very expensive – I didn’t know about WizIQ unfortunately!) and started my first class, using the trainees that I had at the time in college as guinea pigs.  We ‘met’ up every Sunday night and I started to hone my on-line skills. There was a lot of trial and error about it but the trainees who came seemed to find it helpful.

Full of excitement, I advertised a second free pilot on a celta-trainers e-mail list and signed up 30 people all over the world – the UK, India, Singapore, China… It felt great and I thought I may really be onto something.  The trouble was that the attendance at the classes was awful – about 6 was the average.  Out of 30.  People who came seemed to like what I was doing – the problem was only that there were so few of them!  Not to be defeated, I went on an e-moderator course and ran another pilot with my new skills.

This time I embedded the whole course on a Moodle site (another steep learning curve!) so that I could offer people recordings of the classes as well as forums and a café  (I tried very hard to get a greater sense of community going, hoping that this would increase motivation to attend class).  I enrolled 130 people (the demand seemed to be there- I turned away another 50) but the attendance average?  Still about 6….  However, there was a light at the end of this tunnel in that a lot more people accessed the recordings than attended the classes and when I started making myBrainshark video presentations which were more condensed and easier to access, rates went still higher. It seemed that the recorded me was a more attractive proposition that the live one!

Teaching Online
This whole process led me a do a lot of thinking about on-line teaching.  I had gone into the process thinking that a collaborative experience, mimicking a face to face classroom as nearly as possible, was the best solution but I found that, at least for this kind of course,  a recorded presentation could give the illusion of the presence of a teacher and a course that could be independently accessed had lots of advantages.

Convenience of Online Learning
Clearly convenience is a major one and not to be dismissed but the feedback I had from trainees was that it was also beneficial for other, less practical, more pedagogical reasons. People liked to be able to stop and start, to repeat and review, often to work with books alongside the recordings, pausing to confirm, check and extend their understanding and they liked not having the pressure of a teacher looking over their shoulder or that of peers being better than they were.  Perhaps this is partly a function of the kind for course it is – a limited body of knowledge to assimilate – but it has given me a lot of food for thought.

Connecting Online Conference (CO13)
Now, I’m going to give my first conference session on WizIQ. You are invited to join me to hear more about my work. The topic of my session is “Being there? Experiences with different modes of on-line delivery for a pre-CELTA grammar course“. Native English speaker teacher trainees, especially those who are about to embark on short training courses such as CELTA or Cert TESOL often have the experience that they do not know the nomenclature or systems of the language that they wish to teach. This talk will outline the short course I developed using a virtual classroom(Elluminate Live!), Moodle and myBrainshark to help native English speakers develop this knowledge.

I will discuss the reasons that I initially wanted to run the course at all and what prompted me to consider an on line solution rather than running a face to face course. I will then describe the pilot courses that I ran to discover the best mode of delivery and the way in which the course evolved in what (for me) was a very unexpected manner.

Initially expecting that a collaborative approach would yield the best results, I offered live classes in real time twice a week but found that whilst feedback from trainees was good, attendance at the classes was very poor. In an attempt to address this, I ran a second pilot with the same live classes but now embedded on a Moodle platform which allowed me to post the recordings of the class, give follow up quizzes and use forums for discussion. The results from this were also quite counter-intuitive and led to re-examine my assumptions and redesign the course completely. The final commercial product, developed from the findings of these pilots, is viewable at <a href=”Native English speaker teacher trainees, especially those who are about to embark on short training courses such as CELTA or Cert TESOL often have the experience that they do not know the nomenclature or systems of the language that they wish to teach. This talk will outline the short course I developed using a virtual classroom, Moodle and myBrainshark to help native English speakers develop this knowledge.



My name is Jo Gakonga, and I am from Birmingham, in the UK. I've been teaching since 1989, and training teachers since 2000. Like many English teachers, though, my life didn't start off along that path....I originally studied Agriculture and was interested in development projects, but some work at the University of the South Pacific as a crop researcher quickly persuaded me that this wasn't for me. After a couple of years backpacking around New Zealand and Australia, I ended up on the hippy trail through South East Asia and absolutely fell in love with it. I was so bowled over by the culture, the people, the food (!) and the 'otherness' of it all and didn't want to leave, so when I ran out of money, I got a plane to Taiwan, where I had been advised I could get a job teaching English, just because I could 'speak it'.

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