The 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition
I’m very excited to be reporting on the live-streamed events at Harrogate Online IATEFL 2014. I believe that it was a very creative and decisive move for the British Council to enlist bloggers online to report from afar.
This line of thinking and general policy is only to be expected of Ann Foreman, social media manager for the British Council and Paul Braddock, manager of the teaching English website. They have been doing exceptional work in embracing the needs of international teachers, independent online teachers and bloggers for quite some time now. It’s wonderful to see how organisations and individuals can work together in such appealing and efficient ways.
Here’s what one colleague has to say:
( …and she says it so well)
” I’ve been only three months in this “brave new world”, out of a deeply personal need to seek, explore and start a new circle. I knew absolutely nothing about any aspect of this global ELT community, did not have the merest idea about blogging in a social networking context as an ongoing, interactive and inter-informed dialogue, did not have an FB account. What I have learnt, felt, and experienced so far is beyond my wildest imagination. Getting in contact with Teaching English British Council was my first step and has proved to be critical.”
The Teaching English Facebook page
The Teaching English/British Council page has over 2.2 million followers and is the hottest spot for teachers online to learn and share. As Ann says, it’s literally going bananas with activity and sharing. Many bloggers and freelance teachers are encouraged by the visibility and support they get on a page where it would be easy to sink into oblivion without the excellent management and personal interest of Ann, Paul, and other admins.They also hold regular blog awards.
The Teaching English Website
As we’ll see in the interview, and as is obvious to anyone who works online, it’s all about relationships. The fact that Ann and Paul value creativity and are very creative thinkers themselves, removes all doubt as to where the social glue comes from in this exceptional global community.
Here’s is an eye-opening interview with Ann and Paul which gives us a glimpse into the future and leads us into the mindset of current educational and social media trends.
The great thing about the work Ann and Paul do is that they tap into the needs of international teachers and they recognise that we (the public) are the trend setters. They have the vision and insight to see where we’re going and then brainstorm some focused scaffolding for flexible, social, life-long learning scenarios for teachers everywhere.
As an online teacher who experiments and lives on the cutting-edge, I’m fascinated with much of what has been discussed in the interview. The educational landscape is shifting beneath our feet and while this is exciting, it can also be frustrating. Note what Ann says about current needs and what she has learnt from observing teacher trends online. Paul speaks in terms of evolutionary professional development where nothing is cast in stone but teachers get to learn more about customising their own professional development according to specific needs.
Paul and Ann have refreshing perspectives on continuing professional development. They see how social media has changed the way teachers seek to grow in their professions. Ann says that teachers should have access to bite-sized challenges whenever they need it without having to enroll in long cumbersome courses.
She says that while social media has done much to fill this need, places like Facebook are still too superficial or transient for more focused work to be done.
It seems as if the answer lies in bridging the gap between educational networks and older models of teacher-training to create something new that is shaped from crowd-sourced perspectives.
Paul says that his interests lie in gamification and how this can develop with the needs of teachers through professional development in socially constructed ways as opposed to traditional professional development and intensive training blocks.
This idea is to inject challenges and reality into the learning process through interactive and intelligent feedback systems.
Action research in peer-to-peer learning contexts is identified as crucial to teacher empowerment. Doing individual research and experimenting is not as much fun if you don’t share with others, it’s less inspiring and can dry up quickly. When you share what you create, it gets to grow, evolve and breathe, through the life given to it by other teachers. Those who may be isolated in traditional staff rooms where professional development is not encouraged need no longer feel alone or get burnt out.
I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did and get some more personal insights into the fascinating world of professional development and social media.
If any of you, like Chrysa above, have experiences to share, with regard to the Teaching English/British Council page, please feel free to add your comments below 🙂
My next report will feature Nik Peachey.