Review by Sylvia Guinan & Larissa’s Languages.
In my years of teaching online and exploring educational technology, I’ve come to recognise three main areas of difficulty for teachers, schools and students with regard to web-based teaching and using digital resources.
That’s why I’m very excited to review a new book for teachers and learners which simplifies the complexity of trying to integrate technology into the classroom experience.
This book is called ‘Learning To Go‘ by Shelly Terrell, author, teacher trainer and international speaker.
“ Our students spend hours with their devices and digital tools. Imagine if some of that time was spent learning your content. Imagine your students learning by creating, playing, translating, editing, curating, researching, and brainstorming digitally on cell phones, mobile devices, laptops, tablets, iPads, Chromebooks, and consoles.”
Shelly is recognised worldwide as an innovator in education and she has taught thousands of teachers all over the world how to integrate creative web-based techniques into their teaching programmes.
What are these main areas of difficulty that Shelly addresses in her book?
1) Information overload
There are so many tools and learning environments online that it can be very overwhelming. It can take hours just to find suitable free tools you’d like to use with your students.
2) Old-fashioned curriculum requirements
Beyond that you need to spend even more time wondering how you can fit creativity into your somewhat inflexible curriculum .
3) Changing the way you think and work so as to accommodate blended or online teaching strategies.
If you are still immersed in school environments where digital technology is under-utilised or misunderstood, it can be hard to get into the right mindset for adapting your curriculum in creative ways without wasting time or sending students off on a wild goose chase.
Learning To Go is beautiful, simple, creative and intuitive.
Shelly has curated the perfect tools and environments to get teachers started off on the right foot. This will save teachers hours of time so that they can keep their brain power for adapting Shelly’s amazing ideas to their own particular courses.
She has included lots of unique lesson plans to help teachers get started right away. The beauty of these lesson plans is that they ease teachers into the feel of creativity. The lesson plans are spring boards from which you can leap into your own open-ended adaptations and build upon the stepping stones laid out in the book.
The intuitive integration of lessons, learning spaces and tools into an attractive, clickable playground for teachers is so clear-cut that the learning curve is considerably eased. This doesn’t mean that there will be no challenge, especially coming from Shelly Terrell, who has built her reputation on challenging and being challenged. Rather, the book will ease teachers into the clear mindset they need to take on properly scaffolded challenges in a healthy way.
The insecurities around technology and feelings of helplessness in the face of our digital generations will melt away and that feeling of fun, excitement and energy will replace the stress. Healthy challenges are always fun. It’s up to you to keep your work healthy and challenging so that you can pass this onto your students.
If books have spirit, then this book embodies the spirit of safe, practical exploration. As such, and most importantly, it can bridge the gap between creativity and boring curriculum requirements. You will learn how to ‘use’ the coursebook they force you to use by building a bypass over the text-based clutter.
(This doesn’t mean that course books are messy, it simply means that some of the text or exercises may be superfluous to your specific needs and you don’t have to follow the book slavishly. The purpose of the coursebook is merely to guide you in teaching a language. The language itself will never be learnt if students cannot experiment beyond the confines of print. Therefore books are only meant to be a springboard to self-expression.)
The coursebook can serve as a lighthouse to help you navigate the course, but you’ll only sail by helping your students to traverse the linguistic seas of the real world.
If the coursebook is a lighthouse, then the teacher is a rainbow, and the sea, sometimes calm and sometimes rough, is the linguistic world that must be explored and navigated. Educational technology helps our students to navigate these seas with boldness and curiosity.
Learning To Go can help you read the constellations of cyberspace when the lighthouse is no longer relevant. That’s when your sailors will graduate into autonomous learning and fluency development for life.
This user-friendly guidebook will also help you to develop your own critical thinking skills as well as those of your students’ because you’ll be thinking of how to contextualise the content of your course books to suit real life goals, interactive events, multi-media creations and social learning scenarios online.
Image credit: IQ Matrix
Learning to go shows how learning is brought to life by going beyond the flatness of the course book and breathing life into the curriculum. I’ve always seen exams and boring curricula as constraints that need not bring us down. Sometimes the constraints force a new strain of creativity to emerge.
Educational technology, games and exploration help us to tap into the necessary creativity imposed upon us by very challenging constraints.
My inspiring colleague and fellow blogger, Larissa’s Languages, was one of the first in my network to buy Shelly’s book.
Larissa and I agree on many things and love to share creative ideas.
Here she outlines the features she most appreciates:
1) If you want to integrate technology or mobile devices in your EFL lessons you can’t live without this e-book. Aimed at both tech-savvy teachers and new ones to the use of technology in the classroom.
2) Its layout is clear and straightforward. You don’t need to flick through the e-pages to find what you are looking for because the sections are divided for topics so you are able to explore the e-book.
3) It is full of resources, from a list of free apps to editable handouts which can be used in the lessons.
4) The presence of screenshots shows how to use better the apps.
5) The lesson plans are comprehensive: you fill find the description, duration, aims, examples, target students of the activities and at the end there are also suggestions for follow-up activities and it implies that “tech is not for tech’s sake” but the results of one activity can be collected as materials for future activities/projects.
6) All the lesson plans focus on peer-learning and group works. You can get useful tips about how to group students and understand the roles & responsibilities they have in the activities they do together.
This is how Shelly describes the layout:
“In addition, this book has the following features to help guide and support you throughout your journey:
- The Content Map allows you more freedom than a Table of Contents. Click or touch to explore the lessons, resources, apps, and handouts.
- The Navigation bars at the bottom of the pages allow you to quickly get to the resources and apps you need when planning or conducting a lesson.
- The internal and external links within the lesson plans help you to easily and quickly find free web tools and apps and access the handouts.
- The Apps guide divides recommended apps into 8 categories and lists and describes free apps suitable for various devices and ages (toddlers to adults).
- The Resources section is filled with handouts, storyboards, evaluation forms, and rubrics.
- The Materials folder is filled with all the rubrics and handouts for you to edit and print.
- The Materials folder also contains screenshots (pngs) of the evaluation forms, storyboards, and handouts for students to quickly upload to an app, complete, and turn in digitally.
Implementing mobile learning is already tough, but I hope this book’s design, features, tips, and resources ease your journey and motivate you to explore the possibilities.”
Special thanks to Shelly Terrell for putting her years of insight and experience into this compelling book and thanks to Larissa’s language for sharing her review with us.