Posts Tagged ‘professional development’

This holiday does not exist – at least not at any workplace where I have been employed – but I think it would be great. (more…)


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Because my wife and I live in a rural development about 30 minutes south from where we work, we have taken to listening to audio books during our commute. For the most part, we have listened to young adult fiction (entertaining and never contains questionable content like adult fiction), but while I was at the public library one day, I picked up a copy of “Creating Disney Magic” by Lee Cockerell. We had just been to Orlando the month before, so I was curious to see what were the “secrets” behind Disney leadership strategies.


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A few weeks ago, I posted a short description of my experience giving a mini-workshop on Technology for Language Teaching. I had tried to incorporate sound pedagogical research into my presentation, but based on audience participation and other non-verbal clues, I concluded that the teachers attending the session really just wanted me to demonstrate so “cool tools.” Ironically, this was the very attitude that I was trying to change with my presentation: I wanted teachers to see technology as a means to accomplishing existing curricular goals, rather than using a technology activity simply because it was neat (and possibly unrelated to the purposes of the course).

The program director collected evaluation feedback from the attendees, and their explicit feedback confirms my suspicions. Every form indicated that they wanted more demonstrations. Surprisingly, they did rate the session highly, though part of me thinks this was just because they were being polite.

In any case, should I be asked to give a similar presentation in the future, I will do a better job at demonstrating one or two “cool tools” but I will still stick to a message that insists that technology is only as good as the planning and teaching that it supports. Technology cannot replace good teaching/learning, but it can certainly enhance both.

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Today I lead a mini-shop as part of a teacher development day for the university’s intensive summer language program. Although I don’t teach in this program directly, the coordinator got my name from my boss as someone who could lead a discussion on technology integrated language learning.

I’m not so sure the session was successful. Those who attended seemed to be newbies and technophobes and even though I tried to keep my presentation to an introductory level, I got the sense that they just wanted to be shown exactly how to use one or two specific tools. Instead, I gave a survey of a few tool-types (wikis, blogs, etc.) and left it up to them to figure out the specifics of using the tools.

In other words, I think they wanted a how-to, and instead I presented a why-to. My entire discussion was “couched in the context” of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). Should they ask me to help out with this program in the future, I will just stick with one or two simple tools and provide more exact descriptions of how those tools could be used (even though I think this is a backwards approach).

Here are a couple slides from the discussion (which wasn’t very active since they did not seem to want to participate and instead were mostly passive, did not ask many questions). Certainly room for improvement on my part.

Please note that the TPACK diagram is taken from http://www.tpack.org

Technology for Language Learning2Technology for Language Learning

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In addition to language education sessions, I also appreciate attending presentations that help me deal with the administrative aspects of my job. This year I attended a couple sessions on management issues.


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I attended the TESOL conference this year, after missing it last year (in New York) in favour of LTRC 2008. Each conference in the TESOL world has a different purpose and feel, and the same is even true of each year’s conference. Denver TESOL felt very different from Tampa (2006) and also from Seattle (2007).

In addition to the professional development opportunities, TESOL gave me the chance to present some of our own research and to see former classmates, students, professors, and coworkers. This last reason was especially important for me since leaving BYU last summer. I was very happy to see my friends who either still worked in Provo, or who have also moved on to new teaching opportunities.

This was demonstrated as I arrived at DIA. I had planned to share a hotel room with my friend Ben (who is finishing up his three-year appointment at BYU’s English Language Center), so I called him when I set down at the airport. His flight has also just arrived, and we were planning to meet up near the barriage pick up after we made our way from our respective terminals. As I got in the terminal transport, my phone buzzed; it was Ben who asked me to turn around. I did, and there, facing me in the connecting car was Ben, Grant, and Kristi, my former classmates and coworkers. As soon as the transport reached the final terminal, we hugged and caught up on the latest news from each other.

For me, this year, more than any other, TESOL has equally an academic and professional opportunity as it was a social reunion.

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… it’s worth it.

I just got out of a meeting in which an ETS representative spoke to various admissions staff and ESL faculty at our institution. Having attending the language testing conference this summer in China and then having spent my bus rides over the past 4 weeks reading through a book on the TOEFL validation study (the review will be posted on the robblog soon), I felt very prepared for this meeting. In fact, I was able to answer quetsions about TOEFL that the representative could not, given the extra research I’ve read and conference session I’ve attended. There have been times over the past two months when I have questioned whether my interest and background in language testing would be useful to my current institution, but today’s meeting helped me to realize that to some degree, I am the resident expert on ESL testing issues here, and I can make a positive impact on the quality of our programs.

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