100 words of wisdom from 7 Online ELT Teachers

 

Some say that the largest English language school in the world is the one made up of independent teachers like the 7 below.  I thought I’d ask them a very simple question so that we can learn from their experience and shake up a discussion on best practices in online teaching. Here are their 100 words on:

 

 

George Machlan of St. George’s Academy of Dragon Slaying and Spoken English

I doubt that I would have listened but here is what I wish someone would have told me:

Do not reinvent the wheel, particularly when wheels are free or nearly free on the internet.  I spent countless hours developing my own materials and researching the myriad of online teaching tools.  Some of you are natural course and material writers, so this is not for you.  Most of you are like me, uniquely gifted in helping others to learn.  For some crazy reason we think we must create original materials and lesson plans.  What a sad misuse of our time and talents.  I am an edutainer and master fun-a-holic. I now use materials created by experts (e.g. Edulang) but quickly adjust the materials to fit my style and a student’s interests.  When I fully realized how special my abilities were, I quit trying to do everything else.  I tell folks that I am like a fighter pilot, I need not learn how to build a jet or the technical aspects of aeronautics,  I fly and leave the building to others.”  George’s site and twitter.

 

Michael DiGiacomo from Happy English

“Since I only teach one-to-one lessons, teaching online is pretty much the same as teaching while sitting across the table from a student. However, there are a few things I wish I had known before I started doing it. In particular, there is no whiteboard in cyberspace. It took almost six months of using Skype before I realized it had a function where I could share my desktop, thus turning my MS word document into a cyber-whiteboard. The other thing is about bandwidth. Unless both teacher and student have a decent internet connection, the possibility of a poor connection can ruin the lesson, and this situation can happen with both free software, like Skype, and pay applications like Web-Ex.” Michael’s site and twitter.


Sylvia Guinan of Brain-Friendly ELT : 

“In practical terms, I wish I had known how easy it is to start out on skype; The  importance of having your own website; The importance of letting tools & media work for you,  not the other way around and that building up a reputation will ensure a steady stream of students from diverse sources. In educational terms: the establishment is dead –   build your brand beyond the walls… the power of indulging in right-brain delinquency.  How social media, philanthropy & sharing can impact global learning.”  In inspirational terms: the importance of letting your talents shape your teaching brand.  Allowing content creation & curation to reflect your inner teaching values.  The importance of cultivating a powerful PLN & making a difference in education.” Sylvia’s blog and her twitter.

 

Angela Boothroyd of Study Online

“Build a strong online presence and showcase and establish your reputation as an expert via a blog and other social media sites. A static website isn’t enough.  Teaching online is a business and not simply a vocation – start building an email list as soon as you start teaching. There are only so many hours a day you can teach – identify your passions and areas of expertise and turn them into teaching products to sell.  There will always be a multitude of wonderful new tools and resources to learn about and experiment with– don’t try and master them all!”  Angela’s site, and twitter.

 

Jessica Volbrecht from SkypEnglish4U 

“When I started teaching online, I created a website, facebook and twitter.  I have a lot of contacts worldwide and thought that would be enough to get the word out about my lessons… it wasn’t.  A friend told me about online language communities and I think it is a good idea to start out with a third party site that promotes you as a teacher.  Do your research and find one that fits your style the best.  Some take a cut of your earnings and others give you materials and have guidelines for your sessions.” Jessica’s site and twitter.

 

Al Slagle of AlSensei

“I wish someone would have shared with me how to engage with students better online. At first, I was just “blasting” content out to students without creating more of a discussion.

When I wasn’t getting many replies on Twitter, comments on my blog, or “likes” on Facebook, I realized that I must be doing something wrong. I gradually learned to involve students more and encouraged them to participate by asking for their opinions and other questions. Now I aim to go for engagement right off the bat, and as much as possible.”  Al’s site and twitter.

 

Anna Letitia Cook from English Angels shared a different point of view and I think it wraps the post us PERFECTLY:

“My experience of online teaching has been very positive – I love it!  The human relationships developed are particularly rewarding.  Not only do you have the great pleasure of being able to work with clients from all over the world, but you have the opportunity to experience the different mentalities and cultures of each country.

I notice a difference between webcam  and voice only sessions, webcam being closer to face-to-face whereas voice-only creates a very intuitive and emotional level of understanding and support. You can hear, in an instant, whether your student understands, whether they feel confident, even whether or not they are having a good or bad day in general.  For me, online seems to develop a closer, warmer and more trusting relationship.”  Anna’s site and twitter.

 

 

AND YOU, the other Online teachers of the World, what are your online teaching tips?

 

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sylvia.guinan.3 Sylvia Guinan

    I found the advice of my colleagues here a pleasure to read. I can identify strongly with George and Angela, and find Anne’s description of the emotional level of interaction, and rewards inherent in global communication. It also mirrors aspects of my afore-mentioned ‘inner teaching values’…….

    Al, Michael and Jessica shared nice practical tips that I also could have benefited from at the start…..

    It’s so reassuring to find that we all started out from nowhere in our different but similar ways – thanks for the opportunity to share here Brad – and thanks to my six colleagues for their insights – ‘the power of a strong PLN’:)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sylvia.guinan.3 Sylvia Guinan

    I found the advice of my colleagues here a pleasure to read. I can identify strongly with George and Angela, and find Anne’s description of the emotional level of interaction to mirror aspects of my afore-mentioned ‘inner teaching values’…….

    Al, Michael and Jessica shared nice practical tips that I also could have benefited from at the start…..

    It’s so reassuring to find that we all started out from nowhere in our different but similar ways -thanks for the opportunity to share here Brad – and thanks to my six colleagues for their insights – ‘the power of a strong PLN’:)

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    The power of a PLN indeed! Especially one with experience like this with which we can learn so much. Thanks Sylvia and George and Michael and Angela and Jessica and Al and Anna! Really enjoyed how this post came together!

  • http://www.nitajoydesigns.co.uk/ Anita

    Very interesting piece. Wonderful to get a selection of varied responses with a smiliar focus, demonstrating the passion required in a suitable business model, for teaching language in an accessible, interesting, format.

  • http://HowToWriteBetter.net Suzan St Maur

    I coach/teach business and other nonfiction writing in English, and much as this is a more commercial and less vocational activity, I would urge all of you to recognize the importance of regarding your work as a business as Angela Boothroyd points out. Understanding and utilizing the social media and blogging to promote your business is not rocket science, is largely free, and it works. Good luck!

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Thanks for stopping by Anita. I agree wholeheartedly— great piece from these teachers!

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Hi Suzan.

    I agree that there is a switch that needs to be activated for independent teachers— that entrepreneurial spirt needs to come alive a bit. Really it means taking care of people and making sure that your reaching the right communities and then encouraging them to spread the word as well, which as you’ve pointed out, is much, much easier these days thanks to social media. I agree, it’s not rocket science, and yet successfully carrying out a social media strategy is no piece of cake either. The space is quite dense and you have to be unique, community-oriented and active to make it worth your investment.
    Thanks for stopping by! -Brad

  • http://twitter.com/creativeELT Daniel Brown

    I’m interested in the online model of teaching, but most of my methods involve group or pair work. How do you manage group work while teaching online? The way I picture it, something like a google+ hangout would split up into different hangouts that can’t hear each other, but I can hear them all and jump in at any time. Is there a platform that does this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmachlan Louis George Machlan

    Here is another tip that didn’t fit within the 100 word criteria:
    I would tell you to spend time learning your Virtual Classroom system. The internet is extremely like a new world, say Mars. It is critical that you become proficient with your ship and equipment. To be truly flexible and able to handle all contingencies a deep understanding of the technology is required.

    But beyond that, I would tell you that this new world (online teaching) is like going to the planet in the movie Avatar. Your time will be best spent understanding the totally different mind and culture that the e-learner exhibits. Some things carry over, they are after all still humanoid, but it is not the same. You are “not in Kansas anymore Toto”.

    If you presume to ascribe real-world class dynamics to this new e-world learner you are doomed to becoming an anachronism. Invest yourself as an explorer and look at your classroom dynamic with new eyes. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the possibilities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmachlan Louis George Machlan

    There are many. As stated above, I am very satisfied with WizIQ. You should shop around and try them on for size. If you wish to play with WizIQ I have recorded 5 minute tutorials here:
    http://myeslfriends.com/wordpress/lab-rats/how2wiziq/

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmachlan Louis George Machlan

    Amen Suzan! A very hard paradigm shift for almost every teacher is understanding that you are in business first! It is no longer a monopoly of curricula. The customer is now an equal if not over riding factor.

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Thanks for adding this here, George!

    It pained me to have to cut this from your original text… but wanted to keep everybody around that 100 pearls of wisdom length. Thanks for the inspiration!!!! -b

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmachlan Louis George Machlan

    Learner and teachers alike, note that Brad exemplifies that mistakes are normal and human. It’s OK to make them. The challenge (and good teaching form) is to invite you to re-read with a critical eye. I found a punctuation problem at the very beginning. And a problem with the very last sentence. This type of game is great when a teacher templates the willingness to not be perfect. Can you find any? Personally, I always include spelling mistakes and grammatical missives when I write. On purpose, of course (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

  • Gaurav Walia

    Mind blowing article. Loved it!

  • http://twitter.com/epicenterone Aaron Nelson

    Loved this article! And totally relevant for me. Last night I had my first PUBLIC Google+ hangout as a conversation club for people wanting to practice English.

    I wasn’t ready for how many people showed up and tried to get in. 38!!! I was going to be jumping for joy if just 1 decided to show.

    What I learned from this experience:
    No more public hangouts for now. The constant entering and leaving of people drove me nuts. It was also very hard to moderate and manage. So that leads to the next lesson I learned:
    Limit your group to a few at a time.

    Next tip: learn how to use the mute button, and encourage your participants to mute their mics when they are not talking.

    Next tip: be quick to kick out players. I think this would only really apply if you do public hangouts on G+ – last night I had some guy just goofing off and distracting, so after a minute of that, I kicked him off. I should have done it faster.

    Really great article! Saving it for later!

  • http://epicenterlanguages.com.mx/teaching-with-google-hangouts Teaching with Google+ Hangouts

    [...] I enjoyed reading 100 words of wisdom from 7 online ELT Teachers - really great advice there for those who are teaching online. I feel that most of the advice fits [...]

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Hey Aaron,

    Enjoyed reading your post. Yes, teaching online for the first time, ESPECIALLY with groups must be a very big awakening. 38 folks!!! Wow. Being popular is a good problem to have ;-)

    Great points on your post and I encourage others to check it out. Impressed with how much you learned in such a short time.

    http://epicenterlanguages.com.mx/teaching-with-google-hangouts

    Merci for the kind words and I’d love to have you on the blog one of these days too!

    Cheers, Brad

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Thanks for stopping by and your kind words, Gaurav!

  • http://www.scoop.it/t/ed-tech-online/p/2303574368/100-words-of-wisdom-from-7-online-elt-teachers 100 words of wisdom from 7 Online ELT Teachers | eLearning and mLearning weekly | Scoop.it

    [...] 7 online ELT teachers share their experiences of teaching online.  [...]

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmachlan Louis George Machlan

    Gaurav, share it with your sister. Isn’t she still planning on opening her own school? She really should consider having an online mix for students.

  • http://www.scoop.it/t/knowledge-platform-e-learning/p/2308998118/100-words-of-wisdom-from-7-online-elt-teachers 100 words of wisdom from 7 Online ELT Teachers | E-Learning: Knowledge Platform | Scoop.it

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    [...] 100 words of wisdom from 7 Online ELT Teachers | A journée in language. [...]

  • http://twitter.com/StudyingOnline Angela Boothroyd

    Thank you for putting this post together, Brad. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts and I can identify with all of them! George has a very good point about not reinventing the wheel with regard to materials – I love designing courses and materials but there’s just me to do the work and when you take into account all the other things that need to be done (blogging, lesson planning, marketing, teaching, accounts etc.); sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Pleasure was all mine. Really enjoyed getting everyone’s input. Fun post. Would love to do another like it. Merci for sharing your words of wisdom, Angela! Cheers, b

  • Gopa Kumar

    I wish i could follow you,the great teachers.besides language i love your
    humanitarianism.

  • http://www.scoop.it/t/technology-used-in-fe-or-he-classrooms/p/2342860024/100-words-of-wisdom-from-7-online-elt-teachers 100 words of wisdom from 7 Online ELT Teachers | Technology used in FE or HE Classrooms | Scoop.it

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    [...]   [...]

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmachlan Louis George Machlan

    Hi Gopa how are your plans for starting a Tourism School going? I think that you bring up an interesting point. All of us (in this post) are capatilists trying to make a living. Many think that capitalism is greed, but some of the best systems and humanitary achivements have been accomplished by both, together.

  • http://primefitnessforwomen.com/ Mary C. Weaver, CSCS

    Lovely post—and lots of excellent and encouraging advice!

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Thanks for stopping by, Mary!

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