A Fairly Tech-y Year
What have I learned this year? What am I still learning?
It’s significant perhaps that most of my learning experiences this year have related to the uses of educational technology, not in the language classroom, but more as an aid to my day-job as teacher educator. For example,
I learned how to write and design a complete MA TESOL module, and how to upload it onto a learning management system, without having to prevail upon our IT team back in New York. Previous courses I have written I simply handed over to them to put up. But, having learnt how to edit existing courses, I figured that it was not a major step to design and mount a whole course from scratch. I managed fine, and am proud of the fact that the course is multimodal, including text, videos, links to external material, and so on. The only thing I couldn’t master was pop-up answer windows. A learning objective for 2013?
I learned how to improve my webinar technique – I did three or four this year, including one with 700 online viewers and a Global Webinar for iTDi. I’m still not happy with the way I handle interactivity in this medium, easier obviously, with smaller groups, but they lack of eyeball-to-eyeball contact, and the continuous chat stream, is a challenge I’m not yet comfortable with. I’m still learning that one.
I learned about the power of blogging, and that even when you stop blogging, the blog has a life of its own. My blog continues to get a fair few hits on a regular basis, even though I haven’t posted for six months. I also learned that it’s very useful to have an index on your blog, and the number of hits this gets is testimony to its usefulness for people looking for specific posts.
I also learned that adapting blog posts for e-book publication is more challenging than I had expected: trying to condense and summarize the comment threads and to incorporate these into the body of the text was an interesting exercise, while the more frozen form of an e-book – more like a book than a blog – requires a degree of concision and precision that blogging normally doesn’t. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out.
I already knew how useful YouTube is as a medium for broadcasting short video clips about matters relating to methodology and language, but this year I’ve learned how to incorporate text and graphics into video clips, such that they have become a substitute for blogging, perhaps.
I learned – through doing a Pecha Kucha on second language acquisition at an iTDi event following the JALT conference in Japan – how much content can be packed into less than seven minutes: it’s salutary to know that even big ideas can be delivered in small packages, especially when accompanied by some kind of mnemonic scaffolding – and I don’t mean a lot text! The value of concision, logical sequencing and simplicity was also something that I’ve been learning as I write and edit the lessons for the iTDi Teacher Development course.
I’ve learned the value of occasional Skype calls with my online students, both as an opportunity to touch base but also as a way of personalizing the somewhat faceless online learning environment.
Finally I’ve learned how to use Twitter for mainly public and professional purposes (announcing talks, forwarding interesting links, etc) and to use Facebook for the private and personal. But I’m not sure I haven’t got it the wrong way round!
So, all in all, it’s been a fairly tech-y year. Maybe, as counterbalance, next year I need to get back in to real classrooms, low tech, and blackboards with a small b?