With the unprecedented crisis the world is currently going through, it’s not surprising that many feel concerned and uncertain.
As the spread of the Covid-19/ coronavirus creates further disruptions to our daily way of life, the potential ways in which our lives will change are still far from predictable.
Whether isolation is a short or medium-term response to a disease we do not yet seem to understand, one thing is for certain, it will impact on the way society operates as well as policy.
Across the world, educational establishments are having to shutdown and hurriedly try and come up with strategies to deal with the provision of education.
Amongst the perceived wider chaos, educators could play a pivotal role in providing an element of hope to society at all levels.
Whereas in the past we have taught primarily face-to-face and used technology as an add-on, the tables are about to turn. The time to be passive towards technology is now a thing of the past.
The technology was always there. The circumstances we find ourselves in will force quick change and change education forever.
The question is, are you ready for the challenge? Most of us already have some experience of using technology for education. Now however, it may well become a pivotal skill everyone needs.
Will this affect teaching, learning and assessment? Probably. Teaching methodology? Probably. Interaction between instructor and learner? Probably. Does it mean the end of face-to-face interaction? I don’t see this happening. It is too early to make that kind of judgement. In the very short-term perhaps, which could provide a taster of what may happen in the future.
However, and this is the most important point. If you are not ready to adapt to the new circumstances, you may be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. As AI and machine learning develop apace, we need to position ourselves in the newly developing ecosystem.
Yes, we are going through difficult times, and our lives seem to have been turned upside down. Perhaps we are too stressed at this point in time to look ahead, as we try to cope with what is still an unclear situation around us.
Nonetheless, we have to make an effort to see through the phantom we are facing and look beyond. We need to stand up strong and face the challenges in front of us. In short, we have no choice but to prepare.
Every one of us has the potential to move forward. Learning is a constant of life we cannot avoid. In reality, adapting to new situations is part and parcel of this life. In fact, learning and planning is a part of our profession. So basically, this is not beyond anyone.
As someone who also has a foot in the accountancy profession, I’m actually quite glad I’m in education. The view is that technology could adversely impact on many professions. Us educationalists could ride-out the current storm.
This is not about becoming an expert at something overnight. In reality all that is needed is a small effort every day. Ask those around you for advice, start looking into the tools that are currently available. There is no need to panic.
Some of us need to take a leadership role in the matter and start facilitating programmes to help our brothers and sisters prepare for how we are likely to work in the very near future.
We are a resilient species. There is hope. Take steps to change and encourage others too.
I’m thinking of starting a company and have thought about employing only people who are over 50. Why? Simply because I think they have a lot of experience, wisdom and open mindedness to new ideas. They are skillful. They are into technology. They value their time and so are likely to be more productive. The chances are they will be loyal and trustworthy and will be grateful. Importantly, I cannot even start to imagine the knowledge they bring to the company. Who wouldn’t want someone like that.
The plan is to let them choose their hours. If they don’t want to work a whole day, that’s fine. If they want to work a full day, that’s also fine. Perhaps someone could work from 8-11, another could work from 11-2, a third person could work from 2-5.
They will get unlimited holidays, sick leave, and can take unlimited time off to care for a family member.
They will act as coaches and mentors some of the time, and coachees and mentees at other times. Why? Well, there’s always something new to learn. It’ll be a supportive environment.
There is more I could say, but let’s stop here for now.
Does anyone have a problem with the ‘age limit’?
Comments or views welcome.
As the Muslim month of Ramadan (2019) approaches, it’s an opportunity to reflect on life, and specifically the message of God (Allah).
It is also an opportunity for those who are curious and open minded, to find out more about Islam by listening to this English and Arabic rendition.
Quran recitation by the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Maher Al-Muaiqly.
English translation by Dr. Waleed Bleyhesh Al-Amri.
English reading by yours truly.
The first three chapters of the Quran are presented here:
With warm wishes and regards. Peace.
Part of my role at work is to facilitate and plan the development of teachers.
It is not an easy role. The most challenging part is to convince teachers that any development plans we have are there to help them become better in our particular context. It is not about keeping them busy in order to make the boss look good, or for creating fancy reports at the end of the year. That is certainly not the intention.
However, without taking the context fully into consideration, no policy, no matter how good, will work.
Over the years, I have realised that teachers are not only motivated by different goals, in fact their motivation and performance in class is affected by wider issues.
If teachers are having a hard time at work generally, such as for example low pay or apparent lack of support from administration, such as unrealistic curriculum goals, or even problems at home and other personal issues, professional development will fail.
In addition to this, if students are used to judge teachers via student surveys, and the results are not nuanced or balanced by other considerations, teachers are bound to feel hard done by.
Fundamentally, what I have realised, is that we need to find out more about what is going on with teachers at an individual level, both professional and personal, before we can make judgements about their classroom performance.
Teachers typically come into the profession due to their want and need to help and support students, and to feel the satisfaction of having impacted on the future. They are also naturally creative, and do not need ‘us’ to teach them how to teach. They already know how to teach. We should be there to lend a helping hand and to provide support to help them become even better.
We rarely ask teachers about their classes and the challenges they face. How often do we give space to teachers to even question the instruments that are used to measure their performance?
A multiplicity of factors impact teaching adversely. An unhappy teacher will result in an unhappy student.
If we see them as merely a tool for reporting performance, then we have failed them.
Fundamentally, the message I am trying to convey here very briefly, is that teachers are the treasure that educational institutions cannot do without. We need to find out more about their needs and desires, and appreciate their talents and experiences.
Providing professional development (PD) in a vacuum without addressing other work and non-work issues results in ineffective PD.
Once the teachers feel that we are taking care of their needs, teachers will be able to start taking care of their students, which of course is the ultimate goal of education.
The General Medical Council in the UK now allows international medical students and professionals the option of either taking the IELTS exam or the OET (medical option) as part of the registration process.
For IELTS, the requirement has been an overall score of 7.5. This requires a minimum of band 7 in any of the IELTS skills. However, if a band 7 is received on any one of the skills, a score of 8 will be required in at least one other skill in order to gain an overall of 7.5.
For those taking the OET, a grade of at least ‘B’ in each skill is required.
Please note, that both exam options are similar in difficulty. International exams are thoroughly tested and go through a stringent validation and checking exercise before being released to the public. Please do not decide to go for the exam that you believe is easier. They are both equally hard.
The advice I give potential candidates, is that you need to focus on language development, Merely practicing samples of exams is not enough to gain a better result. Ultimately, your language needs to improve, which requires daily exposure to the language.
If you want to find out more please fill in the contact form. Please click on the link below:
All the best!
As part of an effort to monitor my phone usage and become more productive during the day, I decided to install not one, but three apps that monitor mobile phone usage. The three apps I downloaded were:
2) MyAddictonmeter and,
3) Mobile addiction meter.
Just to clarify, in no way am I recommending these apps. As it happened I just came across these. There are a lot of other similar apps too.
My phone usage primarily revolves around messaging. This includes emails (I have 3 email accounts), as well as social media, basically WhatsApp. I rarely use twitter and Facebook. In terms of other usage, I search the net when required, as well as watch the odd YouTube video. I do not play games. Having said this, there are plenty of other links, suggestions and adverts based on our profiles which try hard to distract our attention, in the hope that we spend even more time on the net. At times, these do result in more phone usage.
The statistics that were produced by these apps were surprising. I was going to show a table of the statistics accumulated over the week, but decided not to. Let’s just say that that data is best kept with me and whoever is collecting my surfing and phone usage habits.
However, you may be interested in knowing what kinds of statistics these apps produce.
- How many times used daily
- Daily Average use in hours
- On average usage per minute
- Max duration
- Last used duration
- Times checked per hour
- Maximum distraction period
- Least distraction period
- Distraction free period
In addition to the above, there are also a variety of graphics too, and you can also get a history of usage. However, I found some inconsistencies when comparing usage data between the apps, so it’s difficult to ascertain why these differences are there, for apparently similar measures.
However, I thoroughly recommend you checking out these apps. Mobile phones are seriously disrupting our lives, and there seems to be a tendency to check the phone frequently. If you keep your notifications on silent you may keep checking your phone more often just to see if you have received anything. There is also the tendency to immediately check the phone when notifications are on.
My experience of having used these usage apps for about a week, is that they reveal the real danger of spending too much time on the phone checking messages, and then being distracted by other media. We may not realise it, but we are all fundamentally distracted for long periods of time on additional unplanned activities. The more time we spend on accessing messages and the internet, the more money someone is making. That is the ultimate purpose of all of this technology. If there was no money in it, no one would be interested.
Distraction technologies are in demand. The more distracted we are, the higher some company’s profits or share price. Perhaps more importantly, we need to start thinking seriously about how we can make better use of our time, and reduce phone usage.
When we attend conferences, it’s quite normal to receive a lot of paraphernalia. Typically, the conference programme or schedule is part of that.
The chances are, that you’ll feverishly look through the list of presentations to see what might be of interest and worth watching. In fact you may not even look at it again. This does happen. However, there’s a lot of useful information in these publications that have taken hours to put together.
As a blogger who is in fact ‘attending’ the conference remotely, I’ve been thinking about how I can use the pdf version I’ve downloaded perhaps in a different way.
Just to let you know, that I do have nerdish tendencies, but by no means am I going to be reading all 250 pages of the programme! My reading strategy is going to be strictly ‘skimming and scanning’!
So here are a few tips on how to use the conference programme:
There are a lot of people in the EFL/ESL field who have a vast array of interests. Many of us may have similar and common interests, and there’s a lot we can learn from others. So what I do, is note down names of people who might be presenting something that I have a passion for and try to connect with them later. It’s a great way to exchange ideas and motivate ourselves by connecting with others.
2) Presentation ideas:
There are literally tons of presentations during IATEFL 2017. What I tend to do is quickly scan through the topics being presented (hopefully the title will tell me what the presentation is about), and then collect ideas from these to help me perhaps present something in my own context, or at least have a list of ideas for potential future presentations. There is by no means anything wrong with this. I use these to give me ideas. These act as ‘take-off’ points for me to develop something later. You could discover an idea that could be presented next year at IATEFL 2018.
3) Research ideas:
I often have people coming to me asking me about research ideas for their project proposals. I usually shrug my shoulders. I fervently believe that people need to decide for themselves what they want to research, after all, at least in my experience, passion is a necessary ingredient before plunging into the ‘research pool’. Just by scanning through the list of presentations, plenaries, or even topics presented by various SIGs (Special Interest Groups), or organisations, there’s plenty to help you on your way to starting your research project. By the way, a research project can be something that will end up with something to discuss with your colleagues at work, a presentation in your own context, perhaps an article for an ELT magazine, or if you’re more ambitious, and academically minded, perhaps something relating to a course you are doing, for example an MA or a PhD, or even something for a journal article.
4) New knowledge:
There is a high probability that you are an experienced individual who has a lot to offer, In fact, it’s possible that you feel you should be presenting something, yet you aren’t. May be it’s worth thinking about IATEFL 2018.
However, I’m one of those people who’s hungry to learn more. There is too much happening to just bury my head in the sand and rest on my laurels. I find that quite often, reading through the presentation abstracts (this is after I’ve scanned, skimmed and located what really takes my fancy!) I come across new ideas or areas that I had never thought of. Perhaps I’m comfortable with the knowledge I have, but it’s still worth taking a step out of my comfort zone. Be adventurous, and consider visiting a presentation about something you’ve never looked at closely. Perhaps this could ignite a new interest, or lead to something even better. Even if you’re at a distance, it’s worth googling the net and finding out more about newer topics. Who knows, you could become the next guru of an area just by taking that brave step into the unknown.
5) Cutting up the IATEFL 2017 programme
This may seem rather odd, but I mean it. Depending on how advanced your class is, there is the possibility of using the programme as a basis for some classroom material (of course after the conference is over!).
My judgement is that we’re looking at mid level to advanced student who could benefit from the materials in some way. How could we use the content to make learning more interesting in the classroom?
I’m sure that people are thinking that we can create materials for lower level learners too. Yes, you could probably use the pictures and illustrations for a variety of activities, but then you’re the expert. You probably have zillions of ideas that are worth doing and even sharing. I’m just trying to facilitate a brain storming exercise here.
Knowing that this blog has become somewhat lengthy, I’ll stop here.
That’s my brief list of ideas. Perhaps you can think of other creative ways to use the IATEFL 2017 programme in addition to just using it during the conference. May be you could suggest them below?
To download the programme you can go to the following link:
All the best!
An excellent free video in which Jo Gakonga talks about giving teachers skills in terms of mentoring and teacher training.
As many of you know, either giving or receiving feedback has it’s challenges.
Receiving feedback can be very difficult for the best of us. Many teachers are confident about their skills, and external feedback can at times be taken negatively, even though the giver of the feedback may try to be as diplomatic or as empathetic as possible.
For those who give feedback, it can arguably be more challenging. We want to provide feedback that helps and encourages, and is developmental, yet how do we do it?
Jo Gakonga gives us some insight into her thinking on the matter. You can watch her interview by following this link: