ESOL webinar October 4th. Supporting learning outside the classroom

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Next webinar on Creative learners and the question of ‘time’ 8th November 1-2pm.
Click here to book

Back for another ESOL online webinar, again full of ideas and lots of things to say. The theme was supporting learners outside the class and, as one of the participants pointed out, this support is very important for many ESOL learners as they often only speak English in the classroom as once they go home to their families or in their communities they will mostly speak in their first language.

WIth this in mind we explored different ways of supporting learners and we also looked at one of the ‘buzz’ concepts of the year ‘ flipped learning’. Is flipped learning a new thing or is it effectively something that ESOL teachers have been doing all along? The idea is to get learners to learn content, such as learning lists of words or grammar rules, outside the class before the lesson and then once in class the deeper or ‘higher’ order skills are developed through communicative or task based activities. The answer was that yes most ESOL classes do concentrate on active learning a great deal as they are based very much on group work and communication which is a very strong feature of ESOL, but with reduced timetabled hours and resources we probably need to get learners themselves to do more outside class in preparation for this ‘active learning’. With this in mind the tools that we looked at were Xerte; a brilliant toolkit for creating learning resources with lots of accessibility features, but it was pointed out that it needs quite a lot of support and time. However, learning objects once created can be easily adapted and shared so we will hopefully look at more of this in the future. For more on Xerte, and how it works, click here for  information about Techdis Xerte Fridays.

We also looked at audio and podcasting. Learners probably feel more supported and encouraged if they hear their teacher’s friendly and familiar voice than looking at written feedback or instructions.  So Vocaroo is an easy web based tool; you do not need to register, you just create a file and then you can embed or email it. You can also create a QR code at the top of a work sheet that learners can scan with their phones and then listen to as they work through some exercises (that seemed to be a popular idea!). We also mentioned what a brilliant training resource Russell Stannard’s Teacher training videos were, here you can find some screen-casts for vocaroo ( and lots more).

We continued with the tablet theme by looking at Explain everything; a highly recommended app for teachers to create and design an interactive whiteboard presentation where videos and audio can be embedded.You can record a presentation but then you can go back to edit it.This can be embedded in a VLE (such as Moodle) or, if no VLE, emailed. A great tool for creating resources that learners can go back to again and again (present perfect anybody?) There are lots of equivalent free IWB apps out there, such as educreations, that are simpler but also pretty effective.

Finally, we asked a few questions about what are the challenges that ESOL practitioners face in implementing some of these more ‘flipped’ practices. The majority felt it was time and this is something that we will look at in the next webinar in November… but obviously the issue of learners’ digital skills came up as well. The onus is on the learner to take on more responsibility for their own learning; so support in tutorial sessions on how to learn and support on how to access these types of materials is important; but equally important is developing a culture where learners feel that these transferable skills are a vital aspect of their learning. One of the main challenges is that many teachers find that some learners are reluctant and fearful of using computers, but I would argue that this does not necessarily mean that all these learners do not have other digital skills; the most obvious one being the use of mobile phones. This is also something that was mentioned in this report on the Digital literacy in ESOL project at Leeds City College, where Xerte and other tools were used to create resources.One of the lessons they learnt was that digital literacy is not synonymous with skills in using a PC, it is so much wider. Funnily enough, I came across this article in the Guardian “It tells me much more than a phone call’ The doctor will Skype you now” ( Saturday 4th October) where a GP talks about using Skype for consultations. Surprisingly, patients characterised as ‘hard to reach’, such as recent immigrants, were really happy to use this technology as they used it a lot to speak to their loved ones abroad whereas it was the more affluent, older patients in the area that were proving to be the harder to reach”The patients who could benefit much more from this are the typically English ones’.

Next webinar on Creative learners and the question of ‘time’ on the 8th November 1-2pm. Click here to book

Any ideas for future webinars are very welcome!

Click here to see recordings and resources from all the ESOL webinars.