Apr 22

The ELT Students Who Are Already in ‘Flow’

Flow – also known as “optimal experience” – is a concept developed by the Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

According to him, ‘flow’ is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” (1991)

He defines experiencing ‘flow’ as follows: “You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”

I’m sure that teachers who love teaching and who are passionate about becoming better teachers frequently experience this state of mind.

Last weekend I went to a wonderful conference that was organized by five brilliant ELT students:

Sevim Acikgoz, from Bilgi University

Buse Aral, from Istanbul Bilgi University

Basak Temel, from Istanbul Bilgi University

Busra Nur Özer, from Bogazici University

Aysegul Bayram, from Bogazici University

They were obviously very much enjoying the experience; they were obviously in a different state of mind – in ‘flow’. And unfortunately this state of mind, which is very much linked to the concept of inner motivation, is unfamiliar to many practising teachers.

I can say that Sevim, Buse, Basak, Busra Nur, Aysegul and the other students who worked in the conference team are much more passionate than a lot of teachers I know. It is really promising to see that they are so full of enthusiasm, and I’m sure that the positive energy and creativity they have will help so many students to enjoy learning English in the future.

I also would like to mention the great musical performances by:

Tugçe Aral – Bahçesehir University

Onur Uz – Istanbul Bilgi University

It was a magical start to both days thanks to their great performances. I especially loved the song Onur wrote at the end of the first day of the conference (he said he wrote it on the bus:) and sang at the beginning of the second day.

I very much enjoyed attending the 3rd ELT Conference and looking forward to the next one.

By the way, last week I got an email from Sevim. When I saw ‘2 projects’ in the subject field, I had a big smile on my face. Yes, she has new ideas, two brilliant ideas:) I guess…They’re coming soon:)

Have a great week!

Jan 27

My PLN Thinks… “Looking For Another Dimension” by Patrick Jackson

It’s a bit awkward. Most of my living is made from adoptions in far flung lands. I am frequently made to feel like the scum of the Earth and I read a lot of things that suggest my work is soon and inevitably going to disappear like something out of The Day After Tomorrow. Frozen out. Despised. You see, I’m a textbook author. Paper books mainly. You know the ones. Front and back cover. Pages and so on. Educational materials you can roll up and whack someone with or let your dog chew. Things that go soggy in the bath. Faced with the long-heralded demise of my career and in an attempt to keep working while helping Ireland pay back our German friends I’m also involved in digital projects. Online teacher training and digital language learning. That sort of thing. It’s a bit complicated but very enjoyable and everything stews away nicely. Mutton, onions, barley, an onion and of course, potatoes.

I am also one of the parents of two children. One of those children is an 8 year-old who would spend his whole day looking at screens of various sorts if he was let. Both my children go to a school where they have IWBs in all the classrooms and a computer room for a bit of variety. There are four computers in our home, two TVs, and a pile of other hand-held devices from Mp3 players to iPod touches. And of course the DS. And the Wii.

Doing what I do, I was very interested in what Apple had to say the other day. If you haven’t seen it already, basically they have announced to the world that they intend to take over the textbook market, from content creation, through delivery all the way to consumption. Of course this was couched in the sort of quasi-religious language we have come to expect from Apple. We are going to be liberated. It’s a Good Thing. I think we all have our doubts about their actual motives but that’s not what has been bothering me. It’s something else.

Will it be a case of iPride comes before an iFall?

So the interactive books are cool. Yes. So authoring is in some ways more accessible and the software is so very clever. Yes. So the iPad is possibly more fun to have on your desk than a book. Yes. So what’s my problem then? Why don’t I jump up and down with iJoy? It certainly isn’t because I’m worried about my living because I have already talked about this to a friend who knows and he says that ‘this sort of thing’ will only serve to enhance the power of brands such as the big publisher to whom I am wed. It’s something else that bothers me.

It goes back to the things I feel my kids don’t get enough of at school. Off the top of my head I mean music, art, exercise, singing, dancing, running, jumping, making things with their hands, touching things, experimenting with real objects, putting on plays, doing projects, cooking, mixing, interacting with each other, interacting with the people in our community, observing nature. Playing. I’m a believer in Ken Robinson. Actually, I would like to set up a Robinson School one day. I think he’s right.

Kid doing what it was made for

So back to Apple. Yes. Now I know what the problem is. All this cleverness has replaced one 2D environment with another one. It’s a trick, kids! You’ll still be staring at a flat surface (iPad) that’s sitting on the flat surface of your desks (to be renamed your iPodium) with your backsides for a large part of the day on an iStool. Me this weekend (to my son): ‘Put that thing down and go and do something 3D!”.

I would have been way more excited if Apple had come up with a way for our kids to be doing something apart from looking at either flat books or flat screens but in my heart of hearts I don’t think what education needs is going to come from some technical cleverness or some big company’s announcement. What we need is going to come from communities. So what am I going to do about this? I’ve already done it. Can you guess what it is?

Patrick spent a year that turned into 15 teaching kids in Japan. He now lives in Dublin where he writes ELT materials. Patrick is co-author of Everybody Up,  a seven-level primary course that motivates children by linking the English classroom to the wider world and Potato Pals, a series of readers for young learners, both published by Oxford University Press. He tweets as patjack67 and blogs here.

Jan 14

Please Send Your Good Energies To Gozde

There have been some changes regarding my work life which I will write about another time. I started working at Yeditepe University where we had both of the ISTEK conferences.

Last week I learned that a Yeditepe student has been battling a very rare type of cancer since 2003 and she is having a very critical operation on Monday. Since it is a very expensive operation, we started a campaign to raise money. It is great that lots of people helped and we almost have the money that is needed.

I’d like to upload the campaign poster here. The words you see in Turkish are the words that describe her. Young, cheerful, fashion designer, dreamer, curious, strong, successful, creative, ……. cancer. 

I have a feeling that the more people think about her, the more successful the operation will be.

Please send your good energies to her from wherever you are.

Oct 18

Six Reasons Why You Cannot Be A Bad Teacher

Year 2011. And it is almost impossible to be a bad teacher.

Because…

If you are a teacher who is passionate about teaching and who considers continuous professional development as an important aspect of your career, the opportunities to become a good teacher are ENDLESS.

I am not going to share with you a long list because I find long lists overwhelming and confusing.

Here are my six reasons why you cannot be a bad teacher. In other words, learning opportunities for enthusiastic teachers:)

1. Twitter

It is a global staffroom with endless learning and sharing opportunities. After you sign up and before starting to think desperately what to do next, go to We Follow, search for educators on Twitter and start following them. You can search with keywords like elt, esl, efl or tefl. If you think you need some guidance, you can join the aPLaNet Project. It is a European Union funded project which aims to help language educators become autonomous members of online social networks.

A great way to understand how Twitter works and how wonderful it is to be in a global staffroom, you can join the #ELTChat discussion sessions that take place every Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. GMT and 21:00 p.m. GMT. ELT teachers from all around the world log into their Twitter accounts and for one hour they discuss on a topic they have selected. Read more about the #ELTChat.

2. Nings

Ning is an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks. (Source: Wikipedia)

When you join a Ning that is created for educators, you have the opportunity to join discussions, share articles, videos and photos.

Here are four Nings which you can become a member of and start interacting with likeminded colleagues:

EFL Classroom 2.0

The Educator’s PLN

Teacher 2.0

aPLaNet – Autonomous ‘Personal Learning Networks’ for Language Teachers

3. Facebook Groups & Pages

Through Facebook Groups and Pages, you can stay more connected with educators from all around the world. (Click here to read about the difference between Facebook Groups and Pages.)

Here are some Groups and Pages you should check out:

#ELTChat (Group)

EU Educators (Group)

aPLaNet – Autonomous ‘Personal Learning Networks’ for Language Teachers (Page)

Teaching English – British Council (Page)

4. Blogs

There are so many wonderful educator blogs in the blogosphere. Once you start following some of them, you will see that they support each other by giving links to other educators’ blogs and that’s how you will discover other great blogs.

As a beginning, check out these blogs, and their blogrolls* as well:

Teacher Reboot Camp

TEFL Matters

Teaching Village

Reflections of a Teacher and Learner

Box of Chocolates

OUP ELT Global Blog

*Blogroll: A blogroll is a list of links to blogs that the blogger likes. A blogroll is usually included in the blog’s sidebar.

5. Online Workshops & Conferences

IATEFL Online

IATEFL Online Project has been providing online coverage of the IATEFL Conference for five years. The next IATEFL Conference is taking place in Glasgow on 19-23 March 2012 and I’m sure the IATEFL Online Team will do a wonderful job again and take the conference to teachers who are not able to attend in person.

Virtual Round Table Conference (20-22 April, 2012)

The Virtual Round Table Conference is a 3-day online conference. So far more than 2000 participants and 180 guest speakers have participated in the conference. It is great that all the sessions are recorded and can be found on the Virtual Round Table (VRT) Ning. You can join the Ning at http://www.virtual-round-table.com/.

The Macmillan Online Conference (8-9 November, 2011)

Macmillan is organizing its first online conference. It is a 2-day event with a very good line up of speakers. You can see the program here.

The Electronic Village Online (EVO)

EVO is a set of online discussions and workshops that takes place every year from mid-January to mid-February. Sessions include a range from simple discussions to virtual hands-on workshops. Registrations start on January 2, 2012 and being a TESOL member is not required to register.

6. Webinars

The term webinar is short for Web-based Seminar, a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web, specifically a portmanteau of web & seminar, to describe a specific type of web conference. (Source: Wikipedia)

You can check out TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC, Macmillan and PearsonELT webinars that offer good quality content on a regular basis.

Teaching English Webinars

Macmillan Interactive Webinars

PearsonELT Webinars

It is great that everything I have shared with you here is free and you don’t need any special computer skills to get started. All you need is enthusiasm and some time!:)

Let me finish with a quote…

“Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.” Bo Bennett

:)

Oct 17

Einstein Would Have Loved an iPad!

Einstein, who was never able to recall his own phone number, was famous for not memorizing anything that could be quickly and easily looked up in a standard reference volume. “Never memorize what you can look up in books,” he said.
(Source: Life Magazine)

He said this probably in 1920s when books and newspapers were the only sources of information, and at the time it was probably an odd way of thinking for many people. But he was so right, because he needed the capacity of his brain to identify problems, find solutions and new ways of seeing things rather than store millions of not-so-necessary information.

Can you imagine how much he would have loved an iPad? :-)

Here I use iPad as a symbol for the other available technologies that make reaching information easy and I want to thank Steve Jobs for changing the way we work, the way we create and the way we communicate.

Rest in peace Steve Jobs.

Well… From 1920s to 2000s, although the school systems haven’t changed significantly, the way we live and learn has changed enormously.

In today’s global world, in order to be successful, we should be able to think critically and creatively. Therefore we don’t need not-so-necessary information in our brains either. 

What we need to do is to identify the best channels through which we can reach information. As educators we have twice as much responsibility. First, for ourselves, to develop professionally; second, for our students, to guide them towards appropriate learning resources. Besides we need to accept the fact that today’s learners need information to use it, not to memorize it. Therefore we should set them meaningful tasks, give them real reasons to learn and create learning environments where they can use what they learn in class. While doing this, we can benefit from available technologies, technologies that offer us useful tools to make learning easier, more interesting and more fun.

I think it is necessary to reconsider our role in students’ learning experiences. We are no longer ‘teachers’. We are guides, facilitators and sources of inspiration. And most importantly, we are lifelong learners.

Wishing you a week full of joy and laughter! 

Oct 11

Sharks Have To Keep Moving To Stay Alive? What About Blogs?

In my sessions about blogs, I use a metaphor that is inspired by Presentation Zen:

“Blogs are like sharks. Sharks have to keep moving…or they die. A blog has to keep moving, keep progressing, be consistently updated…or it will die.”

The problem is I haven’t written a blog post for five months… It was a very long break.

By the way, look what I’ve found about sharks:

“Can sharks stop swimming and live?

It is definitely not true for every shark species.

In fact, those species of sharks that live near the bottom of the ocean, can be seen unmoving, often within caves or other shelters, while they rest (it’s hard to say if they “sleep” like us, but they’re certainly resting and unresponsive).”

Good news is my blog is still alive…it was just resting:)

To warm up for my next blog post…

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

Henry Ford

Have a good week:)

May 09

After ISTEK ELT and IATEFL 2011

It’s been a year since I wrote a post with the same title, about the two events that changed my professional life, goals and vision, the two events that taught me a lot about being a better organizer and presenter.

Some of my colleagues wrote wonderful blog posts about ISTEK ELT and our blog is full of great videos and entries thanks to our roving reporter Mark Andrews who did a fantastic job during the conference.

Having been an event which inspired me to think bigger and more creatively as an organizer, the IATEFL conference, once again, was full of wonderful sessions and social events. I’m already looking forward to the next conference.

In this post, I want to share the three things that I’ve learned from these two events both as a presenter and organizer. I find it interesting that the things I’ve learned apply very well to both roles of mine.

Always think big & Success is a matter of attitude.

I’ve learned that almost nothing is impossible if you have clear aims and if you always think positively about what life can bring to you. I believe in the Law of Attraction though I am not a person who reads books full of lists and strategies that claim to help you become a more successful person. I simply believe that if your mind has positive thoughts, you will attract positive things. The same belief applies vice-versa (if you think negative thoughts, you will attract negative things).

Having good communication skills is much more important than lots of other things in professional life.

In both events, I witnessed several problems and different attitudes towards problems (technology problems or different occasions in which either a presenter or a participant is discontented about something). And I saw different cases where problems were solved smoothly or became something bigger. This was because of either the attitude of the problem owner or the problem solver. No matter how great one’s educational background or field knowledge is, if they lack communication skills they have very little chance to be liked by others and be successful in life…but it is never late to work on it:-)

Live every moment to the fullest.

If you concentrate too much on the stressful part of your job, it is certain that you will miss the best part of it. If you are presenting something, it means that you are sharing something that you think is worth sharing and this also must be an event that you celebrate yourself. So try to develop strategies to make this happen. As an organizer I can’t say that I can live every moment of the conference to the fullest but I try to do my best. As a presenter, I am doing much better than I used to do at the beginning but, of course, I have lots more to learn.

I hope I can get comments from experienced organizers and presenters about the strategies they use:-)

***

I also would like to tell you about one of the highlights of the IATEFL. Actually, the anecdote took place on my way back home, up above the clouds. I sat next to an English teacher, Nevin Adalar, who is a senior lecturer at Eastern Mediterranean University. She presented at the IATEFL, as well, but we didn’t have the chance to meet there, on the ground:-). We had a very nice chat and talked about conferences, teaching, technology and lots of other stuff. I even managed to do my presentation to her at 20.000 feet:-) She turned out to be the aunt of one of our students in Kindergarten whose teacher is running a class blog. She kindly accepted to be filmed about what she thinks about blogging from an auntie’s perspective:-) Here is the video:

Thank you Nevin! It was a pleasure to meet you!

I’m already looking forward to the next IATEFL in 2012 and ISTEK ELT in 2013:-)

***

You may also want to read:

It’s ISTEK time again” by Ken Wilson

Time to Hit the Road & Head to ISTEK” by David Dodgson

10 Things For Teacher Bloggers To Do Before The ISTEK Conference” by Adam Simpson

Is it the Conference Season?” by Helen Strong

6 Reflections from ISTEK” by David Dodgson

ISTEK Thank-You Notes” by Ken Wilson

WHY I MISSTEK” by Luke Meddings

My Weekend at ISTEK” by Anna Varna

Motivation and Inspiration” by Eva Buyuksimkesyan

ISTEK ELT Blog

ISTEK ELT photos on Flickr:

Mar 28

“10 Things For Teacher Bloggers To Do Before The ISTEK Conference” by Adam Simpson

Not many people know that my background is in business and economics. Not many people know this because it is a well-kept secret. Nevertheless, I like to dust off the Michael Douglas power-braces every now and then and get all business speaky. Here’s my list of ten go-getter strategies for the teacher blogger looking to maximize their ISTEK conference experience.

1. Go through the schedule of the event with a fine tooth comb. Decide in advance exactly what – and who – you want to see. Get an idea of a killer question you could ask the presenter based on the description of their session. This might just lead to a conversation after and a valuable contact for the future.

2. Do a thorough Twitter search of anyone presenting at the event. The ISTEK participants are making this pretty easy for you by being quite vocal in the days leading up to the conference (check the #ISTEK and #ISTEKelt hashtags to see what I mean). You can decide who you want to follow and initiate conversations beforehand. This works quite well for people like me who, despite being happy to stand up in front of a bunch of teenagers every day, is actually something of a recluse.

3. Use the Twitter jungle drum to announce that you’ll be visiting conference X in city Y. Let everyone know you’re coming. You’ll probably be able to initiate friendships that could lead to possible future collaborations. You don’t use Twitter? Get started now!

4. Find out if any of the attendees have a blog or a Twitter stream. Think how good it would be to know what’s going on in someone’s teaching life before you bump into them? Also, have a scour of people’s Twitter streams before saying hello at the event. You’ll be able to strike up a conversation about what they’re enjoying at the moment or that thing that’s really annoying them.

5. As a blogger it might be an idea to prepare a couple of post-dated pieces so you don’t have to fret about writing something just before or during the conference. You could revisit an old post if you’re stuck for something to write about. Did you attend the same event last year? See what you said then and reflect on it. Here’s a great example from Ken Wilson.

6. Get that absolute belter of an article ready during the days leading up to the conference, and unleash it on the day of the event. The chances are that people will be checking out your blog during or just before an event, so make the most of this window of opportunity and wow ‘em.

7. In the lead up to the event, think about how you can write posts that will lead to conversations. If you’re interested in a particular methodological argument or have a strong opinion about a certain piece of technological gadgetry, make sure you share that opinion and that you’re interested in what others have to say on the subject.

8. Exploit the likes of Twitter and Facebook for all they’re worth. Use the event’s hash tag (I’ll remind you, it’s #ISTEK in case you don’t want to scroll up the page and find it). People will be using Twitter Search or nosing around in Facebook to find info about the conference: make sure they found you.

9. Make a video about something and post it on your blog. Scott Thornbury did this recently to great effect (although who wouldn’t recognise him?). Videos can be much better for getting people to recognise you than photos, plus they are still a relative novelty in the blogosphere. People will think you’re clever and techy and want to be your friend.

10. Blog about as many people who you know will be at the conference that you want to connect with. Don’t be shy: discuss on your blog what you might want to talk about. People like to feel special and this will make them feel special. For example, I want to meet up with @DaveDodgson because he’s a Brit in Turkey and I think he has great enthusiasm for his job and some fantastic ideas about teaching. I also want to meet @harrisonmike because his passion for what he does shines through in his blog posts. See how easy it is (I just hope they are reading this)

This should be enough to keep you busy over the next few days. I’ll hopefully see you all at ISTEK next weekend.

Who wrote this drivel?

Adam is the blogger behind the eclectic mess of ideas that is Teach them English: A Year in the Life of an English Teacher. Now oxymoronically in its second year, his blog aims to share aspects of his day to day life with the unsuspecting and largely undeserving (of such tomfoolery) ELT community. Drop by and say hello.

Mar 07

And The Winner Is…

I am happy to announce that the winner of ISTEK ELT 2011 Roving Reporter Competition is Mark Andrews.

I would like to congratulate Mark on his success. I also want to thank Anna and Sabrina for their great performance.

Thank you for your votes and interest in the competition!

Mark will be with us in Istanbul and keeping you informed about what’s going on at ISTEK ELT.

Stay tuned!:-)

Feb 21

Who Is Going To Be The ISTEK ELT 2011 Roving Reporter? You Decide!

I would like to thank my colleagues for their interest in this competition. We watched brilliant videos and although it was very difficult to choose, we agreed on the top three roving reporter candidates. I would like to thank Anna Varna, Mark Andrews and Sabrina De Vita for their contributions.

The ISTEK ELT 2011 Roving Reporter will be chosen by your votes so please watch the videos and vote for your favorite roving reporter candidate. The poll will be closed on 6, March 2011 at 23:59 pm and the result will be announced the next day. Thank you:-)

Anna Varna

Mark Andrews

Sabrina De Vita

[polldaddy poll=”4591905″]

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