#ELTchat Thoughts and reflections

Some thoughts on how I use Twitter

There was an #ELTchat last week about how to use Twitter in class. I was hoping for a different topic, so I didn’t stick around, but a tweet (I forget who by) about how teachers seem to be on Facebook more than on Twitter caught my eye. I think that was the gist of it, anyway.

So I thought I’d do a quick post on what I use both of them for, but primarily Twitter. When I say ‘quick post’, we’ll see how that goes. I might get it out before Christmas. 😛 I’ve actually been meaning to do a post like this ever since David Harbinson’s here, and, well, it’s been two years since then.


fjomeroa: Twitter (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter. You might not say so just by looking at my tweet count, at least compared to people who have 50K+ tweets, but I do a lot more reading of what others have shared than sharing my own thoughts. Then, of course, a considerable chunk of time is spent on debating whether I should respond to a tweet, composing a message and finally deleting it. Or possibly sending it, which is less frequent.

My bio says, “ELT, elearning, highered, teacher training, translation. Partial to the island of Vis since the pre-tourist era”.  I settled on that when I started using Twitter regularly, which was about two years after I signed up. Management used to be in there as well, as a nod to the language school I technically still own. I’m most likely to follow (back) people with similar interests, and if they’re not spelled out in the bio, I’m probably not going to take the trouble to dig deeper, e.g., try to figure out their tweet to retweet ratio, or see how many people we follow in common.

In addition to accounts that can loosely be grouped as work-related, I follow some that are Croatian. Croatian teachers (primary, secondary, private language schools) are generally not on Twitter, or if they are, they have token accounts. They’ll have 30 tweets and they last tweeted six months ago. I suspect they’re mostly on Facebook. So the people I follow are either in higher ed, journalists, or in(to) politics or history. There’s also the occasional ex-student. I enjoy reading what they have to say, even though I probably won’t rt/comment on anything overtly political. My politics are my business. And also I’m too chicken to give trolls an incentive to come after me.

I also follow some Belgian accounts, mostly newspapers/magazines. These are in French, and serve the dual purpose of letting me keep up with the language as well as the news in Brussels and the rest of the country. Although, to be honest, if the accounts are in French, the news is not likely to be about Flanders. I don’t usually rt or comment on these. I suppose it would be excellent language practice, but I would need to be a lot braver to do it.

One of the things I really like about Twitter is the random character of what shows up in my timeline when I log on. Obviously, things were even more random when they didn’t have the “While you were away” feature, but even so, if you follow around 1,000 people, there’s always something unexpected. Even if a lot of them don’t tweet regularly. I don’t have a rule for what I rt/comment on; it has to be something I find interesting and/or relevant, plus I generally need to think of at least one person who follows me who will also find it interesting and/or relevant. I sometimes draw their attention to it by cc’ing them in on the tweet.

Because of this (liking the random factor), I don’t have any lists. I’m sure lists are really effective if you want to make sure you don’t miss updates from accounts you find more important/interesting than others, or to categorize those you follow, but I think that I would then tend to check some lists more than others and everything would be more organized. Although, who knows – I might like it that way too.

Occasionally I check hashtags, and I have these columns set up in my Tweetdeck: #ELTchat, #ELTpics, #corpusMOOC (which I half-did once and keep meaning to retake) and #EDENchat. Having done #ELTchat, which is sort of chaotic in a good way, I tried #EDENchat, but they’re way too organized with Q1 and A1, etc. There are a couple of other hashtags I could set up columns for, and probably will at some point if they keep coming up in my timeline often enough.

Some things I don’t like about Twitter are… well, there aren’t many, really. I don’t like it when people only plug their stuff, and especially when they don’t even do it manually. Like, I don’t have time to waste on Twitter, but you will have time to read about whatever it is I do. I’m not discounting the possibility I feel that way because I was never smart enough to schedule constant social media updates when I was trying to promote my school. I also don’t like annoying engagement updates. “32 awesome people followed me last week. Do you want to feel awesome? Get Social Media Engagement App.” I use Social Media Engagement App too. I don’t shout about it. Here I am discounting the possibility I feel that way because I wasn’t followed by 32 awesome people last week.

I was also going to say how I use Facebook and why I prefer Twitter, but as there is actually a chance of posting this today if I stop now, I guess I might save that for another post. I would be interested to hear what you use Twitter for, what you like or don’t like about it. If you have an account but don’t really use it, why is that?

#ELTchat Edtech

#ELTchat summary 10/9/14: What’s the best idea/app/tool that you learnt since our last chat?

One of the things I love about Twitter is the unpredictability. You never know what random piece of news or wisdom you’re going to come across or what’s going to happen as a result. Living dangerously, I know. You could sign up for a MOOC on corpus linguistics, get offered work, spend hours wondering how come everybody spells ‘yep’ with an ‘e’ whereas you’ve always spelled it with a ‘u’…or you could find yourself volunteering to do an #ELTchat summary. In fact, on Wednesday two or three people apparently volunteered at the same time, which is either evidence of long-distance ESP – no, I don’t mean English for Specific Purposes – or people having missed #ELTchat. As pseudoscience is a dirty word, I’m going to go with the second option.

Back to school
Back to school

This was the first #ELTchat after the summer holidays and the topic was highly practical. Much easier to summarize, too, than topics such as ‘benefits of observations and feedback’ or ‘how to deal with passive learners’ – just to randomly pick two that were discussed earlier on this year.

Conversation revolved around two main topics: online professional development and recommendations of specific technologies that #ELTchatters had tried out over the summer. There were also a couple of ideas that got considerable discussion time, but wouldn’t fit into either category, so I’ve included them towards the end as suggestions for future chat topics.

Online PD

Several people said they had done online courses or attended webinars since the last #ELTchat. Specific recommendations were:

  • Social Psychology on Coursera (@ozgurdogan)
  • Russell Stannard’s course on how to use Edmodo as a teacher (@SueAnnan) ~ Sue liked being able to see Edmodo from both sides at the same time. The course included learning about the backpack and how to upload content, among other things.
  • #TOBELTA conference sessions, specifically @leoselivan on grammatical mistakes (@tarabenwell) ~ recordings are available to everyone
  • IATEFL webinars by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto ‘The Lives of English Language Teachers’ in July, and Nik Peachey ‘Getting the most out of online video resources’ in August (@MarjorieRosenbe) ~ recordings are available to members

Technologies (in alphabetical order)

  • (@HadaLitim): a great conference app to set up video chats, without registration (for up to 8 people) ~ More details can be found in Okan Bolukbas’s post. While on the topic of videoconferencing, LiveMinutes is another option; I mentioned it as an alternative because it was highly recommended to me, but I haven’t tried it out and no one else on #ELTchat seemed to have used it either.
  • Apps 4 EFL (@muranava): this website by @paul_sensei is worth checking even if it is still beta ~ the website itself simply says that it features apps, games, tools and tech for English language learners and teachers. I tried out “Pirate or Pilot” – fun!
  • Asana (@eslonlinejack): he’s been using it both for noting down his tasks, and also as a way to collaborate with his high-end learners. ~ Wikipedia says it’s “a web and mobile application designed to enable teamwork without email”. This video is short and shows what it looks like, and Asana seems to be free for up to 15 people.
  • Audacity (@muranava): this recommendation was prompted by a request for a tool that allows the recording of a 5-minute long audio file. The website describes it as a “free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds.”
  • Augmented reality (AR) apps (@ozgurdogan): examples given were Aurasma and Layar. Ozgur suggested they could be used to develop activities and said that with the help of smartphones or tablets, coursebooks can easily be enhanced and custom videos, audio and images added.To see how this actually works watch a video on Aurasma (start at 1:00 to see actual examples) or Word Lens (as someone who is a little upset with translators – at least in Croatia – being miserably underpaid partly due to the availability machine translation I particularly enjoyed “tongue Bolivian with a sauce spicy of anchovies”).
  • Bitsboard (@fabenglishteach): a flashcard app which allows you to make your own flashcards, add voice, and make games out of them. @StudyBundles noted that it was likely to be especially suitable for lower levels and vocabulary development. (Note: it doesn’t seem to be available for Android devices).
  • Cloze test generator (@StudyBundles) ~ it does seem quite straightforward, but maybe there is a post out there somewhere with examples/experiences?
  • Edmodo (@SueAnnan): there was much discussion of this tool. Despite the positive aspects – powerful and liked by kids – there seemed to be reservations. @MicaelaCarey and @StudyBundles wondered if it was worth investing the time to learn how to use it as it sounded complicated. @MarjorieRosenbe found it confusing when a teacher also used the tool as a student – for instance are badges meant for teachers? – while @naomishema and @SueAnnan weren’t happy with the app, though they praised the website. @KateLloyd05 was perhaps the most enthusiastic advocate, saying it was really simple to use and affords a range of possibilities (sharing links, docs, etc. in folders and using these for different classes, commenting on students’ posts).
  • Padlet @KateLloyd05’s question if anyone uses Padlet was met with enthusiastic endorsements of this tool. @SueAnnan said she’s used it for teacher training (trainees shared ideas like in a Google Doc), while @languageteach said it was probably the only tool she really used and liked that students could give feedback using their phones. I’ve used it in my Moodle course to have students share writing samples. We agreed it was simple to use, and that a surprising amount of text could be squeezed into each note, although for longer texts it might be more practical to attach documents. Video and other types of files can be attached to the notes as well.
  • Piratebox (@muranava): this tool is recommended as a great way to share files in class. More details can be found in Mura’s most recent post and an earlier one.
  • Quizlet (@naomishema): this popular and free tool was familiar to many of the chatters and there were enthusiastic endorsements. @HadaLitim mentioned a use outside of class, “Quizlet was a great tool during Delta module 1! Really helped with all that terminology.” (For more details on how Quizlet helped with the terminology, see David Harbinson’s post – scroll down to no. 4.)
  • SuperNova: a screen reader (@StudyBundles) is using to work with a blind EFL student. He was looking for recommendations of other tools that could help visually impaired students. No specific tools were suggested but Sandy Millin’s series of posts on working with an almost completely blind young learner was warmly recommended.
  • Thinglink (@UrsulaRoussou) ~ the website invites you to “easily create interactive images and videos for your websites, infographics, photo galleries, presentations and more!” This video shows you how it works.
  • A list of 50+ web tools for language learners and teachers compiled by Shelly Terrell (@tarabenwell) ~ the post organizes tools into categories such as ‘comic creators’ and ‘multimedia posters’, gives a description and link to the website.

Assorted ideas that could possibly inspire topics of future #ELTchats

  • @naomishema wondered if phone apps could actually replace having a computer to demonstrate in class. She said students sometimes resisted using mobile phones in class saying their phone is too full for an app or they are wasting their battery.
  • @angelos_bollas talked about teaching at a summer school in what he described as a very low-tech environment (“we were lucky to have pen and paper”). He mentioned the importance of preparing in advance and students becoming the teaching material.
  • @muranava raised the issue of what happens to student data when they sign up for various web-based language tools. This is particularly relevant with young learners, but not only.

Finally, on a more lighthearted note, I leave you with @tarabenwell’s discovery: “@cutemergency – a fun twitter account I came across for caption writing fun”. Heartless souls who can’t stand pics of bunnies, kittens and puppies will probably want to steer clear, but I wish everyone else a lovely day. 🙂