Yearly Review TESLO

A Yearly Review and a Plan for 2015

Yearly Review TESLO

Back in January, I wrote a review of 2013 and set some goals for 2014. Here are the goals I had:

– Start a podcast
– Create more videos for Youtube
– Focus on my email list
– Get more specific with my niche
– Do group lessons
– Create courses for English learners
– Create a guide for teachers wanting to move online

Quite the list, right?

I wrote a 2014 goal update back in May, and in this post, I am going to do a review for the year – talking about what I’ve done and learned – and then look forward to 2015.

Before we get into this, I just want to say that this kind of stuff gets me all fired up. Going through my year and analyzing it, and then planning for the next year, is so much fun for me.

Maybe more importantly, it shows me what I have achieved and gives me the information I need to build my plan for 2015.

2014 in Review (What I’ve Done)

The first couple of months of 2013 were all about building and planning, building and planning. I created a free guide for English learners that blew up on social media – well, at least in English learners groups – and this added a couple of thousand new subscribers to my email list.

And then one day in March…

A Course for English Learners on WizIQ

Wiz IQ Course Artwork

In March, I put together a course for English learners on WizIQ.

It consisted of five live lessons, guides, videos, and other resources. The course was focused on helping English learners move from an intermediate level to an advanced level through goal setting, using the right learning methods, and making English an every day thing.

Other courses would have been safer (grammar courses, vocab courses, business English courses etc.), but this area of English learning/teaching is what I’m most passionate about. And putting it on a platform like WizIQ, where the set up process is pretty minimal, meant that I could validate this course without too much risk.

Both the sign up rate and the feedback I received were very encouraging. I decided to repeat it in June on the same platform, and had similar success. I would later take this course and put it on my own platform (more on this later).

Videos on Youtube

Youtube Example English Teacher

Although I haven’t created videos on a consistent basis, I have put out around 15-20 videos for both English learners and teachers. This was one of my goals for 2014.

What I found most difficult was starting the video workflow; the way I had things set up, there was a lot to do. I was also spending too much time in post-production and it started to become a bit of a chore. This is something I’m going to change in 2015, which should allow me to get more videos out there and have more fun making them.

Considering the lack of momentum, the number of views and clicks to my site have been quite promising.

Group Lessons

I have experimented with group lessons this year too. After a successful first round of group lessons (conversational lessons with 3-4 learners in each group), I decided to focus my time elsewhere, mainly creating two new courses (see below).

Email Marketing

I have added thousands of English learners and teachers to my email newsletter this year, and focusing on this area was the right decision to make.

I have managed to achieve this through creating free resources for learners and teachers to download. Downloading the resource also signs you up to the email list, and I made this more prominent on my various websites and social media channels.

Email is the best way to keep in contact, interact, and send offers to your audience. In my opinion, no other method comes close.

A Course for English Teachers

TEOC

TEOC

I finally set a deadline for this course, and on the 12th August (one day late!) I opened up The Teach English Online Course (TEOC). It has been a huge success – the feedback and the results of those taking the course have blown me away.

Receiving emails from teachers telling me how my course has helped them change their life means so much to me, and this has given me confidence to promote it as I know the value in this course.

It was a hell of a ride putting this course together (more on that later).

To Fluency

To Fluency Main Image

TFP

I started a new site for English learners in November, and also introduced a new course. The To Fluency Program (TFP).

To Fluency is the product of me nailing down my teaching niche (another goal) and focusing solely on one area. I took the course that I wrote on WizIQ, adapted it to my own platform, expanded on it, and then put it out to the world.

The results and feedback have been great again. There was a lot of worked involved, but having the experience of creating and launching a course on my own platform (TEOC) meant that it was much easier the second time around.

Podcasting Goal

I know that I will start a podcast one day, but 2014 wasn’t the year for it. I don’t feel too down about it, as podcasting is just one way to reach a large audience. I have a few ideas about my podcast written down in Asana, and will look at doing this again in 2015.

This was the only goal that I had set at the beginning of 2104 that I didn’t end up doing.

What Worked Well and What I Learned

For me, 2014 has been the year of new courses, the webinar, and email marketing.

Creating two courses on my own platforms has been a LOT of work. It involved:

– Writing and recording the courses
– Designing two new websites
– Integrating a membership plugin
– Dealing with 1001 small problems to get everything set up
– Dealing with mental barriers holding me back
– Producing the sales materials for the launch

What I can say is that it has been completely worth it.

The reason I decided to create these courses on my own platforms and not elsewhere was because of the control it gave me. Using other platforms restricts the flow of your course, what you can include on the sale page, the checkout experience, and just so much more.

Courses rock. But what else have I learned?

Live Webinars Are Amazing

Live Webinar JDA English

One of my webinars for English learners

I have held various live webinars for both English learners and teachers this year, and LOVE the buzz of presenting live to a big group of people.

I’ve probably done around 20 live events in total, and I still get that nervous/excited energy in the minutes leading up it. I have used webinars to give away free advice and also to get people to sign up to my courses. I realized how powerful they can be after my first one; around 75% of course sign ups for the WizIQ course came from the webinar I did.

I see many more live webinars in 2015!

(To find out when my next one is for English teachers, click here)

Setting Goals With Deadlines Makes a Big Difference

I hit the deadline for TEOC because of one reason: after my deadline I was taking three weeks off to have a rest and also to look after my son.

I knew that I couldn’t really get anything done during my time off, and the thought of not completing this goal on time, and knowing that the course would have to be put back weeks, really kicked me into gear.

As with most goals (per Parkinson’s Law), I left a lot to the last minute. In fact, I recorded my course, designed the whole site, and integrated everything in just 14 days. It was hectic, but I was completely focused and nothing was going to stop me from completing it.

From this experience I learned the power of setting goals with real deadlines. When it was time to plan for my English learning course, I set a deadline and told my mastermind groups about it. A couple of weeks before the set date, I had thoughts about putting it back. But the deadline kept coming back to me, and I realized that if I was serious about my teaching business, and to prove to myself that I can meet deadlines, I had to get it completed on time. And I did.

Two books that I read earlier in the year helped me realize the importance of setting goals: How to Completely Change Your Life in 60 Seconds and The Success Principles.

You Can’t Do Everything Yourself

Control is probably my word of 2014. As you probably already know, teaching online and doing your own thing gives you control over many areas, including: where you teach, how you teach, and what you teach.

Personally, I also like control over every aspect of my business, which meant that as my business expanded, so did my working hours. But I relinquished some of this and hired others to help me on my projects. One of the tasks that I hired someone else to do was to create transcripts for TFP. It was worth every penny.

In addition to hiring others, I also spent a lot of time in September and October automating as much as I could and setting up systems. I started using tools such as Asana and Evernote much more, and also invested in other applications too.

Relationships Are Everything

I started two separate mastermind groups this year, and both of these have helped me greatly. Meeting on a regular basis with like-minded people has given me so much inspiration, knowledge, recourses, and accountability. Starting in 2015, I’m going to bring members of TEOC together and facilitate mastermind groups for teachers inside the course.

I have continued to build relationships in 2014, and have made the conscious effort to put customer service right at the top of my priorities. I answer every email I receive (usually within 12 hours), and actually love this part of what I do.

This year I met my first reader of this blog in person, and I would LOVE to meet more of you in 2015 too. So, if you’re around the Asheville, NC area, hit me up.

Invest in Yourself at the Right Time

Imac 21.5

I have made some pretty substantial investments this year. In addition to courses that I have taken, the books I’ve read, and software I have started using, I have also invested in a very powerful iMac and a stand up desk.

The books and courses have been focused on automation, outsourcing, productivity, and goal setting. The iMac has helped greatly with productivity – video creating in particular is much quicker and easier to do now (before I could only have one application open at once). And the stand up desk was bought because sitting down all day wasn’t doing me any favors.

It has taken a change of mentality to make big investments, but I am starting to see that when they give you back more than what you paid for them, it’s completely worth it.

There Are No Limits to Your Earning Potential As an Online Teacher

One-to-one lessons, group courses, video courses, affiliate marketing, high end consulting… the list goes on and on.

When I first started out, I had no idea where everything was going to lead. And for a long time I had no ambition of expanding. But now, I have very limited one-to-one lessons due to the success of my courses and other products. One-to-one is the best way to start your online journey; it brings in money right away and you can learn from your audience.

But once you are in the position to do so, expanding into other areas gives you even more control over your teaching business.

My Most Popular Blogs Posts in 2014

Tips and Resources for Planning Online

Bringing things back to this site, the three most popular posts (in terms of visits) were:

1. 19 Successful Online English Teachers Share Their Tips and Resources for Planning Online Lessons

2. Four Platforms You Can Use for Teaching English Online

3. My Interview with Rich Kiker

The first one was a big collaborative post, so no surprises that it was the most read. The other two were interviews (in fact, posts 4 and 5 were video posts too).

Which was your favorite post?

Goals for 2015 and How I’m Going to Achieve Them

Let’s talk about goals now.

I have set five big goals that I want to achieve in 2015, some of them work related and some of them personal. The business goals focus on my income and my reach, and I have broken these bigger goals into the following steps and strategies:

Building a Bigger (And Better) Audience

This is a continuation of my 2014 goal. I want to keep this going with the same kind of momentum, and build an audience of English learners (and teachers for this site) that is 10 times what it is now. This is a huge goal, but one that I think is attainable.

I want this to be reflected mainly by the number of email subscribers, but I am also looking to expand on social media too.

But I don’t just want to build an audience. I want to build a community. I want English learners who join my site to feel part of something bigger. And that was a big reason for rebranding; going from JDA English to To Fluency helps me with the message that I want to get across.

Content Schedule

In 2015, I am going to introduce a posting schedule, with posts, videos etc., going out on a specific day of the week and on a consistent basis. This all goes back to having deadlines and getting things out there on time.

I’ve never been convinced about whether there is such a things as writer’s block – I see this more as resistance, as Stephen Pressfield writes about in The War of Art. Having a content schedule will help me push through any resistance to creating content.

Additionally, I am going to make content creation easier to start. Writing down post ideas (and having them accessible within Asana), as well as simplifying my video recording setup will help me with this.

In terms of the content I’m going to create, I have looked at my popular posts and have found some common features of those posts, and will create content based on this analysis.

(What do you want me to write about on this blog? Leave your feedback here)

Keep Building and Growing My Courses

After creating and selling a course there is the temptation to go straight to the next one. But my strategy for the first three-six months is to solely focus on improving the courses I have now and bringing more people into them. My new course can wait until later in the year (can you guess what it’s going to be? Hint: it might not be ELT/ESL related).

As I mentioned before, the positive feedback I have received has made me truly believe in the products I have. But I don’t want it to stop there: I want to constantly improve the courses and add more things based on what people inside the course want.

And in terms of sales, I am going to use the 80/20 principle (something I wrote about here) to ensure my time and energy is being spent wisely.

Automation, Outsourcing, and Analytics

With two websites, two courses, and another website on the way, things can get a little crazy. That is why in 2015, I’m going to bring in more people to help me, especially in the areas that I struggle with.

Additionally, I am going to look at more ways to automate a lot of my tasks and run more in-depth analytics. I’ve been guilty of trying to do too much of this manually, and this just takes too much time. I’ve already set up some automatic reports to be sent to my email address on a weekly basis, which should hopefully stop me from checking stats at various times during the day (and avoid the black whole of checking in on your analytics).

Routines and Time blocking

Time Blocking

I’ve noticed that I’m most productive when I block out my time. When working for yourself, it’s too easy to get caught up in the big picture stuff when you should really be focusing on getting things done. And at times, you stand there in front of your computer without knowing what you should be working on. Therefore, I have set up a work schedule that I intend to stick to, obviously allowing for it to evolve naturally.

(note: time blocking is where you know exactly what you’re going to do throughout your day helping you focus on the one task that needs to get done. It was introduced to me by one of my mastermind group members.)

I have come up with a schedule that allows me to keep up, and hopefully get ahead with, my posting schedule, while giving me time to teach, do webinars, strategize, work on projects, do email, and a whole host of other tasks.

A Final Note for You

My blog here has gone from strength to strength in 2014, and nothing makes me happier than when I receive a success story or an email thanking me for my posts.

Thank you so much for being part of Teaching ESL Online (if you are new here, click here to join the community). It’s been such an amazing ride so far, and here’s to it continuing!

Wishing you all a successful 2015.

——-

Please leave comments, questions, or anything you want to post in the comment section below.

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Specific Countries

The Smart Way to Target a Specific Country With Your Online Lessons

No matter the reason a learner has, I always experience that sinking feeling when I get told that they don’t want to continue with lessons. But, I soon move on and either find a new student to take that time slot (the power of having an email list), or as I have done recently, reduce my teaching hours to work on other projects.

It happened to me this week: one of my students from Russia told me that he couldn’t continue. He thanked me for the lessons that I have given him (he has taken conversational English lessons for the last two years), but said that he just couldn’t continue.

His reason?

The following graph explains why:

Exchange Rate Ruble

Russian Rubles per $1 USD (xe.com)

The price of his English lessons have gone up by two thirds since July due to the exchange rate between the dollar and the ruble (Russian currency). He was hopeful that the ruble was going to bounce back after an initial decrease in value (he’s a financial analyst), but you can see that recently it has depreciated quite rapidly over the past few weeks.

A couple of other Russian students have also dropped lessons over the past few months for the same reason, saying that they would like to take lessons again after a potential correction.

What can we conclude from this?

It is risky when you only target English learners from a specific country

Luckily, I hadn’t set everything up just to target Russian students. I get learners for my lessons and courses from many different countries. But if I had set everything up for learners from Russia, then I would be having some problems right now.

When thinking about your teaching niche, know that there are risks involved if you only target learners from a specific country. If you live in the country you target, then these problems are minimized and maybe non-existent as you’re paid in the same currency. But otherwise, relying on the exchange rates and political situations to remain stable is risky.

The Smart Way to Target Specific Countries

There are certain ways that you can target a specific country (or countries) without building your whole teaching business around this country.

Here are some examples:

Create Landing Pages

Instead of building your whole website around one country, you can create landing pages (specific pages that learners land on) for specific countries. You can send learners from, let’s say Brazil, to this specific page through your marketing efforts, and on this page, you can have information that resonates with with these learners.

Your website can be more general and resonate with learners in other ways (teaching style, common problems etc.).

Youtube Playlists

Instead of creating a Youtube channel dedicated to learners of a specific country, you can create playlists instead. Videos for this playlist can go into depth about the problems these learners have, with videos that solve these problems.

Posting and Advertising

The quickest way to bring students to your site (or to your specific landing page) – and then into your lessons – is through posting, networking, and advertising. And all of these methods can be used for targeting specific countries. For example, using Facebook ads, you can specify in which countries you want your ads to be shown.

(Note: Inside The Teach English Online Course, you will find videos and resources based on finding your teaching niche, creating a landing page, using Youtube, and also posting and advertising to bring learners into your lessons.)

These methods mean that you can target learners from one country (or more) without putting your teaching business at risk when political situations and exchange rates change.

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Stand Up Post

Teaching Online Doesn’t Have to Mean Sitting All Day

Stand Up Post

When I first talked about starting my own thing online to my friends in Valencia, I remember one teacher saying, “It sounds great, but I couldn’t teach while sitting down at a desk all day.”

For whatever reason, that has always stuck with me. And come to think of it, have you ever seen an engaging lesson within a classroom setting where the teacher is sitting down?

There is no doubt that we are much more animated and energetic when standing. And, and I’m pretty sure you’re aware of the health implications of sitting all day (how sitting is killing you). But when working/teaching online, the vast majority of people use/get a comfy chair and desk.

However, there is an alternative: the stand up desk. Over the last few years, there have been more people that I know and follow getting stand up desks, and a couple of weeks ago, after much research, I finally decided to get one too. Here is what I found.

My Experience With a Stand Up Desk

After a LOT of research (you know the type: hours spent reading reviews and looking at all the options), I went for Adjustable Height Stand Up Desk from The Stand Up Desk Store. This desk can be cranked up or down, meaning that you can adjust it to a standing or sitting position.

I went for this style of desk because I read that transitioning from sitting to standing all day can be difficult. And anyway, there are times when I know I’ll really want to sit down (mainly just after lunch!). It took a while to set up, mainly because of my lack of patience to fully read the instruction manual.

But, what do I make of it? Was it worth the investment?

In a nutshell: I couldn’t be happier. I was really pleased with the price and this thing is solid. It’s also on wheels meaning that you can move it around a little. I went for the one that is 48″ wide (there are bigger options available), and it has plenty of space for two large monitors.

The keyboard and mouse tier is lower than the monitor tier, which allows for correct ergonomics when standing. Here is a picture of what it looks like:

Stand Up Desk Mine

Replace the phone with a teapot, and that’s what mine more or less looks like.

The handle on the right allows you to adjust it to the height you want it at. I’m 5ft 11″, and it’s highest setting is just right for me. So, if you’re taller than that, then this might not be for you.

On the whole, I have loved being able to stand up while teaching and working. At the moment, I’m spending around 75% of my working day standing. I feel more focused and energetic for sure, and doing presentations and teaching this way has really helped me become more dynamic; there is something about standing and presenting/teaching that just goes together.

I highly recommend the desk that I got, but here are a couple of alternatives that I found during my research that I want to introduce here. I also talk about what you should look for in a stand up desk.

Features of a Stand Up Desk and Two Alternatives

Here is a great visual of the how you want your desk to be set up:

standing-desk-ergonomics-v2

Photo credit: iamnotaprogrammer.com

As you can see, the table height should be the same as your elbow height, and the screen should be elevated. Try to avoid stand up desks that have the same height for the keyboard and monitor (in the picture, you can see the monitor on top of a box, which is a way to get around this).

The DIY Version ($22)

Here is a very popular way to convert your current desk into a stand-up desk for around $22:

photo: iamnotaprogrammer.com

photo: iamnotaprogrammer.com

This uses a side table and other pieces from IKEA, that when put together, sits on top of your existing desk. From what I’ve read, people love this set up, and it is quite easy to do. Here is a guide to this if you feel like building your own.

If you have a desktop, then it would be difficult to go from sitting to standing with this setup.

The Varidesk

People also love this version too. It goes on your current desk, and you can go from sitting to standing and back very easily.

Varidesk

photo: Amazon.com

I was considering this for some time, but the current desks I had were too small to accommodate it. It comes in three different sizes, and make sure you do the calculations so that it’s the right height for you.

Click here to read more.

Over to You

Do you have a stand up desk or are you thinking about getting one?

If so, please leave your comments below.

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Three Productivity Tools for Online Teachers

Three Tools to Help You Be More Productive in Your Teaching Business

Three Productivity Tools for Online Teachers

Last month, I went app crazy.

I signed up to take free trials for different CRM (client relationship management) software, email tools, and a host of other applications. Some of those turned out to be not that useful, but others stuck. And below, I share with you three tools that will help with your productivity, and in one case, your online security too.

Let’s start with the one I had used a little before my app discovery month, but now it’s the first place I go to when starting work. I also made a video for this one.

Asana

Click here to check out Asana

Known as a tool to help you communicate with your team (or students!), I use Asana as my project hub. In short, I use it to:

– Write down all ideas I get over the course of the day
– Keep track of my progress with certain projects
– Write down all the tasks I need to do
– Set deadlines for these projects and tasks

So, let’s say that you are new to online teaching and want to build a website. Well, you can use Asana to organize this project, and to help you stay on track.

Here’s a quick video showing you Asana being used in this hypothetical situation, and also how you can use it to collaborate with your learners (turn on HD and go full screen with this one!):

I hope that gave you a good idea of how you can use Asana; and there’s a lot more to Asana that what I showed you (including Chrome extensions and forwarding tasks from your email).

I highly recommend this app for all online teachers who want to be in control of their projects, and also for teachers who want to collaborate with their learners.

Setting deadlines for your projects (and holding yourself accountable) means that you make progress with your goals – and this is where I believe Asana really shines.

And the best thing: it’s free!

LastPass

Click here to check out LastPass

Having unique and strong passwords for your multiple accounts is necessary these days. But it is impossible to remember strong passwords, especially if you have one for PayPal, personal and business email, your website login, and a host of other accounts that we all use.

LastPass is an application that I had heard about, but for whatever reason, just put off getting it. And now, I can’t believe I went so long without it.

In a nutshell: it allows you to generate very strong passwords and save them all in your password vault. With the browser extension, LastPass automatically fills out the sign in fields as you enter the page. Or, you can simply click the links from your vault to get automatically signed in.

This has not only dramatically increased the security of my online accounts, but it also saves me time having to fill out fields to sign in (or to go through the whole forgotten password process when I can’t remember a password).

One more thing – it’s not just for passwords: you can save other private information securely, like passport numbers, card numbers, pins, social security numbers, and similar data.

It’s free for use on a computer, but there is a small yearly fee to link to to your other devices.

Evernote

Click here to check out Evernote

Just like LastPass, I had wanted to get Evernote for a while, but put it off. I’m glad I did a little research and started to use it.

Evernote allows you to save anything in one place. As I use Asana for my ideas and project planning, I mainly use Evernote to clip the different articles and resources I come across.

So, imagine you teach IELTS online: with Evernote, you can save all your resources and use the following tags: IELTS reading examples, IELTS tips, IELTS exercises, IELTS listening test etc. Then, when you open Evernote, you just have to search for the relevant tag. This is a great way to build resources and have them all in one place (and synced online allowing you to have access to these resources anywhere).

I also use it for recipes, itineraries, and for inspiring articles (or articles I want to save for later).

There’s a lot more you can do with Evernote, and if you want to learn more about it, this is a good place to start.

Over to You

Do you use any of these apps? If so, what tips do you have?

Leave this comment, or any comment you have about this article, below.

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Tips and Resources for Planning Online

19 Successful Online English Teachers Share Their Tips and Resources for Planning Online Lessons

Tips and Resources for Planning Online

Thanks to everyone who contributed!

I receive A LOT of emails from online teachers (and online teachers to be) about planning; namely, what they should include in their lessons and what resources they should use.

As there are many areas of English and different teaching methods, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What I do and what I use might not work for you and your learners.

However, there are some common practices and amazing resources that you can use in your online lessons.

And as a way of celebrating the incredible teachers who create their own content so that we can use it with our students, I have put together this super post.

I asked 19 online teachers for a tip or an app when it comes to lesson planning, and for them to share their resource.

As well as being a handy guide for you, this might also inspire you too to create content for your learners (if you’re not doing this already).

 

(At the bottom of the post there is a chance for you to add your own resources.)

Gabby Wallace

Gabby Wallace

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Make sure that each lesson has a clear takeaway. Make sure that the viewer can understand what he or she is going to be able to do by the end of the lesson.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?
The All Ears English Podcast is an engaging way for your students to learn real English and connect with native speakers online. Free episodes can be used as a tool for language learning and discussion: www.AllEarsEnglish.com
The Go Natural English Video Lessons are a quick and easy way to learn English skills and build vocabulary from anywhere. Free video lessons can be used as a convenient tool for answering students’ common questions: www.GoNaturalEnglish.com

Kieran Docherty

Kieran Docherty (cropped)

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

As my area of expertise is film in language teaching and all of my lesson plans are designed around short films, I’m going to explain a little bit about Vimeo which is a tool I use when planning nearly all of my materials. Vimeo is a video sharing site where users upload and share their short films and videos, very much like You Tube.

There are a number of reasons why I prefer Vimeo to YouTube: it’s a small niche community of film-makers which means that the quality of the short films is much better and more artistic than those on YouTube and that it’s much easier to find quality content (there are no cat videos); the layout is much cleaner than You Tube and it’s much more user-friendly and intuitive; there are no distracting ads so the primary focus is on the short film and nothing else; and finally the comments are nearly always constructive, you don’t get the inane comments and insults that appear under many YouTube videos.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?
http://film-english.com/
Film English is the first ELT resource site to use short films critically and creatively and to promote film literacy – the ability to analyse and interpret moving images – in the language classroom. It is an award-winning, highly practical resource bank with over 120 detailed and ready-made lesson plans for the busy teacher, which is user- friendly, intuitive, colourful, fun and meticulously organised.

All of the lessons are categorised according to age appropriateness, level and topic. All of the short films and worksheets are embedded right into the lesson, meaning that teachers don’t need to download videos or worksheets; they can show the entire lesson through a data projector. However, if teachers prefer, they can download the lesson instructions and worksheets in PDF format.

Mau Buchler

Mau Buchler

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Prepping classes online doesn’t have to be arduous or time-consuming. If you begin by asking them simple questions (as you would in a normal conversation), that allows you to see where they are making mistakes. You then correct what they’re doing wrong, and get THEM to come up with different ways of practicing it.

Nevertheless, make sure you have something fun up your sleeve, just in case. A funny video, a short story, or an activity that you can use as back up, but most of the time you probably won’t even use it.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

I created www.tripppin.com to be the perfect resource. It can be used every day as regular course material, but it can also be used to supplement other existing ESL materials. All teachers need to do is use it once in a while in class, and it takes on a life of its own. Students use it in their free time, and the platform directs them to bring their doubts and discoveries back into the classroom/course. The teacher truly becomes the supervisor of the students’ learning process.

Sylvia Guinan

Sylvia Guinan

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

For creating digital content it’s best to use a lot of imagery as too much text doesn’t translate well to the screen. Materials need to be attractive and brain-friendly. You can add links to further text-based resources so that students can follow-up on the extra detail.

In keeping with attractive design, it’s great to store lesson content and especially multi-media links on Tackk or PearlTrees. This way, students can click into a beautiful visual library full of easy to access multi-media, goodies, ebooks etc.

Additionally, have Google Drive and all the cool Google tools attached as a home base for lessons and content – and then link Google Drive to your visual library. Back-up everything if you are using the cloud.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

My personal blog is described as “Brainfriendly learning methods, tools, environments and communities.” You can learn from my blog which has reviews, interviews, lesson plan ideas, educational technolgy ideas, creativity, webinar coverage, professional development and all kinds of educational issues.

I also have a webinar tab where you can access my webinar recordings.

http://www.sylviasenglishonline.org/

Drew Badger

Drew Badger

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Every lesson should be a solution to a problem, so begin with the needs of learners. Keep things simple and you can’t go wrong.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

My YouTube channel features over 200 simple video lessons for all levels. Everything is taught in English, so lessons can be used with students in any country. If you’re looking for videos that make the language intuitive, so students can understand and learn to use English without the need for forgettable rules or confusing explanations, visit http://www.youtube.com/englishanyone.

Vickie Hollet

Vickie Hollet

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Make your students your resource by asking them to pick a topic and lead a discussion. You can give them ideas. E.g. a news story they’re following, a website they find useful for learning English (and why), the pros and cons of a (controversial) topic or idea, a talk on how to…(they choose something they can teach). You want to enthuse and inspire, but let them take control. The results can be magic.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

(Sample activity from Vickie’s site): Watch one of the short videos on a false friend students find tricky at http://www.simpleenglishvideos.com/vocabulary/. (E.g make vs. do, sensible vs. sensitive, lend vs. borrow) Then pick another pair of words they often confuse and get them to teach the difference. They can use PowerPoints or make a video – whatever they wish, but when students become teachers, they can learn a lot.

www.simpleenglishvideos.com

Minoo Short

Minoo

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

(If recording lessons for groups) A tip that I have that I think is important in planning online group lessons (MOOC) is: Remember that some of the students will not be able attend the live session and will only watch the recording.  Therefore the lesson should be planned in a way that it remains engaging for anyone watching later as well, not only for those who are able to join the chat with you in the live session.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

I have two resources that teachers can use: My YouTube Channel ‘Anglo-Link‘.  Here, they can find lessons on different aspects of the language for Intermediate and Advanced students.  Most videos feature exercises as well.

My website anglo-link.com covers similar topics and provides online written and audio exercises as well as downloadable audio and pdf files.  Some of the content is free, but to access all the exercises, it is necessary to upgrade to Premium or Premium Plus Membership.

Michael Marzio

Michael Marzio

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

My one tip for planning an online lesson would be to get to know your student’s objectives and interests in detail, and also to determine his or her level, in order to prepare the best possible online learning experience for your learner.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

Real English® is an extensive online video library of spontaneous dialogues of people interviewed in English-speaking countries, organized according to traditional functional, lexical and grammatical criteria despite the obvious spontaneity of the interviews.

In other words, Real English is based on a very simple idea, the organization and pedagogical exploitation of spontaneous speech. “Spontaneous” goes way beyond the current catchword of “authentic” video, which most often refers to Hollywood films as content for ESL/EFL teachers & students. There are no actors in Real English®. Students tend to identify with ordinary people, i.e., the famous interviewees, especially when we put them on the spot.

In addition to the video, we make extraordinary interactive lessons for the short (easily digestible) portions of the videos for the exercises. Our most recent lesson (81)  includes 100 exercises for 8 short interviews. There is so much natural repetition that even the difficult passages are  appropriated by learners in a natural way, watching real people being themselves, as students learn to understand everything on their own.

Shayna F. De Oliveira

Shayna

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

With online lessons, it can be harder to keep the students’ attention than in a traditional classroom. You can help students stay engaged by making your online lessons short and easily digestible. When possible, mix up the format with interesting visuals, different activities, quizzes, and practical applications.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

On the Espresso English blog and YouTube channel, each lesson is short and sweet, focusing on a single concept. Teachers can use the videos in classrooms or have students watch them as homework, helping them stay connected with English for a few minutes every day in between regular classes.

Adir Ferreira

Adir Ferreira

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Hello there! When planning an online lesson is to think about who I’m going to teach and what I want them to learn. Usually I choose a main text or listening passage and try to make the most of it by using short-timed activities around that topic. Thought-provoking and vocabular-building activities are my favorite!

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

My blog has hundreds of posts for Portuguese-speaking students who are learning English. These posts include lots of idioms (I love these!), gramar, songs and vocabulary. Most of them can be adapted into other languages and it’s a really good resource.

Jason R Levine

Jason R Levine

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Spend more of your time and effort planning how you’ll observe your students-what they like and don’t like, what they need more help with, how much time they need to complete activities-than in precisely what way you will teach them.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

I make songs and videos on YouTube to teach and learn English, especially boring or hard to learn vocabulary and grammar structures. Teachers can play the videos in class or have students watch them at home or “on the go”, with or without accompanying materials (available by emailing me: collolearn@gmail.com)

Kris Jagasia

Kris Jagasia

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

In a conversation based, online ESL lesson, the focus is usually on building confidence in order to promote the student to speak. Due to the form factor of the virtual classroom, there is also a lot of empty space on the student’s screen that presents a great opportunity for screen sharing lesson content. Workbooks, exercise sheets and class homework are not great tools to increase energy levels during an online lesson (nor are they ideal for screen sharing).

When we design our lesson content, we aim to create conversation guides, prompts that naturally direct conversation while reinforcing target grammar and vocabulary. Pictures with small amounts of text arranged using slide presentation software such as PowerPoint or Prezi are ideal.

Our biggest piece of advice to other online teachers is to adapt your lesson content style for the online environment, and to test your content and refine it based on student reactions. Think about the difference between a meeting or conference where the presenter shows up with a well structured PowerPoint presentation used as a visual prompt, rather than text heavy, bulleted slides. The brighter and more inspiring your lesson content, the more energy and motivation there will be in your students and the longer you will retain them as loyal paying customers.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

Off2Class is a project to build and release ESL lesson content purposefully designed for private ESL teachers and tutors. Over the years of teaching private ESL lessons both online and offline, we realized there were not enough high quality content resources designed for ESL teachers running one-on-one or small group lessons. We have a library of 150 (and quickly growing) ESL lesson plans, that are loaded onto an easy to use web/tablet platform which is well suited for screen sharing (if you are running online ESL lessons). We are currently in private Beta and are offering free accounts to teachers who are eager to give us feedback. Teachers can request an account on the Off2Class homepage.

Sean Banville

Sean Banville

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

One of my favourite tools to use for making online lessons is the site textivate.com. In my opinion it is one of the very best resources ever for anyone who wants to create interactive activities for articles or any writing. It is also one of the simplest – paste your text into a box, press a button and then you have 55 online activities!

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

I have nine materials sites, the best-known of which is Breaking News English.com. On this site, new lessons are uploaded every two days based on a very current news story. Lessons are graded at seven levels. Each level had multi-speed reading and listening, 30+ online activities, a 40-activity printable handout, a 2-page mini-lesson, and more. This site and the others are at http://www.freeeslmaterials.com/sean_banville_lessons.html

Justin Murray

Justin Murray

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Encourage your students to incorporate relaxed, enjoyable daily lifestyle English habits into their lives as fundamental components of their processes. This could be anything from reading the lyrics and singing along to their favorite songs, watching an episode of a TV series every day, reading a book or magazine, attending a local language learning meetup, or making new friends with other learners online. It’s also important to revisit the topic on a regular basis (if not every class), to celebrate successful examples, and to even create systems, processes, and logs, that measure and reinforce these habits.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?
RealLife English is a community based English/ language learning platform for teachers, students, and native speakers with a mission is to inspire, empower, and connect the world through English, both online and in-person.

We do this through our web site, which has over 500 articles, podcasts, and videos, all teaching English in fun, dynamic, and imaginative ways that seek to motivate students to connect their English to things they enjoy and make it a convenient part of their daily life.  We also have an online social network, forum, and a worldwide network of in-person language learning events.

By helping teachers and learners change their perspective on English, cultivate the psychological tools necessary for success, and compliment their learning programs with authentic, real life experiences, we’ve found that it’s possible not only to accelerate the path to true, lifelong fluency, but also to enjoy the process a lot more.

http://reallifeglobal.com/start-here

Lisa Biskup

Lisa Biskup

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Use Google Drive documents to share articles and other reading materials using the screenshare feature in Google Hangouts. This allows you and your students to view the same page so that you can point out grammatical structures, vocabulary and expressions while reading along together. Set the share permission so that your student can view and/or edit, depending on the objectives of your lesson.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

My site is www.englishfluencynow.com. Teachers can use this site with their students to provide high-quality upper intermediate and advanced English materials, including free blog lessons and podcasts. These materials are excellent for helping students prepare for TOEFL, IELTS and other English proficiency exams. You can also use the materials as jumping-off points for in-depth discussions and conversations.

Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat

Shanthi Street

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

I don’t do any formal preparation when it comes to my online lessons! I am very much directed by my clients and what they’d like to discuss. My clients are all business people and use their lessons as fluency and accuracy practice. Their goal is be able to talk about a range of topics. As the conversation gets going, I develop the language around it.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

I started my blog in March 2013. It was originally intended for learners of English. I wanted to share my ideas and love for the English Language and Literature. Over time I realised that more and more teachers were using my posts in their classrooms.In their comments on my blog, I found out that they were using my posts as a useful reminder of a grammar or lexical point and adapting them to their lessons.

http://englishwithatwist.com/

Vicky Loras

Vicky Loras

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

When planning online lessons, it is always very important to think about how you will send students materials they can use during or after the lesson, and feedback. Will there be a chatbox in the platform? Will it be via email? It needs to be planned beforehand.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

I have my blog divided into pages: simple blog posts with tips or experiences, my Business English page, my poetry page (with poems I have written that teachers can use in class, if they wish), my Literature page with activities I have created based on books, or activities others have created and I have collected them all there. I also have a Presentations page, where teachers can download links, handouts and slides I have used in my presentations.

http://vickyloras.wordpress.com

Stephen Mayeaux

Stephen Mayeux

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

I’m in love with Evernote because it’s such a versatile tool for both students and teachers. After each lesson, I write detailed notes about what was covered along with the student’s strengths and weaknesses. I can even include multimedia in the notes and share them with my students via e-mail, SMS, or directly through Evernote if they also have the app.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

My blog’s really great if you’re students are hip-hop fans or anyone who wants to learn informal English, such as idioms and phrasal verbs. I’ve got tons of lessons on these, but teachers should check out my 15 Ways to Use Hip-Hop to Teach English resource (http://eslhiphop.com/2013/05/15-quick-ideas-for-using-hip-hop-in-class/). They’re very practical and easy to set up and can be used with music of any genre.

Jason West

Jason West

TIP FOR PLANNING ONLINE (OR A TOOL TO USE):

Prepare learners for one-to-one conversations with non-teachers. Guide them through towards comprehension of some target  language, appropriate to their speaking level and which will be of interest to their speaking partner. Help them to make connections.

WHAT’S YOUR RESOURCE?

Our English Out There resources work anywhere two people can talk (e.g. Skype or Hangouts) because they evolved over seven years of supported real practice with complete strangers on the streets of London. They guide and scaffold natural second language acquistion. Professor Stephen Krashen called an online case study with a typical adult Chinese English learner, “Remarkable… a major contribution to our knowledge about what works. Thanks for posting this”.
You can listen to before and after clips of that learner’s course experience here:
http://englishoutthere.com/home-page/listen

Easy to Reference Resources

All Ears English

Go Natural English

Film English

Tripppin

Sylvia’s English Online

English Anyone

Simple English Videos

Anglo Link

Real English®

Espresso English

Adir’s Blog

Collolearn on Youtube

Off2Class

Breaking News English

RealLife English

English Fluency Now

English With a Twist

Vicky Loras

ESL Hip Hop

English Out There

To Fluency (my site)

Why not save them all to a folder in your bookmarks, or take Stephen’s advice and use Evernote, and tag them all “English Resources.” (I’ve just done the latter!).

Over to You

Do you create your own resources? Do you have tips for teaching online?

If so, please leave a comment below; I will update this post with YOUR resources (and favourite resources) here.

AND… please share this post by clicking the social icons below; I really do appreciate it.

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Interview Michael Marzio

Making Videos, Solving Specific Problems, and Adapting: An Interview With Michael Marzio

I’ve got a great interview for you below: Michael has been making videos for English learners (you’ll find out who he is specifically targeting later) since the 70s! He’s the perfect example of someone who has adapted to change, and has managed to build a very big audience of English learners through his different channels.

We talk about his story, how he solved a specific problem, the ways that he has adapted throughout the years (27 different cameras!), his website, and his tips for English teachers who want to create videos.

There are some incredible takeaways here. Watch and enjoy (in HD)!

Are you an English learner? If so, CLICK HERE.

What We Discussed

While on vacation in Paris in the early 70s, a friend asked him if he wanted to stay and teach English. And that is what he did.

After teaching in different schools he created a brick and mortar language school in Avignon, then in Istres (near Marseille).

His Niche Born Out of a Specific Problem

Michael has always taught working adults – people who really need English (professionals). He found that they had a common problem that needed solving:

They would come back from their business meetings… and would say, ‘It was easy to speak to so and so about anything that had to do with work… but when we had to sit around the dinner table it became very difficult.”

That is when Michael started going to the States and the UK filming people speaking spontaneously so that his learners could get exposure to this type of natural (or real!) English.

His own students liked the videos he was putting together and other teachers used them too. He continued creating these resources and ended up with a large video library (which has been online since 1994).

All the interviews are spontaneous (no actors), and to begin with, he had to film 20 interviews before finding one that was acceptable.

Michael’s Website and Filming

Michael built and coded his own website back in 1994 after learning HTML. We saw Michael’s site when he shared his screen; here is the summary:

– There are two options (main site and mobile site).
– He makes two videos: with and without subtitles.
– There are 10-20 exercises for each video.

Here is the video that Michael showed in the interview and is a great example of what he does:

Michael has gone through 27 cameras (he told us how the VERY expensive camera that he had in 1994 has a similar quality to the lowest setting on the cheapest mobile device today!).

He started with Adobe Premier (pro version) for editing videos and has used it ever since (I have my own recommendations below).

Tips for Teachers Who Want to Create Videos

Michael has some great tips for teachers who want to create their own videos. These are:

  • Know what you want to do: have a plan for your videos.
  • Find a niche: something that is fun for you, unique, and gives learners a reason to go and subscribe to your channel.
  • Put the camera on a tripod!
Michael has over 560,000 Facebook likes on his page. He really enjoys communicating with the learners, and answers all student and teacher questions about his site and about English in general!
He now wants to concentrate on Google+.

Takeaways

The biggest takeaway I got from the interview is how Michael has adapted throughout his ELT journey. Going from selling VHS cassettes to having a very popular Youtube channel is really impressive; as is coding his own website in HTML way back in 1994.

Michael also shows how powerful it can be when you find a solution to a problem. His learners were struggling with everyday English, so he flew out to the US and the UK to film spontaneous conversations to help them gain exposure to this.

All of this is so inspiring. There are so many opportunities for English teachers these days to do their own thing; and although Michael said he was lucky with different opportunities, he is a great example of someone who takes action and creates his own luck.

Resources

Here are some resources from what we discussed:

Michael’s Website: Real English

Michael’s Youtube Channel

Michael’s Facebook Page

Screenflow for Mac (my favourite video editing software)

Camstasia (the equivalent for Windows)

Over to You

Do you have a Youtube channel for English learners? If so, leave your link below!

If you don’t, are you planning on making videos in the future? What type of videos do you want to make?

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Teaching English to Young Learners Online

Teaching Young Learners Online, Getting Students, and Lesson Planning: An Interview With James Heywood

I connected with James and his business partner Kris around a year ago, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you will remember that Kris wrote a guest post last year (click here to read it). I was excited to get one of the guys back to talk about their new creation for English teachers, and to share their experience of teaching English online to young learners.

Kris stepped forward, and in the following interview, he gives some really powerful advice about teaching young learners online, how to find students, and how his new site can make planning for online lessons much easier.

There’s a lot of value in this interview. Here it is:

What We Discussed

James talked about his background, and how he travelled around teaching in different countries before settling in Turkey. He was receiving requests for private learners, and was spending more time teaching these types of lessons and finding them more rewarding.

He then decided to move his teaching online. The reasons for doing this included: he saw online learning was growing, he liked the online teaching environment, wanted to save time by not having to commute, and wanted open up his lessons to a broader market.

So, this is how his first site (TurksLearnEnglish) was born.

Specializing and Finding a Niche

“The name is basic, but that’s exactly what it is: it’s a site built for Turks to learn English.”

The vast majority of his students are young learners from Turkey. James talks about how important it is to have a niche; to specialize in a certain area.

We then both discuss the advantages of doing this, including knowing the culture, the language, and other things about our specific learners to ensure that we can offer them the best value.

Teaching Young Learners

James argues that taking young learners online helps increase motivation, turning technology from a play instrument into a learning instrument.

“The student’s focus is increased enormously because there’s not somebody sitting at the other side of the class throwing a piece of paper..”

Having the different tools and applications, you can make the learner focus more on the lesson, bringing the child’s attention on to what is happening in the class. James has found this to be really empowering for his young learners.

Some tips when teaching young learners: the learner needs to learn in a quiet space, don’t allow interruptions by the parents, don’t allow other devices, communicate with their parents, use their own environment for learning props, and be flexible with the lesson. When starting with a new child, offer a trial lesson with the parent present.

Getting Learners

James then gave his advice on how to fill up your schedule with online learners. Firstly, he states how important it is to be confident when starting out. He was able to move all but one of his learners to his new online learning environment, and recommends talking with your current learners about making this change.

Word of mouth has worked really well for TurksLearnEnglish (something that I and other teachers constantly talk about). To do this, get a landing page up (here are the options available for this); this gives referrals and new learners the ability to know more about you and to be confident that you are a legitimate teacher.

Turks Learn English

The TurksLearnEnglish Landing Page

James and Kris know their market well and have a very specialized niche. He doesn’t recommend spreading yourself too thin, but instead, be attractive to a segment of the English learning market. Finding the first student is the hardest thing; that it why it’s important to have a strong landing page.

We then talk about the important of keeping contacts (something I have written about here).

Lesson Planning (Off2Class)

I receive lots of emails about the best resources for online teaching. And James and Kris have started something really exciting: a database of lessons plans that you can use online through sharing your screen or through student and teacher logins.

It was created to remove the amount preparation time for online teachers, with the lessons being effective for 80% of the students 80% of the time. Here is an example of a lesson:

Off2Class

Off2Class Lessons

You can see the lesson notes on the left hand side and the slides on the right. When a learner is logged in, they don’t see the lesson notes, but as you move through the lesson, their screen will show the slide that you are currently on.

As you saw in the interview, there are lots of material involved in each lesson. They are still in BETA, but you can request an account from their homepage.

Click here to get an account

About James

James Heywood has lived and worked in Sydney, Paris, Auckland, Dubai, and has a background in language and linguistics. He is a strong believer in the use of technology in the learning environment. After years of teaching in language institutes and private schools, he made the leap to online in late 2012.

He has taught a variety of ESL students online including young learners, adults and adolescents in one-on-one and group settings. Off2Class (lesson plan content for private ESL teachers) was launched to provide lesson content resources targeted to teachers running their own private tutorials.

Over to You

As I mentioned during the interview, I have no experience teaching young learners online, so it was fascinating for me to learn about this. Let us know if you have experience teaching this age group, or whether James has inspired you to do the same.

Additionally, I recommend signing up to Off2Class. If you do, please let us know your thoughts. And as always, feel free to leave whatever comments you have about the interview.

Thanks for watching!

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Mark Barnes Interview

Student Centered Learning, Social Learning, and Twitter: An Interview with Mark Barnes

There was an article popping up in my various social media feeds the other day called, “Why Everyone Should Be On Twitter.” I then realized it was by Mark Barnes, another fellow presenter in the TTO MOOC. I then read some more of his stuff, asked him for an interview, and a couple of days later we met on Google Hangouts.

In the interview discussion we talk about student centered learning, narrative feedback, social learning, why teachers should be on Twitter and how best to use this platform.

Below the interview I break down what was discussed and relate this to ELT.

Here is the video interview:

What We Discussed

Mark was a teacher for 20 years, and left the classroom two years ago to focus more on his writing and professional development. Let’s start with..

Creating a Results Based Environment

Mark talks about how he was a “traditional teacher” for the first ten years of his career, but after taking some time to research motivation, he decided to do something different. His biggest focus for this was the final result: learning.

To achieve this he created what he calls a chaotic environment, one where kids are working on different things, have long-term projects, and use different technology to head towards a goal and learn whatever the objective is at that time.

“The most important thing of all was I eliminated traditional grading… I’m tired of measuring kids learning and punishing them if they don’t turn something in… that turned out to be something really exciting.”

Narrative Feedback

Mark talks about a system that he pulled from other systems called SE2R (Summarize, Explain, Redirect, and Resubmit). This is using descriptive feedback to eliminate subjectivity and comparisons. It gives the student to go back and revisit prior learning.

“I think that education should be about mastery learning and not punishing kids with grades.”

We then go on to discuss the tools that we can use to achieve this.

Social and Mobile Learning

Mark then goes on to talk about social and mobile learning and how we should find ways to incorporate the devices our students have into their learning.

“We are heading to a place, very soon, where every kid will have a mobile device.”

“Educators have to face it, and they have to prepare for it.. I have to be ready to use it myself.”

There is then some great advice given in terms of how to do this: watch online videos and actually use the devices and applications that you want to use. And learning how to use these tools will take less time than you think.

Twitter

Mark’s article went viral this week. And he gives a couple of reasons why everyone should be on Twitter (click here for the full list):

1. Free Professional Development: Twitter has an advantage in that it is very professional. Following other educators and following specific chats gives you access to advice and resources in your industry.

2. Kids are moving to Twitter from other platforms.

When joining Twitter, it is important to follow these discussions, find “How to Use Twitter Videos,” follow people in your industry (more specifically, find one person who you look up to and follow who they are following), and post with hashtags when first starting.

Relating this to ELT

Throughout the interview I related what Mark discussed to ELT. Here are some ideas I talked about and more on reflection.

Traditional Marking and feedback: The language schools that I worked in liked exams, and it seemed like half our time was spent on either studying for an exam, taking an exam, or reviewing an exam.

I really like the idea of trying to achieve mastery in learning, especially in our industry. Having running feedback, using Google Drive for example, means that we can ensure that our students stop making mistakes that seem to be engrained. This is something that I have implemented through creating audio resources for my learners.

Repetition is such an important part of learning a language. It is our job to make this fun and engaging.

Student Centered Learning: Although we didn’t talk about this too much, it is really important that we help our students find their intrinsic motivation. This is what I believe to be at the core of a results based classroom, especially when talking about online ELT.

An easy way to do this is to make the lessons centered around the interests of your learners. For example, I have one learner who is an athlete (running, rogaining, skiing, and biking!). The materials we use are centered around these topics. By doing this, we talk about things that she is interested in and she also learns the language that she needs to know.

I recently posted a video for my online learners that talks about how to read interesting things and how to subscribe to blogs (click here to watch it).

Social and Mobile Learning: As I mentioned in our discussion, I convince my students to change the language of their devices into English, and use these devices to read, listen, and watch things in English.

This really helps when it comes to getting the input needed to make progress in English. People are going to use these devices; as educators we need to think about ways to use this to our and our student’s advantage.

Twitter: Mark has given me the motivation to follow more discussions on Twitter and to use this platform for professional development. If you follow Marks advice, you will get so much out of this platform.

Resources Mentioned in Our Discussion

You can follow Mark on Twitter and check out his blog: Brilliant or Insane.

Here are Mark’s books:

Role Reversal

The Five Minute Teacher

Teaching the iStudent

And, here is the website Learn it in 5.

I also mentioned the Twitter discussion #ELTchat, you can find out more information about this here.

Mark talked about Daniel Pink and his book Drive (I’ve just ordered it – I’ve been wanting to get this for a while now), and research from Alfie Kohn.

Over to You

I would love to hear your feedback on student centered learning, social and mobile learning, and narrative feedback. Here are some questions:

How do you keep a narrative feedback with your learners?
How are you incorporating devices into learning?
How are you bringing out your learners’ intrinsic motivation?

Please leave your comments below; I really appreciate them.

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Rich Kiker Interview

Using Google Products and Apps to Teach Online: An Interview with Rich Kiker

Rich Kiker was one of the presenters at the Teachers Teaching Online MOOC hosted over at WizIQ. I learned a lot watching his presentation, and as the number one voted Google Apps Trainer in the world, I was eager to interview him so he could share his knowledge and experience with us online English teachers.

In the interview I ask Rich about using free Google products and apps as a way to connect and collaborate with our learners. I have used many of these products and know how useful and effective they can be when teaching online.

There’s a lot of value in this interview, and below the video I summarize what we talk about, post some resources, and expand on the ideas.

Here is the video interview:

What We Discussed

We talked about several different Google products and applications during the interview. Let’s start with Hangouts.

Hangouts

We started by discussing how to connect with learners online using Hangouts. I was using Google Hangouts on Air (I wrote about this here) for the interview, and Rich talked about the distinction between Hangouts and Hangouts on Air.

Hangouts on Air are live events where you want to reach a big audience (or to record the interview like I did), while a private Hangout is what you need to teach your one-to-one or group lessons online.

Rich talked about the different features of Hangouts, especially how we can integrate Google Drive.

“What’s beautiful about Hangouts… it also has its own mini app platform. When you’re in a Hangout, on the left of the screen, you can see a range of tools.. you can share Youtube videos, and watch a Youtube video together in theatre view… there are screen sharing apps… I think, for this audience doing online instruction, the most powerful feature is the direct drive integration.”

Here is how to use Google Drive inside of a hangout:

 

Hangout Google Drive Integration

Google Drive

Rich talks about Google Drive and highlights two big picture features:

1. The anytime, anywhere access. The ability to use a cloud based application and work with students no matter where you are or what device you are using.

“The any time any place access is critical, especially when we have students using mobile devices.”

2. Using Google Drive as a way to collaborate with learners, both live and asynchronously. This is both for written and audio feedback.

“Online… is a better platform for delivering feedback and providing quality assessment to students to have second chance learning, and evaluate writing, and also to give them the opportunity to provide revisions.”

Here is the application that Rich mentioned so that you can leave audio feedback for your learners, and vice-versa: Kaizena. This is something that I’m going to start using with my students.

There are other add-ons that you can find through Google Drive. Here is how to find them:

Add ons Google Drive(1)

Google Plus

I then asked Rich about Google Plus and how an online teacher could use this platform to communicate with learners and attract students. He mentioned a guide from Eric Curts as an easy way to get started: click here to access this.

Rich gives a great tip about to to find those within your niche: search and go into communities that are already active and then…

“… like any other social network, like Twitter or LinkedIn, you gain value by adding value.”

You can build your network by adding people to your circles (like following/friending someone on Facebook). You can ask people to share their favourite circles, and start networking within this community.

Just like any platform, it’s all about becoming familiar with how it works, connecting with others, and adding value. Here is what Google Plus looks like (when searching for communities):

Google Plus Communities

Chromebooks

Rich was using a Chromebook for this interview, and said:

“I absolutely would recommend a Chromebook to anyone in an online space.. there’s no anti-virus, it turns on in eight seconds, there’s no versions, it’s always on the latest update and updates don’t cost anything.”

Rich goes onto to say that they are much more powerful than people give them credit for and he actually replaced his thousand dollar computer with a Chromebook..

I found it really interesting when he talked about the difference between local and cloud based applications, and how companies are moving their applications to the web. I feel that getting a Chromebook is a great option for those who want a low cost device as it has everything a teacher needs to teach online.

(Note: A Chromebook is a laptop that uses Chrome OS. Applications such as Skype, iTunes, and Photoshop can’t be used on this device. Any browser or cloud based applications can be used, including: Hangouts for teaching online, Pixlr for editing photos, and Google Drive for spreadsheets and documents.)

The Chromebook that Rich uses is currently available for under $300. Here is more information about this.

Conclusion and Discussion

Although Rich and I only talked about Google products and apps, I think this interview really highlights the progress in tools available to online teachers and learners in general.

Two points really stood out for me: firstly, the fact that applications and work in general is moving from the local space to the cloud, and secondly that collaborating with learners online through the tools mentioned is in many ways more effective than traditional teaching methods.

I would love to know your thoughts on these issues and the other things that we discussed. Also, if you have used any of these tools, then please let us know how you are using them and any tricks and tips that you have. For example, how would you use a tool such as Kaizena?

Leave your comments below.

You can connect with Rich through Twitter and Google Plus: @rkiker and +richkiker.

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SEO for Teachers

SEO for Teachers: How to Get Your Website Ranked Highly in the Search Engines

SEO for Teachers

It takes less work than you think

Wednesday, 25th April was a strange day for me. And for countless other people too. When I checked my website analytics I thought there was a mistake. I was used to getting 500+ visits a day to my website, the vast majority of these coming through Google search. But only 98 visited. What was going on?

I immediately went to an SEO (search engine optimization) forum to see if this had happened to others. General chaos. It seemed like everyone had lost traffic to their site. There was anger and frustration, and people didn’t really know what was happening.

I checked my analytics the next day and the traffic hadn’t come back. I went back onto the forum and people were talking about a big nasty penguin (the update that Google made to their algorithm was called, “The Penguin Update”).

The search traffic that (I thought) I relied on to get new students, they told me on the forum, wasn’t going to come back any time soon. I was feeling lost and wasn’t sure what to do. I was reading comment after comment from people who had their income slashed overnight due to this one update. I was feeling their pain and nodding along to the posts full of anger. But out of nowhere there was a comment that changed everything.

The comment went something like, “If you base your entire business model on one form of lead generation, especially when this is something as volatile as SEO, then you only have yourself to blame.”

I was firstly in denial, but after a couple of days of comment repeating in my head, it started to really resonate. And it was then when I used different methods to get learners to sign up to lessons with me.

What I Was Doing Wrong

SEO for teachers

Steadily building and then.. DROP!

Once I got some composure back after the initial shock, I took a little time to think about what to do next. I also thought about whether all the SEO work that I did was worth it.

Although I was bringing in 500 learners a day to my site, the percentage of those converting into paying students, quite frankly, terrible. I was getting massive traffic, but I wasn’t getting them to do what I wanted them to do. Why was my conversion rate so low?

– Was what they were reading not good enough?
– Were they coming for the wrong reasons?
– Was I doing a bad job of converting them?

Yes, yes, and yes. I was writing content that was written for the search engines (to make it come higher up in the rankings); I was targeting search terms that weren’t really connected with what I was offering, but instead for terms that were easy to rank; and my conversion tactics were very basic at this stage too.

But what did I learn from this? And should teachers use SEO as a tactic for getting students?

SEO for Teachers

Bringing learners onto your site through the search engines can be incredibly profitable. That is why I spent so much of my time and energy into making this happen for me at the start. But what I was doing to get higher rankings was what caused my sudden drop in rankings.

The good thing about SEO these days is that, on the whole, the things that you should be doing for your website anyway are the same things you should be doing to increase your rankings. There are just a few extra things that you need to put in place first.

Here are some guidelines on what you should do to if you want your website to rank highly (note: I have used these exact tactics to get 2,500 visitors a month to this site through search engines like Google).

Use the Right Search Terms

One of the search terms that brought in the most traffic for my English learning site was “Present perfect simple.” I saw that I could rank highly for this if I did the right (which are now the wrong) things. My hope that it when English learners came to my site that they would see that I offered lessons and want to take them.

But the search term wasn’t exactly targeted. And also my method of converting students at that time was pretty uninspiring. So, it all starts with the right search terms for your niche. And to get this right you have to write about things that are relevant to your audience and what you’re offering.

When I looked at my analytics, my paying customers were coming through search terms like, “Learn English Skype.” Which was exactly what I was offering. This is an example of using the right search terms.

Think about what keywords are relevant to your site and then create content based on this.

Optimize Your Website

To ensure that your site ranks highly you need to optimize it for the search engines. Some people go too far with this and their website looks like it has been written for robots. There are ways to achieve readable and engaging copy while at the same time including what you need to include to optimize your site.

There are certain things that you can do that are quite easy to implement; this includes: having a quick site, the right plugins, a clear menu, and having keywords (the search terms people use) in your title and text. This is much easier to do now when using WordPress, as the themes that I recommend have all of this already built in.

Write Great Content

This is a must for anyone with a website, and not just for SEO. Google’s job is to have the best content at the top of the search results, and they have some pretty smart ways to calculate what is good content and what isn’t (note: they are getting better at this all the time.)

It is your job to write really engaging content on your site. Assuming that you are targeting the right keywords, then this is the area I recommend spending your most time and creative energy on.

If your content is excellent, people will share it, spend more time reading it, and will link to it. When people do this, they are telling Google that your content is worth showing in their search results. And your website will climb up the rankings.

If it Feels Wrong, Don’t Do It

My initial thought back in 2010, when I read that having links pointing back to your site is the most important factor when it comes to ranking, was, “Well, let’s get some links!”

I quickly found ways to automate this process and have hundreds of links pointing to my site. That is why I got the infamous Google Slap. What I was doing didn’t feel right, and I ignored anyone who said that it was going to come back and haunt me.

Now, I just concentrate on having my website optimized, write the best content I can, and share what I write in the right ways. If you build it and share it, links will follow.

The 80/20 Rule

What it comes down to is this: being high in the rankings can do amazing things for our teaching business. Getting targeted visitors through Google and other search engines means that you can expand your teaching business by hiring other teachers and/or offering different courses and products.

But it takes time to get to this stage, and if you try to force it, you will most likely get penalized in the long-term. The amount of time I spend doing or thinking about SEO is very limited now, and what brings me results is what I should be doing anyway (writing my best stuff, sharing it, connecting with others etc.).

It makes me cringe thinking about what I used to do, and the drop in rankings was a blessing in disguise as it helped me realize that I was focusing on the wrong things.

So, take a long-term view and relax knowing that if you do the right things that your site will climb up the rankings, bringing in targeted organic traffic. And more clients/sales along with it.

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