Interview Stephen Mayeaux

Hip Hop, Making Connections, and Online Courses: An Interview With Stephen Mayeaux

In this post, I interview my friend Stephen Mayeaux over at ESLHipHop.com.

Stephen started his blog after his experience teaching an elective course at UC Davis.

His main focus at the university was academic preparation, but in his elective, he was free to do something different. This is when he started using hip hop in the classroom.

In this interview, we go deep with his use of hip hop with his English learners, the feedback he has received on this, how he got started online, and then, we learn about a new course he is creating for a specific niche.

Watch in HD!

Interview Notes and Resources

We start off with how we connected, and briefly talked about the importance of making connections when working online.

I love how he talks about the struggles he had when he first started using hip hop in the classroom. This was mainly due to the cultural differences, and he gave the example about his Japanese students not understanding the social issues of the police in the U.S.

He had his friend help him create his site using WordPress (he is now quite adept with coding). The feedback he received from the lessons he created was really positive, both from teachers and students.

He blasted 100 lessons out in the first year, but has slowed down his output since to about one lesson per month.

Using Hip Hop in English Lessons

If you want to use hip hop in the class, he recommends going back in time to the old school era, for example, The Beastie Boys and MC Hammer. Additionally, he recommends using the hook and the chorus of modern hip hop.

I really wanted to know about the response Stephen has had about using hip hop in the classroom. I love his answer to this: he is focusing on his students and what they can get out of it, and that, haters gonna hate! But generally speaking, he hasn’t received much negativity.

A Course for a Specific Niche

We then moved on to what Stephen is currently doing; he is in Korea at right now working for a local school – we talked about how they are trying to introduce new teaching methods there.

He has a new video course coming out in March in a very specialized niche: OPIC. It’s not a very well known exam, but after seeing that his students were asking for more help in this area, he decided to create something for them.

He is completely engrossed in this process, and is learning new things each day about what creating a course entails. Stephen said something key about how he is creating the materials for his course:

“…Listening to my students, their concerns, and what they really want.”

He is creating the content for his course based on what his learners are asking for.

We then talked about deadlines and the power of setting a specific deadline (his deadline is March 14/15th – he wants you to hold him to this!).

He has hired a freelance marketer to help him with the marketing side of things. I then talked about outsourcing, and specifically, the two types of tasks to outsource: tasks that you are not skilled at and don’t want to learn; and also the mundane and repetitive tasks.

In my case, outsourcing the transcripts for my course helped me in a great way.

We then moved on to social media, and how he uses Facebook and LinkedIn. We focused on using these platforms to make and maintain connections. An example he gave was connecting with Gallery Languages and how they have partnered on many projects.

Here is an example of one of the video’s he mentioned:

Over to You

Have you used hip hop or other music genres in your lessons? Have you thought about creating a course for English learners?

Answer these questions and/or leave any other comments below…

You can connect with Stephen by using the contact form over at ESLHipHop.com. You can also connect with him on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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teach English online using Zoom

A Review of Zoom.us for Teaching Online Lessons and How to Create AMAZING Lessons (2020)

(Updated for 2020.)

I’ve been using Zoom (affiliate link) since 2014 when I started teaching group lessons.

I have noticed that more online teachers are using this software to deliver their lessons and to connect with anyone remotely.

In the videos below, I talk about the different features that you can use with Zoom (including one that works like a whiteboard). I also go through my recommend equipment to make your lessons sound and look better.

Video Summary

First, click here are my recommendations for audio, lighting, and video.

The dashboard for Zoom is really simple and easy to use. Here is what you can do:

  • Start a lesson with or without your video (you can turn your video on and off during the lesson/meeting)
  • Schedule a meeting
  • Join a meeting

When you schedule a meeting, you can choose to make it recurring. This is a great option to have for learners who take lessons at a set time each week.

You will receive a meeting ID and a link when you schedule a lesson, and this can be shared with your student(s). Additionally, you can automatically add it to your online calendar.

If you use something like Calendly, you can automatically set up meetings when someone books a lesson with you. Here’s a video on that.

Your learner will need to download Zoom to be able to connect with you.

Settings

There are many settings inside Zoom; the vast majority are similar to other video conferencing software (like audio, video etc.).

The recording feature is something I highlighted in the video. You are able to record your lessons automatically to a specified folder.

It also saves an audio file too if that’s something you want to use.

The Class Experience

Here is what you can do during your lesson with Zoom:

  • Chat
  • Use video
  • Share your screen
  • Use annotations while you’re sharing your screen or use the whiteboard
  • Share your computer audio; this is a great feature when playing a video

Zoom is free to use for most uses. The only reason to upgrade is if you are taking group lessons that last over 40 minutes and/or you want to use it for a webinar.

Reasons to Use Zoom

There are many advantages to using Zoom:

  • The quality of the call is much better compared to other video conferencing software
  • The annotations for screen sharing is very useful
  • It is lightweight with no real problems/bugs
  • You can create recurring meetings and use the same link for your learners

The one drawback is that it isn’t well known. This means that you will have to educate your learners on how to use it, and they will have to download the application first.

But this can be easily done through a one page PDF or quick video that you can give your learners with instructions on what to do.

Recommended Equipment for Better Lessons

Think about three things here:

  1. Audio
  2. Lighting
  3. Video quality

These are in the list of importance. Good audio is the most important thing. Lighting is second. Then, video quality.

I recommend getting a good external microphone. It makes all the difference for the person/people on the other end.

Next up is lighting. Controlling your lighting is key. We don’t need to break the bank here (my recommendations are below).

And finally, video quality is important too. Your internal webcam might be okay, but you might want to consider getting an external camera.

See all my recommendations here (budget options too!).

Try Zoom here (affiliate link).

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Interview with Teacher Diane

Interview With a Location Independent Online English Teacher – Teacher Diane

Teacher Diane is someone who I have been following online for the last year or so.

So, it was a nice surprise when she reached out to me to connect. I soon realized that I wanted to give her the platform here at Teaching ESL Online to share her story and the valuable advice she has for other online teachers.

In our interview, Diane shares with us her experience of being a location independent online English teacher, and how she has managed to build up a large student base.

As you’ll see, she has some creative ways (and tools) to teach her lessons and make videos for her followers.

Here is the interview (watch in HD):

If you would like to teach English online, click here.

What We Discussed

Diane started teaching English five years ago, firstly in Brazil and then in Chicago. After two years of teaching in the language school in Chicago, she got the travel bug and decided to start her own website so that she could teach and travel at the same time.

Making the Transition

Diane was a little hesitant at first, but started with an old student and realized that she could do more online than in the classroom – screen sharing, links etc. – and she found that is was more comfortable to teach at home.

Diane uses a Wacom Tablet for her teaching, writing and drawing on this tablet. Her learners can see this on their screens along with her webcam.

She also uses the tablet to make her very unique videos for Youtube; here is an example:

Bringing Learners onto Her Website and Into Her Lessons

Youtube has been one the best sources of students for Diane, and she places a link at the start of each video and also in the description box under the video to bring people onto her site.

We then talked about putting ourselves out there on video, and how it can be strange to hear your own voice at first. I know this can be a concern for teachers when starting out, but this does become easier the more you do it.

Diane now schedules her posts on Facebook and batches this work every Sunday. She has three types of posts: a question post, something humorous, and then a post with a link back to her website.

She uses Facebook to build her brand and also to give more exposure to her videos and other materials.

Planning Lessons and Hiring Other Teachers

Diane has a tailored approach to her lessons where she is specific to each student, although she does have certain students who fall into a similar category. She has build up many resources over the years.

Diane has contracted other teachers to help with her workload, hiring teachers who she has met on her travels.

Plans for the Future

Diane’s plans are to focus on marketing her website and learn more about SEO and social media marketing.

She plans to create other sites for specific types of learners (English for doctors, for example). And in the long-term, she wants to write a grammar book and open a language school in the US.

Summary and Over to You

It’s great to see how successful Diane has been with her online teaching and her site does a great job at converting learners into paying students.

One thing that I took away from our interview is this: if you put quality stuff out there, work hard at it, and stay consistent, you are going to get rewarded.

At first, it might seem like you’re doing a lot for small reward; but as you build up momentum, you’ll start seeing some really good results, and have opportunities to hire others and expand just like Diane has done.

Please comment below to let me know your thoughts on this interview. I’m really interested to read what you have to say about this.

About Diane:

Diane is an English teacher from New York with over five years of experience teaching English to students from all over the world.  She is the Founder of teacherdiane.com, a website that provides personalized English lessons on Skype.  You can watch her English grammar tutorials or follow her Facebook group, Learn English on Skype.

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Google Drive Youtube Thumbnail

Using Google Drive to Collaborate With Learners Online (Including Audio Feedback)

There are many reasons to use Google Drive as an English teacher.

Personally, I use it for all my documents and spreadsheets which make running my online teaching business much easier.

But in the video below, I specifically look at how you can use Google Documents, Google Presentations, and a very special add-on to work with your students asynchronously.

These tools can be used whether you teach online or offline, and I hope it gives you some ideas of how you can work asynchronously with your learners.

Here is the video:

Use Google Drive for Writing Projects, Audio, and Presentations

In the video, I gave three examples of how you can use Google Drive with your learners.

Google Docs

I explained how to share a document (easy, right?), and then showed a project that one of my students worked on last year.

The idea to do this came from my interview with Mark Barnes (see here), where I asked my learner what type of project he wanted to do. I left it open, explained that it would be a long-term project, and he came back to me with his idea for a book.

Over the next few weeks, he added another chapter (about one page) to his book, and I corrected his work – which he could see through the revision history – and also commented on specific parts of the text to open up a discussion on certain points.

Something that I didn’t mention was that after correcting his work, I formed some questions based on the mistakes he made so he could practice specific structures in the following one-to-one lesson.

Kaizena

Kaizena was recommended to me by Rich Kiker (see his interview here), and although I have only used it on a couple of occasions, I see huge potential with this add-on for Google Docs.

Some ideas for using this with your learners are:

– To give general feedback on a task or project
– To collaborate with your learner on their pronunciation
– To give more speaking practice

If you’re looking for something a little more detailed for speaking feedback, I recommend SoundCloud (example below),

Google Presentations

One of my long-term students had a presentation to give for a job interview last autumn (did you notice American English creeping in during the video?).

We used Google Presentations to work together on this. Firstly, he wrote his presentation and his notes, and I then corrected his mistakes in the slides and gave feedback using the comment feature.

In addition, we used SoundCloud so I could give him feedback on his spoken presentation.

(Note: He got the job!)

Instead of taking a one-to-one lesson, it was much more efficient and effective for us to use Google Presentation and SoundCloud.

Over to You

Have you used Google Drive to collaborate with your students?

If so, or if you have any thoughts on this at all, please leave a comment below.

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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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Best Platforms for Teaching Online

Want to Teach Online? Here Are Four Platforms that You Can Use

In my last post, I talked about how to use Google Hangouts on Air to teach live language lessons to an unlimited amount of people.

Since then, I have received a lot of questions from people in my community about what platform is best to use when teaching one-to-one or small group lessons.

Most people start using Skype, and when I first started, this was the only real platform that was available. But, over the past few years many more platforms have been introduced, and recently I’ve been using Google Hangouts, Zoom, and WizIQ.

In this post I’m going to go through the four options and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each. Let’s start with the most popular: Skype.

Skype

Skype Logo

Skype is the most used option when it comes to facilitating one-to-one lessons, and is actually the main advantage of using Skype as most of your potential students will either have it or will have heard of it. There are two versions: free and premium.

With the free version you can:

– Call anyone who as a Skype account.
– Send instant and video messages.
– Take part in group calls (only using two webcams).

To get group video calls and screen sharing you will need to upgrade to the premium service ($9.99 per month).

I’ve been using Skype for years now, and it’s only been the last couple of months that it’s started to freeze, crash, and have other problems. I still use it for my long-term students, but I’m starting to teach new students on other platforms due to the technical problems, and also because it is a little limited.

The quality of the calls is good on the whole, and from experience, it compares with Google Hangouts. I feel the main reason to use Skype is because it’s the most used application out of the three, and many teachers have actually built their brand around it.

Another advantage when using Skype is that it saves all your text chats; this gives you the ability to look at what you have done with students in the past, and also helps you when you’re trying to figure out who an old contact is.

However, to be able to share your screen you have to pay for the premium service. In addition, Skype doesn’t have the features that the other three have, and is pretty basic in this department; for example, to record the lessons you will need to use third party software.

Click here to learn more about Skype

Click here to watch my video on how to use it

(Update July 2014: Skype now includes free group calls and screen sharing)

Google Hangouts

Google Hangout Logo

Not to be confused with Google Hangouts on Air, Google Hangouts is similar to Skype, but is much more fun to use, has no premium version, and has many more features.

Here is what you can do with Google Hangouts (all for free):

– Call anyone with a Google account.
– Use your webcam for video calls.
– Chat using the chat box.
– Share your screen.
– Embed Youtube videos.
– Use a whiteboard (through an application called Cacoo).
– Record the hangout.
– And, you can have fun using Google effects

Google Hangouts Effects
Using the Google Hangout Effects

There are also different apps that you can install and use, with new ones being created all the time.

To start a Google Hangout you need to have a Google Plus account and you have to download the app before getting started.

What I like about Google Hangouts is that there is so much that you do for free, and I imagine that they are going to add more features all the time. The effects at the moment are just a bit of fun, but I hope they add the ability to upload your own backgrounds; this would make role-playing much more effective and engaging (by using backgrounds so that you can practice ordering from cafes, buying tickets, business meetings etc.).

Google Hangouts doesn’t save the chats from the hangouts (at least, I can’t find this option anywhere; they do save the chats that take place outside of the video hangout though).

One way to get around this is to do what my friend Beatriz over at www.nativespanishteacher.com does. She creates a Google document for each student and then opens this during the lesson. She makes notes and the student has the opportunity to add to the document too. It’s like live chatting but within a document, and the chats are automatically saved.

Having to be on Google + to use Hangouts may put some off, but the platform is becoming much more important in the social media market, and I predict this trend to continue.

Click here to find out more about Google Hangouts.

Zoom

Zoom Logo

I learned about Zoom from the guys over at Turks Learn English, and they use this platform for their group lessons. The biggest reason to use Zoom is due to the brilliant connection it offers. I’ve used this for some of my one-to-one and group lessons, and the connection has been much better for me than the connection offered by Skype and Google Hangouts.

With the free plan you can:

– Host HD video and audio lessons.
– Host group lessons (40 minute max).
– Share your screen.
– Embed videos (and play the audio from the video).
– Have private and group chats.
– Schedule and have recurring lessons.
– Kick people out of the meeting (great for lessons with children!).

To get unlimited time for the group lessons (and to get some other features) it costs $9.99 per month. It’s easy to sign up through Google or Facebook, and the application is very small in size and very fast. When you arrange meetings you have the option to make them recurring, and it automatically adds the meetings you arrange to your online calendar of choice.

Here is what the screen looks like after you have downloaded it:

Zoom Cloud Meeting Software

I love Zoom because of the connection; I haven’t had any problems with delay, echoes, or the other annoying audio problems that you sometimes get with Skype and Google Hangouts.

In addition, the free version is great and will give most people everything they need.

Click here to learn more about Zoom (affiliate link)

WizIQ

WizIQ Logo


I’m currently in the middle of teaching my first course on WizIQ, and I gave a couple of lessons as part of the ELT Techniques Course hosted by Jason R Levine in December. So far, I’ve been really impressed with this platform, especially when it comes to facilitating large groups.

Here is what you can do with WizIQ:

– Upload course content (PDFs, videos, power point slides, spreadsheets) so that only those in the course can access them.
– Give live lessons that are automatically recorded, and can be download.
– Give assignments within the course; your students can submit them, and then you can give feedback privately.
– Set multiple choice tests.

The live lessons that I’ve been giving have been in the format of presentations, but you can have up to 6 webcams in one lesson, and also create breakout rooms (where, for example, you pair off your students and they can talk with each other privately during the live class).

Here’s what the classroom looks like:

Wiz IQ Classroom

In the main area you can share your screen, upload presentations, videos etc., or use the whiteboard. On the right you can see the live chat with my face above that. Another feature that I like is the ability to create and publish polls during the class.

The plans start at $19 per month, and this presents great value if you are teaching large groups and/or you have a good schedule of smaller groups and one-to-one lessons. I can’t comment too much on the connection because I haven’t used it for video conferencing, but it has worked seamlessly for the presentation style course that I’m currently offering.

Click here to learn more about WizIQ

Which One to Choose?

If you’re just starting out and mainly teaching one-to-one, I would recommend going with one the free options. Most people turn to Skype first, but I think that Zoom and Google Hangouts have the best features, and in Zoom’s case, a much better connection. However, Skype does have the advantage of being the biggest name out of the fours options.

WizIQ is a great option for those who are at the stage where paying the $19 a month for extra features is good value, and especially if you have large groups.

My best advice is to try out the different options, choose one, and then start teaching. You can always change platforms, and even teach using a combination of two or more.

Over to You

Let me know which platform you prefer, whether I’ve missed anything, and if there are other options out there. Leave your comments below.

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

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