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ELT NEWS

influencers2021

  • ELT 2021 Influencers: Elisavet Veliou

    Elisavet, has a BA in English Language and Literature (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and an MA in Cinema Studies (University of Bristol, UK).  Her areas of expertise are teaching English through films as well as experiential learning and teaching very young learners. Her school got the Silver award for Innovation in Education at the Education Leaders Awards 2019 and she got the 2020 ELT Excellence Awards for her School's programme "My little House of English" for teaching English to very young learners.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world, teaching and ELT forever. That is a fact. For many of us though it has been the reason why we evolved, transformed and reinvented ourselves as teachers and school managers. E-learning has been developed greatly with the introduction of new tools, upgraded platforms, the combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning, which has worked perfectly for students, and the addition of gamification. Students have developed digital skills, enjoy the learning process and look forward to the lessons. Distances are limited and now language schools have students from all over Greece; sometimes from all over the world.


    We, as educators, discovered new ways of getting the message across, new ways of approaching education and new ways of assessing our students as well. We had to step out of our comfort zone, find web tools and involve kinaesthetic activities that would place the learner in the centre of the learning process. We managed to deliver student-centred online lessons making e-learning an engaging student-centred experience. Teachers in Greece aspired to make online lessons similar to their face-to-face lessons. And WE did it!


    The huge success of this major step will have an amazing impact on the face-to-face lessons as well, if we take advantage of it. If we managed to succeed in having active learners in online lessons, imagine how successful we could be if we implemented all these things we’ve learned, in our face-to-face lessons combined with the experiential learning methodology. This would be the new trend in language teaching; a combination of all the valuable knowledge gained during the time of the pandemic from the online lessons with the magic of the experiential learning approach. We could create experiences in the classroom which would unleash students’ creativity, promote collaboration even outside of the classroom and create autonomous learners.


    Although things in the field have developed greatly, there are still issues that remain unsolved. Language schools still function as test centres. Grammar is still thought to be the most important aspect in teaching, learning and assessing language. Assessment is mostly summative with parents and teachers considering marks and scores the only things that matter when assessing a student’s progress. This is not 21st century Education. This is not Education at all. We teach language and we should make it an enjoyable experience by exposing our students to the target language as much as possible. If we, as teachers, create the conditions and teach the language holistically, learning will be achieved. We should promote critical thinking by focusing on the things that matter. Students, should be able to express themselves in the target language, be who they really are and say what they want to say. Our students are not score reports. They are rebels, poets, directors, actors, script writers, orators. They are the future generation which, hopefully, will change the world. Let’s teach them this way.

  • ELT 2021 INFLUENCERS
    Author: Anastasia Spyropoulou

    Major changes are happening in ELT triggering new educational models and transformations. New technologies are being developed creating opportunities and challenges for the sector. In this issue we accommodate the views of some of the most influential FLS owners and practicing teachers whose innovative and creative ideas have had an impact on the ELT scene in our country: deeper learning (learning without the use of textbooks), experiential learning, the flipped classroom approach, Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), and gamification to name just a few. All these approaches have been trialled, practiced, and implemented successfully in various institutions across Greece and beyond.


    ELT NEWS gave them the following questions:

    1. What are the current trends in English language teaching?
    2. What are the current trends in the development of technology in e-learning?
    3. What are the new trends in teaching?
    4. What are the current issues in language education?

    Enjoy reading!

    ELT 2021 Influencers: Elisavet Veliou

    ELT 2021 Influencers: Mike Kenteris

    ELT 2021 Influencers: Maria Davou

    ELT 2021 Influencers: Natassa Manitsa

    ELT 2021 Influencers: Evangelia Vassilakou

    ELT 2021 Influencers: Dimitris Primalis

     

  • ELT 2021 Influencers: Dimitris Primalis

    Dimitris Primalis (M.A. in Education) is an EFL teacher and teacher trainer. He is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow and was recently appointed as “Innovation and Best Practices Days” project manager at Doukas school. 

    What are the current trends in English language teaching?


    Elearning, in various forms such as blended, hybrid and online, seems to be the dominant trend these days. Once treated as science fiction, the Flipped classroom approach (introducing the lesson through videos that learners watch at home and exploiting the time in class to work with the students on practicing and answering their questions) is gaining ground. Even though a few years ago, some teacher trainers vilified it, gamification through applications such as Kahoot, and Quizizz are very popular as they enable educators to engage learners in some of the most boring parts of a lesson. Teachers have also started to discover the opportunity to exploit the data/statistics these applications offer so that they can assess their learners’ strengths and weaknesses on individual and class basis.


    What are the current trends in the development of technology in e-learning?


    How would you feel if someone monitored closely your learners’ performance and notified you immediately if it declined? Artificial Intelligence and Learning Analytics are being developed to assist teachers rather than replace them. There is also an increasing demand for experiential learning which boosts Immersive learning with Virtual Reality (constructed reality), and Augmented Reality that enhances the views of real life objects.

    What are the new trends in teaching?


    Even though 21st century skills are not new, incorporating less popular skills such as digital literacies and digital citizenship are being incorporated swiftly in the curriculum. Two other trends are real life problem solving and personalized learning. The latter can be supported by technology as it offers learners the opportunity to access a wide range of resources that appeal to their personal learning goals, aptitude and skills. Last but not least, there is a tendency to support a more humanistic approach to teaching with emphasis on inclusion, life skills, raising awareness on social issues as well as facilitating learner engagement, and critical and creative thinking skills.


    What are the current issues in language education?


    Teachers and students suffer from fatigue mainly due to the unstable learning environment which switches from online to hybrid, and “brick and mortar” classrooms within short notice. This is exacerbated by the lack of sufficient, in-depth training of teachers and planning which is based on face-to-face teaching rather than blended and online. In addition, the digital gap between learners and teachers, and among educators even in the same school is evident. The past year is expected to have long term effects on our approach to teaching EFL. As soon as this academic year is over, we need to redefine norms and assess which elements of e-Learning should be kept or enhanced and which ones should be discarded so that we can cater best for the needs of our students in the next academic year. •

     

     

  • ELT 2021 Influencers: Evangelia Vassilakou

    Evangelia Vassilakou has a BA degree in Philosophy from Deree College, The American College of Greece and an MA degree in Applied Linguistics from Hellenic American University with a high distinction. She has also been nominated as a PhD candidate in Applied Linguistics (HAU). Evangelia is a committed and goal-driven educator with 20 years’ experience in the EFL field and documented success in providing mentally stimulating activities and materials that make excellent student profiles ensuring the development of academic, business and life skills. 

    The pandemic crisis has drastically transformed realities in the process of second language acquisition. The agenda of current trends in English language teaching in the New Normal Era heralds the distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.


    The online mode of instruction has changed the role both of students and teachers. Learners have become co-presenters as they are expected to create and share content with their educators and classmates. Educators favor the application of virtual formative and summative assessments trying to identify problematic zones of students. The current trend in the digital era is a data-informed culture or a data-driven discovery in education with a transformative impact in the existing assessment modes.
    Revolutionary education technology ranging from language web apps to online learning software dictates the usage of learning analytics. Online real time data metrics can be conducive to access to learning behavior measures and student behavior rather than performance; improvement of learning materials and tools by offering an objective evaluation of learning tools; individualized learning to customize course content for each learner via continuous individual feedback; prediction of student performance; visualization of the learning activities in a digital ecosystem and production of exported visual reports during the learning process. Hence, teachers are given the opportunity to leverage learning efficiency.


    Character education as the component of Social and Emotional Learning also promotes core virtues, empathy, moral commitment, ethical reasoning, and personal integrity. There is essentiality in the values in learning analytics since students are real and diverse individuals, rather than mere data or information. The professionals’ moral imperative is transparency regarding the policies and procedures for collection, access, and use of student learning data namely, privacy or confidentiality in the data governance policy.


    Digital citizenship is also an integral part of character development as learners can internalize how to respect digital property, abstain from downloading illegally, and avoid plagiarism. Complying with the digital netiquette can certainly increase the media competence and high order critical thinking skills of students but more importantly raise students’ awareness of wise usage of the widespread technologies. In other words, to imbue the seed of growing philosophical debate around what our values as individuals are. We need a redirected value system to avoid the impending technological singularity-a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in changing classroom cultures and loss of a sustainable humanity.


    It can also be argued that new trends in teaching have already emerged. The so-called holograms are a tangible reality. World's first holographic university lecture occurred at Imperial College Business School, where life size presence lecturers made learning feel more personal than a regular video screen. The two-dimensional static representation does not reflect the natural world anymore, which is three-dimensional. Holographic teachers and their three-dimensional virtual image onto the real environment can increase connectivity with students and rehumanize the two-dimensional Zoom, Skype, or Cisco Webex self in online distance learning. The big question, however, is “where to go next?”•

  • ELT 2021 Influencers: Maria Davou

    Maria is a school owner, teacher, teacher trainer and researcher. She has a BA in Philosophy, Cambridge DELTA, an MA in TESOL, St Michael’s College, Vermont, and has studied for a PhD in Applied Linguistics at Lancaster University, UK. She is now completing her Doctorate degree in Athens. She held an ESRC research award. She has more than twenty-five years’ experience in teaching, teacher training and syllabus design in Greece, the UK and the US. She is a language school owner in Athens, promoting alternative and experiential models of teaching. She is an international trainer and academic consultant for publishing companies, private schools and Ministries of Education.

    What are the current trends in English language teaching?

    The current trends in the world or the current trends in Greece? These are two totally differently things! Looking at the big picture, I’d say that there’s a great push towards innovation but this has taken (not?) surprisingly two distinct yet parallel turns: technological innovation hand in hand with humanistic innovation. So what I see is a lot of storytelling, Project Based Learning, CLIL, teaching outside the 4 walls, experiential learning along with web-tools, gamification, remote learning and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). As for our context, the current trend hasn’t changed much: grammar-based syllabi and exam-prep methodology. I’m hoping for a brighter, more learner-centered future.


    What are the current trends in the development of technology in e-learning?


    We’ve been using technology as an integral part of our lesson for 7-8 years now. In fact, we tell students that they have to bring their mobile or tablet in class, instead of banning it. I’m definitely not a tech expert (like my colleague Mike Kenteris) but being an educator, I think our classrooms should be reflecting the world, they are essentially tiny replicas of the world out there. So a tech-loaded world cannot truly be reflected in tech-free classrooms. Just that as educators, we need to use technology and e-learning for the benefit of our learners: How can it inspire them? How can we help them transform from passive consumers of screen time to active co-constructors of the tech-game?


    What are the new trends in teaching?


    Learner-centered and even learner-led approaches with fewer ready-made materials and more learner emergent topics. Teaching anything from anything! Exploring learners’ own questions should and will be what guides our syllabi. Look at a bridge: let’s see what the bridge can teach us! From one bridge, we can talk about Physics, Geography, History, English, Empathy, Tolerance, Philosophy, everything… From one bridge we can talk about the world outside of us and inside of us. And I have the feeling that this is the future of education: an interdisciplinary approach where a bridge, a cloud, a nut or running water can spark a whole exploration of the world! And this is what we do in our Deeper Learning program.


    What are the current issues in language education?


    Standardized testing. Too much testing. Too many tests.
    Poor quality materials. Coursebooks that are really glorified grammar books.


    Teachers’ role: who do we want to be? How much voice and choice do we give to our students?
    Teachers’ education and development: do teachers want to change and get better? Attending seminars and talks is not enough if you stick to who you were before doing them. Are we open to change? Are we agents of change? Teachers blame it on the parents but we are the experts, we need to make choices and educate parents to accept them. I see a lot of outdated approaches and it makes me sad. Being an optimist by nature though, I can also see that differentiating your self and your school from your context, opting for what is scientifically and pedagogically sound pays off: happy learners, happy parents and happy teachers!•

     

  • ELT 2021 Influencers: Mike Kenteris

    Dr Mike Kenteris is a learner, an educator, and a language school owner. Passionate about integrating learning technologies and gamification through active learning strategies to empower student engagement and build strong learning communities. His academic achievements include an M.Eng, M.Sc, and has a PhD in Mobile learning systems and context-aware computing. He is also a TESOL EVO Moderator for the Flipped learning in Language Teaching session.

    It has been over a year now since the beginning of the pandemic and we still do not know what is going to be the new norm for the English language teaching sector come September. Will we be in our physical classrooms? Will all our students be present in our classrooms? What will our students be like when they return? I suggest that we have to rethink things over.

    Indeed, to be able to keep our students interested and fused in our digital classes most of us have made tremendous efforts. Apart from adopting new ways of teaching online, the utilization of digital tools and applications have surged amid the covid crisis and this has helped keep our students connected and engaged. Admittedly, this upward surge of progression in educational technology has also triggered a thirst in the business world. This means that the more technologies and tools incorporating the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) continue to become available, the more your job as a teacher becomes easier. The question that arises in everybody’s head is ‘will our students need us if the use of AI in digital tools becomes that easy’? Notwithstanding, this is yet to be proven and the future is not all that doom and gloom some make it out to be. Still, if you are going to keep your old ways being at the front of the stage in your classroom and not transform yourself into a teacher of the 21st century, well, I am not sure what the future holds.

    Henceforth, the answer lies in what you believe your job as a teacher is and this has nothing to do with the pandemic. Do you still believe that our students are empty vessels that need filling? But, is it not the norm for students to hook up to Youtube and find answers to anything and everything? While students still do depend on us to coach them and plan their learning, it is our job as teachers to evolve and adapt to their times. Like most like-minded teachers out there, I believe that active learning environments are the way forward. Only by creating flexible learning spaces both in our physical classrooms and in our digital space, will we be able to differentiate our teaching and reach all our students.

    Looking forward, the need for choice is going to be ever so imminent. Whether it be students who are online because of not being able to attend physical classes yet, or the need to cater for students who could not attend class temporarily staying home a week for precautionary measures. Planning for a school-wide master plan to integrate a digital community platform and moving towards a school-wide pedagogical upgrade using more of the Flipped learning approach is integral; as is the need for preparation and for teacher training, and this has to start early if you are to prepare your school for the next school year.

    Concluding, I share with you that one of the basic components of the Flipped learning approach is to keep teacher talk time to a minimum, assigning anything to do with the ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Comprehension’ stages of Bloom’s taxonomy before class and taking advantages of class time to dig deeper into learning. Food for thought… why not leave the easy stuff to google and concentrate more on building more meaningful relationships with your students that will definitely lead to a deeper learning experience? •

  • ELT 2021 Influencers: Natassa Manitsa

     

    Natassa holds a BA in Educational Psychology (University of Athens), a Diploma in Translation and British Studies (Institute of Linguists, London) ,a Diploma in Digital and Social Media Marketing (American College, Greece) and an MSc in School Psychology (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK). She has worked as a teacher, a school owner, a teacher trainer, a director of studies, an author and translator for more than 25 years.
    For the last 12 years, she is the Media & Communications Manager of Express Publishing, a Senior Teacher Trainer and the Chief Editor of the Teacher’s Corner site of Express Publishing. She is also the creator, producer, and co-presenter of the educational podcasts in Teacher's Coffee.

    Every time I am asked whether English language teaching has changed because of the global pandemic and the unprecedented challenges we are all facing, my answer is skeptical and comes to this conclusion: nothing has changed and nothing will stay the same. An oxymoron? Yes! Exactly like everything that we have been living over the past year.


    The oxymoron that I tend to resort to when I think of solutions for what is to come, is because I strongly believe that Covid-19 is just the cherry on a cake made of problems, insufficient training, superficial and fast-food solutions and a lot of showing-off and no attention to the very essence of Education, that is to give students true “ownership” of knowledge in all its intellectual, cultural, aesthetic and moral aspects.


    The above paragraph is definitely describing the “nothing has changed” part of my conclusion. Unfortunately, even after a year of this forced online learning, nothing has been done collectively for the crucial support of both teachers and learners as well. Individually, the situation seems a bit better, but the adjustment of online lessons, when left to individuals without a national pre-organized curriculum, is just a subjective decision and nothing more.


    Nevertheless, nothing will stay the same! This blended learning experience and the sudden initiation of extensive technology use calls for immediate action on behalf of the teachers mostly, and then the students themselves, that seem a bit more positive to the new era of language learning.


    So what is this new era?
    - Promotion of world-wide scientific literacy and digital citizenship: By spending so much time online, misinformation and simplistic solutions to problems should thoroughly be explained and practiced in our ELT curriculum. Not just theoretically but with proactive lesson plans, dealing with real case scenarios – don’t we have so many recent examples to use?


    - Experiential Learning: Everybody loves the term; very few actually use it! The usual question: online how? Stimulate concrete experiences through online templates, LMS platforms, Gamification, open-ended quiz questions, reflective questions, sharing videos with emotions, reactions to art, poetry, literature… I could go on forever!


    - Social learning: We’ve missed each other; we need some kind of social contact. Create communities for your students, groups, pages, chat threads – everything under your supervision in a controlled environment. Just get the conversations going!


    - Solidarity to end inequality: Give students examples, explain to them, ask for their opinion on current hot topics, urge them to make presentations and also be an activist… with them, for them. This is knowledge for life that we shouldn’t be afraid to touch upon and the world is now, more than ever, ready for that change!


    One thing is for sure: we cannot return to Language Teaching and Education as it was before. It’s not just a switch from online to offline. The change has content and meaning. And the choice is one: what kind of teacher do you want to be? An observer or a game-changer? •

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