Professional Development and Technology: One teacher’s experience with The Consultants-E Blended Cert ICT Course by Katherine Johnson
Professional development has come a long way since I first started teaching in 1981 and my most recent attempt to further mine was last summer when I did a Trinity-validated Blended Cert ICT (Certificate in Teaching Languages with Technology) course with the people at The Consultants-E (www.theconsultants-e.com). I enjoyed it thoroughly and have learnt a lot about ICT (Information and Communications Technology) which I now try to integrate more and more into my classes.
Why did you decide to do this course?
The main reason why I decided to do this course was because after having done both the IH Delta and an MA. in Tesol with Aston University, I felt that I had roughly 15 years left before I could retire and if there were one area where I could/should continue to improve as a teacher, it would be to learn more about technology and its potential in the classroom.
Several factors made me reflect on the increasingly prominent role technology was playing in our field: the first challenge came with the introduction of interactive whiteboards and/or e-beams in my place of work (International House – Seville) a few years ago; I could see how several, mostly younger, co-workers could do basic and not-so-basic things with computers, both in and outside of the classroom, about which I had no idea; and my teenage students’ attention span often seems to be ever shorter and it was my hope that learning more about these digital natives’ world might help me to enhance their learning. It seemed to me that if I didn’t take steps to bridge the gap regarding my limited familiarity with IT, I would find myself left behind and it would be nobody’s fault but my own.
How was the course organized?
My blended learning course was comprised of a 2-week face-to-face (F2F) component, which met 6 hours/day and which flew by as everything was totally hands-on learning, each student with their own laptop and with the guidance of Nicky Hockly, the F2F tutor. And the remaining 10 weeks were conducted online with our other tutor, Carl Dowse. Throughout the course we used a Moodle as our means of communication. We also used a course wiki and occasionally had group video-conferencing sessions. At the end of the course, we each proposed and carried out an ICT-based lesson in order to obtain our official Trinity certification.
What did you learn about on the course?
Ooh…where to start? I, personally, was pleased to learn about what for others was very basic, such as how to make a PowerPoint presentation. Before the course, I didn’t even know where to find it on the computer. Now, I not only know where to find it but I also know how simple it is. I have also discovered www.280slides.com which allows you to make online PPT presentations.
We also looked at, discussed, and worked with the following: Real Movie Player, Picture Manager, blogs, wikis, podcasts, e-assessment and on-line rubric-making sites, e-portfolios, webquests, using mobiles as learning aids, virtual learning environments, IWBs and web tools such as Voxopop, Wordle, Dvolver, VoicTthread, different quiz-making sites and a number of other interesting and useful websites. (I now have an organized list of these on a Word document whereas one of the other course participants keeps track of his on his Delicious account, a site where web bookmarks can be stored and shared. I didn’t know what “Delicious” was before doing this course!
I learned a lot of jargon and became familiar with terms like RSS, jpeg, (Nope. Didn’t even know jpeg), wiki and many more which was also one of my aims: to not feel lost when, at a conference session or in the teachers’ room, IT terms get bandied about as if they were 5th grade vocabulary.
Would you say that the course is especially aimed at teachers who feel they don’t know much about technology?
Not at all. I would like to emphasise that I was impressed how the learners on my course represented an interesting variety of both teaching experience and tech-savvy. Some had been teaching only for a few years but knew a lot about computers and the web, vice-versa and a mixture of the two. The good thing about a course like this is that each can work at his/her own pace. Those who knew more would often help those of us who knew less or would explore other aspects of the tool we would be exploring that day whilst others worked through more basic aspects. Also, the course is not just for teachers. Two school owners-administrator-teachers learned alongside the rest of us full-time teachers.
Any final comments?
Personally, I got a lot out of this course and it has been very rewarding for me to be able to turn my students on to different tools and websites which encourage learner-autonomy, outside the classroom. Adult students are particularly appreciative of this. Oddly enough and to my surprise, although my teen students enjoy using different tools in the classroom, many of them are reluctant to spend any time outside the classroom completing IT-related tasks. It seems that homework is just homework for many of them, no matter what form it takes.
Also, do not think that this course is aimed at computer geeks or very tech-literate folks, as I was neither but if you are either, you’ll probably learn even more. The course does require quite a bit of work but the courses are not long, the tutors are well-organized and professional and the work is fun because it’s all hands-on. I enjoyed having my eyes opened to so many new things.
Once the course is finished and you’re on your own again, it does require discipline, time and curiosity to continue exploring and learning about the potential of the above-mentioned tools. The Consultants-E have, however, organized an online learning community for past course participants precisely so as to facilitate this.
On the course, we often debated how much of using IT in the classroom was actually pedagogically useful to our learners but that is something each teacher must explore and decide for themselves. It is my feeling, however, that technology is a major part of the teaching-learning spectrum today and that teachers can’t afford to miss that train.
The blended Cert ICT is run part online and part face-to-face (f2f). Of the total 120 course hours, 50 hours are offered f2f either intensively or part-time (depending on location), and 70 hours are offered online over a further 10 weeks. The f2f component of the course takes place at International House Barcelona and International House London. For more information, please visit the following websites:
Katherine has been teaching at IH Seville for over 25 years and is still learning and still enjoying it. She got her Delta in 2000, has worked as an IHCYL trainer and obtained a M.Sc. in Tesol with Aston University in 2008.