What I’ve Learned from my PLN (January 3, 2011)

(Note: If this is the first post you’ve read in this series, and you’re mystified by the PLN acronym, start with What’s a PLN, anyway?)

It’s been awhile since I’ve written one of these posts. It isn’t that I haven’t learned anything from my personal learning network recently, just that it’s way easier to learn than it is to share what I’ve learned (I’m still very slow working online, especially with links).

I have a bit of free time now before lessons and workshops begin again, so it’s a chance to catch up a bit. Here are a few of the sites I go to on a regular basis for resources and professional development.

If I need something specific for a class, I know that it’s probably on David Deubelbeiss’ EFL Classroom 2.0. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, one of the other 11,000+ members of this active community can usually help. For example, my young learners enjoy the flash games David has shared with the community, like Don’t Gross Out the World. I sent the parents of my young learners a link to this so the kids could play during their winter vacation. I just recently noticed that he has also shared a “how to” document so that I will be able to have them create their own games in class once we start up again. David also put his picks for the “best” of ELT resources into a free e-book called All the #1 Picks in ELT, which is also offered as a free download.

ELT Chat is a weekly discussion for English Teaching Professionals that happens every Wednesday on Twitter. It is moderated by several incredible teachers located around the world: Marisa Constantinides, Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Berni Wall, Olaf Elch, and Jason Renshaw. If you are a teacher, you ought to seriously consider joining Twitter (if you haven’t already). However, if you aren’t ready to join in the discussions, or they happen at a time that doesn’t work well with your own location, the ELT Chat website keeps archived transcripts of past discussions. One tip: The transcripts are loooong (it is a chat after all!). If you want to see what kind of links were shared during the discussion you can search the page for anything starting with “http” to see links (control key + F opens the search for me in Firefox). The first ELT Chats of the year will be this Wednesday, January 5th. The first chat starts at 3 p.m. London time (what time is this for you?) and will discuss the number one topic (based on member votes). The second chat session starts at 9 p.m. London time (what time is this for you?) and will discuss the second choice topic.

Rob Waring is educator and researcher based here in Japan. His website is a treasure trove of resources for teachers who want to learn more about incorporating extensive reading and listening in lessons. He’s put together the most comprehensive list I’ve found of links to research, presentations, and practical activities for both topics. One of my recent discoveries on Rob’s website was Spotlight Radio. The topics are current, the English is natural but slower, and there are transcripts of the radio broadcasts so students can read along as they listen. My adult learners all got a link to this site to entertain them during the break between classes!

Jason Renshaw was one of the first people I met when I ventured online, and he’s been a mentor ever since. I always find something on his blog that challenges me to be a better and more reflective teacher. One of his recent posts was a great example of creating student-generated writing projects and ways to use them for reading practice. Jason also maintains a resource website that is like the teacher supply store of your dreams, but online. It is a paid membership site, but Jason has gone with a “pay what you think is fair” approach so that membership is affordable for all teachers.

Jerry Blumengarten is the Cybrary Man. Visiting The Cybrary Man’s Educational Websites is like visiting a library with an extensive and well-organized section for EFL teachers. When I was looking for vacation resources for my students, I came across Speak English! on his EFL page. Speak English is part of the Speak Languages family with similar sites for several different languages. The site has useful phrases and vocabulary separated into categories (meeting people, making a reservation, buying things, etc.). My students like it because it’s really easy to navigate, they can find topic categories that they’re interested in, and they can use the recorded models for pronunciation practice.

I look forward to each issue of The Internet TESL Journal. Its articles are practical, written for and by classroom teachers. What makes it better (for me) than most of the paper journals I subscribe to is that it’s all online. That means that the archive can be easily searched and the articles easily shared. It’s not as flashy as a lot of websites out there, but that’s an advantage if you don’t happen to have a fast internet connection. The most recent issue had an article on using skype in EFL classrooms. Even though this isn’t something I’m likely to do anytime soon, I learned a lot more about the potential of this tool. In the archives, I found a great article on language learning strategies for L2 teachers. The journal website is one of those places I like to browse when I’ve got some spare reading time–I can download the articles and read them on long train or plane rides to and from workshops!

All of these sites–EFL Classroom 2.0, ELT Chat, Rob Waring, English Raven, Cybrary Man, and The Internet TESL Journal–were named a TEFL Site of the Month by TEFL.net (an excellent resource on its own). They are now among the 12 websites up for consideration as the TEFL Site of the Year 2010 (along with Teaching Village). I’ve learned to pay attention to TEFL.net’s selection each month because the websites they highlight are always great additions to my professional development resources. I invite you to hop over to the listing of the sites for 2009 to find some winners for your own resource collection. Then, show one of the sites some love by participating in the poll for Site of the Year. Any one of the sites is worthy of your consideration, and supporting TEFL.net’s efforts to make us aware of excellent websites benefits us all!

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5 Responses

  1. ddeubel says:

    Happy New Year Barb!

    Thanks for mentioned EFL 2.0 but really all the great sites but most importantly, people. It is something to remember I think (and also praise), that there are people behind all the resources, lists, tutorials etc…. that are now freely available to motivated teachers.

    I’m not a big one for awards (used to be but you live and learn – and took me A LOT of years to get here, a lot of phony attachment to glory, but that’s another story) — but I’m a big one for “initiative”. To me that means active involvement, generosity plus the often forgotten notion of “quality”. When I look at the people mentioned they all have that. The quality comes through because these individuals know what they are talking about , have experience that shines through.

    I hope to make 2011 a great success here on Teaching Village by contributing a few articles. I hope to focus 2011 on new teachers and this is a great platform for sharing ideas on how they might improve.


    • Barbara says:

      Thank you for all that you do, David, mostly behind the scenes. EFL 2.0 is definitely the treasure it is because of the teachers who share there, but you are the heart and soul :-)

      I know you’re not much for awards–your quiet dedication to doing what you can to improve our profession is another sign of your character, in my book. However, if recognition can help make more teachers aware of the excellent resources available on the EFL 2.0 site, then that’s a good thing, too!

      Looking forward to more contributions to you this coming year–we can all learn from you.

  2. Dear Barbara,

    Happy New Year to you and your great blog and thank you so much for reminding us all of these great websites which are, indeed, a treasure trove for any teacher.

    Many many thanks for including #ELTchat in your great list. Our effort to connect ELT teachers is relatively new and to be mentioned amongst thes great resource website already is truly a great honour.

    On behalf of all the #ELTchat moderators, thank you so much for this and we all hope you will be able to get involved in some way, soon!


    @Marisa_C on twitter :-)

  3. Marisa Pavan says:

    Dear Barb!

    Thanks for sharing this insightful post! Having all these links together and with your helpful comments is very valuable.
    Hugs from Argentina!
    Marisa (@Mtranslator)

  1. January 3, 2011

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