As an educational technology company focusing on English as a Foreign Language whose products include distance learning, teacher training, edtech consulting, curriculum development, and summer camps, Banyan Global Learning (BGL) must stay on the forefront of education technology. Our DL teachers use the latest technologies to deliver unique lessons to students thousands of miles away. We also support our on-site teachers in Taiwan through through distance training using the same video teleconferencing approach we use with our students. Additionally, our LA employees fly to Taiwan and deliver unique in-person training, sharing new tools with ubiquitous application along with personalized technology that suits their specific classroom. Teacher Travis recently delivered a distance training session and followed it with an on-site training session in Taiwan. What follows is his account of that session and represents BGL’s blended approach to teacher training:
By the time you finish reading this blog post, an edtech company likely will have launched a new product, app or website. Ok, maybe that is an overstatement, but the only consistent characteristic of the edtech landscape seems to be that it is always changing, and quickly. We make it our business to keep up with those changes as best we can by connecting with other bloggers, following on Twitter the best education hashtags (as well as those for specific edtech conferences), and keeping an open dialogue with our many collaborative partners. Armed with the latest edtech knowledge, I prepared some training modules for our teachers in Taiwan.
A screen grab of a few items on the #edtech Twitter stream
A week before classes began in the fall, I gave my first distance training session. The focus was on productivity and tips for using an iPad in the classroom. One of best websites on which to find useful information for iPads in the classroom is Kathy Schrock’s iPads4teaching site. Using the same H.323 teleconferencing system we use for our distance learning English courses, I projected my iPad on one screen in the Taiwanese classroom and myself on the other.
Our first task was to create a webpage for each teacher’s class. Because we rely heavily on Google Apps, we built the websites using Google Sites. In less than 30 minutes, each teacher had a welcome page, a class calendar and an ‘About Me’ section. I think they were all shocked at how quickly and easily this was done. There are many other ways to create a website for your class, but if you want to make one with google sites, check out this video tutorial. This is perfect for us – at BGL, we want to give targeted training that results in products or skills that can be used immediately.
A screenshot of the easy classroom template on Google Sites
Next, I wanted to show them some hidden iPad tricks that are useful for teachers in single-iPad classrooms. Hidden gestures of the iPad can drastically improve your speed and productivity using the device. Quick swipes to change programs, the hidden zoom function and airplay practice were new skills for some of our teachers. Check a guide to new iOS 8 tips and tricks here, and a guide to all the iPad gestures here. While the session was relatively brief, our teachers all were very pleased with the practical knowledge they gained. For the next session, we would focus on quality content delivery.
Our elementary teachers preparing for the new school year.
At Tsai Hsing, our elementary students are all English-as-a-Foreign-Language Learners. One of the world’s experts in language acquisition, Dr. Stephen Krashen, argues that “comprehensible input” is the primary way we learn a language. Only when a student understands the message does learning take place. My goal was to provide our on-site teachers with apps or programs that could help them deliver more comprehensible input. I focused on iOS apps and programs that could increase comprehensible input for a variety of lessons.
I presented two groups of apps: standalone apps designed to be shown directly to students and apps that can augment existing lessons. One app that excited all our teachers was Sock Puppets. With it, you can create an animated sock puppet video that has movable props and scenery in minutes. In terms of comprehensible input, this app creates scenes that have meaning for students and is easy to understand–exactly the sort of video that Dr. Krashen would approve when teaching English Language Learners. Another app we used is called Haiku Deck. It looks like a powerpoint-like presentation app, but its beauty comes in the modern visual display. If you are making a slide about clothing, it automatically searches for clothing-related pictures that you can insert into the slide. Again, the key is creating visual cues that make the language easier to understand. Other iPad apps we discussed included Splice, ShowMe, Educreations and Popplet. By the end of the training session, our teachers were very animated. One teacher exclaimed, “We need more of this!”
We give teachers surveys after all our training sessions. We found that on-site training versus distance training had very little effect on the teachers’ satisfaction. The technology is so seamless that distance training doesn’t feel very distant. What matters is the content you provide. As we continue to plan our professional development for the year, we will always ask our teachers what they would find most effective and stay up-to-date on the latest technologies, apps and pedagogical techniques.