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Online Professional Development

Today and yesterday, I attended the Iowa Culture and Language Conference where I co-presented about online professional development for STEM and special education teachers with English language learners in the classroom.  The presentation can be accessed here:

Dr. Pam Wesely was the lead presenter with Zeynep Bilki and I providing examples of online resources to help STEM and special education teachers learn more about English language learners and/or learn about certain approaches to engage English language learners in their classroom.  The three I presented were from the British Council & the BBC, the Internet TESL Journal, and a site from George Washington University about ELLs in special education.  I also contributed a significant portion to the list of additional resources at the end of the presentation.

As a Senior English Language Fellow, working along with the U.S. Department of State, I felt a little conflict of interest advocating the use of the British Council's site.  Although the two entities (US Department of State & British Council) are not rivals, I often got the sense that we were in terms of attracting an audience of local English language teachers in Russia.  I do not know how serious this real or imagined rivalry is, but I am haunted by the fact that this appears to be the lingering effects of colonialism or linguistic imperialism.  I would like to see the English language teaching community, myself included, transcend these national interests.  I presume or at least hope that most of us do.

When I was a teacher educator in Russia and South Korea, I often found insight or inspiration looking through the first two sites I reviewed.  Looking back at the Internet TESL Journal, which is no longer being updated, I realize how much my education and experience has made me a more informed and critical reader of this articles and lesson plans.  I hope that this does not illustrate a distancing between my identities of researcher and practitioner.  If the Internet TESL Journal was still being updated, I may have recommended it for new EFL instructors as it has more examples for teaching English in countries where English is not the dominant or official language.  Perhaps the increase in research into English language teaching in this context has put an end to this online journal.

One of my interests as a teacher educator is to develop an open-source professional development site for my pre-service and in-service teachers.  I'm sure this has been before or is being done, and it would take a lot of time and effort for someone (me) to moderate and keep it organized.  As a graduate student, I have learned just as much from my peers as my textbooks and instructors, so I would like to set up a type of online platform for in-service and pre-service teachers to describe, analyze, and critique English language teaching approaches, English language learning theories, and various textbooks and online resources that target the English language teaching and learning community.  This potential site may show to be useful for researchers to observe how teachers' ideas and practices are aligned or incongruous with research.

This is just an idea in the back of my mind.  I have plenty of other ideas that need more immediate attention, such as those for my dissertation and my graduate assistantship.


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