By Eduardo Santos
Good professionals are aware that learning should never stop, and it’s no different for English teachers. Professional development must be seen as an ongoing process for TEFLers who are willing to be successful. With the explosion of the internet in the past decade, access to information has increased tremendously for the average individual and opened up new possibilities for free professional development online. Sharing and learning beyond the staff room is possible and it can be done anywhere at any time.
Here are four ways TEFLers can learn, connect and share online:
1. Personal Learning Networks and Twitter chats
Twitter has turned out to be one of the most powerful tools for English teachers to build their Professional Learning Network (PLN) online and discuss issues and trends in teaching with like-minded professionals from all over the world. Many schools, authors and publishers have Twitter accounts and connecting with them can be a starting point. Search for institutions and authors and connect with them through Twitter, then follow the people they follow and expand your network. Another way of building your PLN is through chats on Twitter like #ELTChat with sessions on Wednesdays at 12:00pm and 21:00pm London time.
Joining a group is also a great way to connect with professionals from all over the world who share similar interests in different teaching areas. Some of these groups can be found on Ning or Facebook. A very popular group for techie teachers on Ning is Classroom 2.0. You can also join discussions through Facebook groups. Use keywords to search for Special Interest Groups
(SIGs) on Facebook and you might find groups of English teachers from your region or teachers who are interested in young learners, business English, and so on.
A quick and easy way to learn online is through webinars, which may last from 30 minutes up to an hour and a half. They can be offered by Teachers’ Associations, publishers or popular education-focused websites. Webinars have become popular in the last few year,s and even if you can’t attend the webinar at the right time, they are usually recorded, which means that you can go back and watch it later. For exampls, every Friday, Shelly Terrell conducts 30-minute webinars on issues related to English teaching through the American Tesol Institute. Every month, the SimpleK12 Teacher Learning Community also holds great webinars on trends in education.
4. Online Conferences
I highly recommend English teachers attend local and international conferences. It’s a great chance to meet authors face to face and to network during coffee breaks. Unfortunately, it’s not feasible for some teachers to attend these conferences due to the costs of flights, accommodation, conference fees, and so on. The good news is that most of the big conferences now have materials and even live streams of the sessions and workshops available online for free. Last week, the Business English Special Interest Group (BESIG) held its annual conference in Croatia, but teachers who couldn’t make it to the conference were able to watch some of the sessions online. I also took part in my first ever online conference this year: The Reform Symposium joined by educators from all over the world, with sessions all day long for three days.
Professional development has shifted from local to worldwide and it can happen anywhere at any time. Taking part in online conferences, attending webinars, joining groups, and building your professional learning networks are ways not only to avoid burnout as a teacher, but also to achieve a successful TEFL career.