Last month, I posted The Best Three Sites On The Web For ESL/EFL/ELL/ELT Teachers.
LF: I interviewed you about three years ago. Would you mind quickly reviewing some of the things you mentioned then, particularly about how and why you got involved in English teaching and why you began EFL Classroom 2.0?
I began as I think many teachers out there, with unsure and timid steps but a strong will to make a difference and help students. I’d been a steelworker and had an accident and that sobered me up and gave me time see teaching was a career option that most fit my own beliefs about my purpose in this big, wide world (yes, I’m an idealistic Virgo).
Since then taught in many places, many types of students. Became very interested in why one student succeeds and why one doesn’t and especially special education as it relates and transfers over to ELT. I have a strong belief that second language students need to be assisted in the same way(s) our special needs students are. This led me into the world of assistive technologies and technology in general.
As I began first doing workshops about using karaoke to help struggling readers, I began sharing online. Eventually, started doing teacher training full time and began EFL Classroom 2.0 as my “junk yard” – a home for my mind that others were invited to enter and come and go as they pleased.
LF: Since that interview, what would you say have been the major changes/additions to EFL Classroom 2.0?
We used to be a place with a lot of discussion, hundreds of comments a day. Since twitter/facebook and other micro blogging platforms exploded on the scene around 2009-2010 – we are now more a resource area/place. Our “conversations” have transferred from EFL Classroom 2.0 to our LinkedIn group – ELT Professionals.
Additionally, we’ve become less focused on individual resources and more on general curation. There is so much “out there” and I think I’m in a great position through the community and my wide reading/contacts to help teachers find the gold and save their precious time. We’ve also in this spirit expanded into teacher training – helping teachers with webinars and professional development materials (even a free basic TESOL course).
LF: What are your future plans for the site?
You know, to be very honest, I’m not sure….. I’m making it up as I go along – truly. And that’s how it has to be if we are all honest about the world that is “online” and even our classrooms. In my own lectures to my student teachers I always push this notion of “the transactional” as underpinning our professional practice. The ground is constantly shifting under us and that is a necessary part of being a teacher. If you don’t like that, you probably won’t enjoy teaching!
I intend on continuing to keep EFL Classroom 2.0 new and up to date – there hasn’t been a moment where it just sat there and got rusty. I’ve also started a digital resources platform that I’ll be opening up to other teachers. I hope teachers with strong materials development skills will sell and share their materials there.
I’ve concluded after many years of just giving so much away as “free” that if we teachers value our materials, others will too. Don’t undersell your hard work. A big change in my own beliefs. Further, there are too many low quality, worksheet stuff / things flying around out there and masquerading as “learning materials”. Teachers need quality materials AND flexible ideas on how to use those materials.
LF: You also work with English Central, which I constantly tell people is, in my opinion, the best site on the Web for English Language Learners. Can you describe it, how it came about, what it offers, its future, and talk about your role in it?
Thank you Larry for your support and appraisal, means a lot.
I got involved with EnglishCentral just after it started up in Beta late 2009 as a Google venture. I saw the potential of the idea of using revolutionary speech recognition for language learners combined with motivating, authentic video. I was already involved in this area through my own interest in technology and special education. I helped both with the main product design – video curriculum and also building the LMS where teachers can “teach” with EnglishCentral and have an instant online language study area (class page) for their students. It’s exciting, video truly is the new textbook!
I’ll also mention that despite having a team and staff behind me – I’m still very hands on. For example, I created from beginning to end our promo video for teachers – Dave Uses EnglishCentral.
The idea is still the same as it was at the start – to provide a place where students can get the quality practice time with “real” English (getting comprehensible input and world leading speech assessment). I’ve helped develop the product and its been a learning process! But I love being involved in something where I’m growing and the strong combination of my technology/coding skills combined with my experience in the classrom has been a big asset to the company. There are too many technology companies out there that don’t have people who are educators as a big part of the company. EnglishCentral does and has its pulse on the needs of students and teachers alike.
The future of EnglishCentral lies in perfecting our tools to allow teachers more flexibility in designing video based curriculum for their students. Video combined with the technology of EnglishCentral is something extraordinary. It will even be more powerful when we allow teachers even better ways to differentiate the video curriculum for their learners and get even more useful data on student achievement. A blended approach – classroom teaching complimented with EnglishCentral online learning is a proven forumula for language improvement.
We are also very excited about our launch of mobile products – access through these devices (with great microphones!) will greatly help educators in their classrooms as we all move more into a BYOD world.
It’s been a lot of hard work and many 20 hour days but well worth it!
LF: What is giving you the most energy these days, and what are your future personal plans?
Most of my energy beyond helping teachers on EFL Classroom 2.0 is in the area of teacher training. This year I’m not teaching at the university and hope to book more speaking engagements and workshops (so if you are reading this and are looking for a quality teacher trainer – please get in touch!). I’m going to try and slow down and be more purposeful in my actions. Help others on the ground. I’m making a break and moving to a small, far away, enchanted city, under a volcano. Of course, will still be tirelessly working to make EnglishCentral into an even better tool than it already is.
LF: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share?
I’ve been making notes about a book I’d like to write – The Future of School. I think I have something to add to this “debate”. Hope to spend time writing this while away from the hustle and bustle this year ….
LF: Thanks, David!