‘Preflective Lesson Prep’: My iTDi MOOC Presentation

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Preflective Lesson Prep: Ideas & Inspirations

This is a follow-up post to a webinar I did with iTDi during their ‘Summer School’ MOOC on WizIQ. You can see the full list of all the MOOC presenters + presentations here.

Below, I’m going to write about iTDi,  the recent MOOC, and WizIQ. At the end I’ll post a newly recorded and updated version of my presentation.

iTDi & iTDi Courses

iTDi is The International Teacher Development Institute, found at http://iTDi.pro. Its stated mission is 

to provide quality professional development that is meaningful, accessible and affordable for all teachers. We share a vision of a vibrant global community of educators, helping one another to become better teachers.

I joined in a couple years back when I saw an online class with John F. Fanselow being offered on iTDi. I’d read his book ‘Breaking Rules’, and I jumped at the chance to learn with him live and direct. This was one of my first experiences with syncronous online learning and it was a very positive experience. I was surprised to find that the webinar interface in many ways enhanced rather than the classroom/training room experience. I loved being able to ‘hear’ others thought as they occured in the chatbox. Links could be posted, even emotions shared with smileys, etc.

I even thought it was great that the presenter was at home, dressed casually, sitting in front of a computer. There was something so intimate about it – the furthest thing from a ‘distance’ class! Needless to say, I’ve been hooked on online classes ever since. It didn’t hurt that John F. Fanselow is such a unique and uniquely effective communicator and mentor. What a thrill it was to have him respond sensitively to my in-class comments and give such quality feedback to my and others’ class discussion thread posts.


John’s was also one of iTDi’s first ‘Advanced Teaching Skills’ courses. And they’ve only gotten better and better since. 

Shortly after completing the course I received an email from one of the directors of iTDi. An excerpt: 

I’m sending you this message because you were one of the teachers in our first advanced teaching skills courses, Breaking Rules Live and More Breaking Rules with John F. Fanselow. 

First of all, thank you for giving us a chance to be part of your professional development. Your participation in our first live online course, and your contributions to discussions about teaching, gave us a glimpse of what really good collaborative online learning could be and is a big reason we decided to expand our advanced offerings to include a full year of courses from some of the best teacher educators in ELT…

I don’t know about you, but to me this email was extremely well written and warm. Yep, this small sampling’s got iTDi sauce poured all over it. 

I think being a member of iTDi means real connection and communication with fellow ELT professions with little to no organizational/hierarchical hoo-ha getting in the way. This means that people can really SHINE THROUGH. And I always feel like I’ll be learning from someone, anyone; TEFL bigwig or random member…sometimes it’s hard to tell! And that’s beautiful.

The above message is typical of the distinctive ‘personal touch’ at iTDi. There’s a very real sense that all community members matter and that iTDi really does operate according to two principles it says define its vision: 

Anything I can do, we can do better.

Whatever the problem, community is the answer.

After ‘Breaking Rules Live’, I participated in a handful of one-off webinars…and then came an amazing 4-week learning experience led by Scott Thornbury & Penny Ur:

thorn ur

I wound’t be able to do justice to how good that was in my description here. Let’s just say I loved it. 

In addition to live classes with excellent ELT teachers, trainers, and thinkers, iTDi offers two very thorough and fantastic asyncronous online courses: English for Teachers & Teacher Development. I’m also member of cambridgeenglishteacher.org, where some really high quality courses can be found, and I think iTDi’s offerings definitely rival it. 

The iTDi Summer School MOOC for English Teachers

I joined WizIQ in late 2012, long before I became a CELTA trainer (despite what it says in the screenshot below). I was tapped to run a ‘Reflective Practice Journaling’ online seminar over the course of a semester for a newly hatched BA TESOL course in Thailand. I chose WizIQ to deliver monthly webinars alongside our weekly Google Hangouts and web board discussions.

Beyond the great reflective practice work itself, this was an extremely fruitful project in that I was able to independently explore and experiment with some online educational communication and community-building platforms. To be honest, I chose WizIQ mainly because it fit into the measly budget I was working with. Things like Adobe Connect were out of reach. But I’m glad I did chose WizIQ because it really has continued to develop and grow and these days is clearly making a big push into ELT. 


A screenshot of some of my ‘Reflective Practice Seminar’ BA TESOL online module materials from early 2013

So when I signed up to do one of iTDi Summer School MOOC’s webinars, I was already pretty comfortable with WizIQs platform (and impressed by how far it’d come).

iTDi’s description of the MOOC:  

Welcome to The iTDi Summer School MOOC For English Teachers

On behalf of all of us at the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi) I’d like to congratulate you on enrolling in our first ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). We’re offering this MOOC for free to teachers around the world because:

  • We can always become better teachers. We believe that as teachers become more skilled, inspired and motivated, the overall quality of education improves as well.
  • Every teacher deserves access to Professional Development. All teachers, no matter what their background or income level, deserve equal access to professional development.
  • Education matters
 The best way to change the world for the better is to provide quality education for all learners. The best way to do this is to give all teachers the opportunity to become the best teachers they can be. If we do this, we really can change the world.

This is why we are offering you four weeks of TEFL teacher development training delivered one session at a time by the faculty, mentors, associates, and leading community members of iTDi.

In this MOOC you’ll develop your teaching skills, discover new tools and techniques, and explore ideas as you take sessions on a wide range of topics. You’ll also get inspired and motivated as you connect with & learn with the iTDi global community: teachers from over 90 countries learning to be better teachers together.

Please see the iTDi MOOC Course Schedule for a day-by-day outline of all our planned sessions and to learn more about how you can receive iTDi-certified Professional Development Credit Hours an iTDi Certificates of Participation, Accomplishment or even Accomplishment with Distinction.

If you’re new to iTDi, consider this MOOC your first step on an exciting journey. We have teachers from over 90 countries learning how to be better teachers together and we offer a variety of courses and learning opportunities for educators. To make the most of your MOOC experience with us, be sure to sign up for a free iTDi account at http://iTDi.pro . We’re looking forward to learning with you

35 session in 30 days. It was a whirlwind. And I was thrilled when Chuck Sandy suggested I take part!

So. Here’s what I put together:

Is lesson planning a chore? Perhaps a bore? The goal of this session is to reimagine lesson prep as something beyond a ‘nuts and bolts’ part of teaching & explore/‘explode’ it as a ‘preflective’ activity through which we can grow in awareness as teachers. 

My “Preflective Lesson Prep” presentation represents a rough first pass of an attempt to reflect on, organize, clarify, and express my thoughts on lesson planning as a process, based on my personal experience and what I’ve observed and learned from others over the years. It feels like a doggedly important subject – and one in which many assumptions and conventions are very often taken for granted.

There were some pre-tasks & questions involved with my webinar. Attendees working to get Professional Development Credit Hours from iTDi (and I hope/assume a handful of folks who weren’t) answered least three of these questions and/or tasks:

1. What does ‘lesson planning’ mean to you in one sentence?
2. What requirements for “official documentation” of lesson plans do you have in your school or teaching context?
3. What ‘off paper’ lesson prep do you do for yourself? Explain.
4. What is the value of lesson planning for you?
5. What steps do you follow when planning a lesson?
6. Do you think lesson planning becomes less crucial with more experience as a teacher? Why or why not?

1. Read 2 of the posts from the iTDi Blog Lesson Planning Issue and leave a comment on the posts you read. http://itdi.pro/blog/category/topics/lesson-planning/

2. Link to one of the posts from the iTDi Blog Lesson planning issue in the discussion thread below. Then summarize the post briefly & add some reflective thoughts of your own. http://itdi.pro/blog/category/topics/lesson-planning/

I’ve been quite active in responding to & encouraging (in simple ways) the 60+ attendees who did answer the questions, and I’m quite happy with the info and experiences people have shared. Trying to comment on every participant’s post is something I was inspired to do by Scott Thornbury. During the class I mentioned above he was extremely active on the chat boards, and it made all the difference!

Ah! Well…it was just amazing to have so many people engaged in my little mini-chapter of a MOOC! Teachers from literally all over the world! It was…well, it was incredible to me. I probably sound like a kid in a candy shop at Disney World here, but hey. Perhaps it helps express how I feel about this stuff.

Anyway, the live session took place on July 26th. It was slated for 60 minutes. I went over time 10 minutes or so. All the recordings from the MOOC are available to everyone who is signs up on WizIQ…and there are some really great ones. They’re all around 60 minutes (I don’t think I was the only one to float over a bit). I wasn’t able to live-attend as many as I would have liked, but no matter; watching the recordings has its own advantages. Let me recommend a handful of my favorites (so far): 

Finally, find my cleaned-up and hopefully tightened-up presentation below…and please feel free to offer any and all constructive feedback in the comment section!

(vid here) [coming soon!]

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Connecting speech to written words

ROSE BARD - Teaching Journal

Connecting what you hear to how it is written through dictation

Instead of making students copy from the board or give the sentences already written down, how about dictating them?

dictation Photo taken from ELTpics by @CliveSir, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license

Listening and transcribing was at first challenging for my beginners, especially if the sentences were higher in level. It was more challenging for beginners than for learners with more experience with the language, but all students benefited from it no matter what level they were. At first though some got resistent and saw no point, but with time they became more comfortable and it just became part of the class routine, that is, to listen and write instead of copying from the board. I don’t like having students simply copying from the board because they do nothing more than decode and encode without having to even think…

View original post 737 more words

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Life-ing > Blogging

I’ll be sure to rectify this next week!

A week off…and I’ll be out in the country, but with strong wifi 😉

A much needed, perhaps even much deserved, break!

So, see y’all soon…lots to post, actually. Lordy, there’s been some shifts in the Newbie’s perspective and approach. And a webinar to post about, and this, and that. 

Say…I’ve been at this since March this year.


Being a CELTA trainer is an amazing trip to me. Feels like much longer. 

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Follow up to “An Unexpected Challenge”

Early last month I posted a small (but heavy) litany of problem/struggle areas I was having during the first very challenging segment of an extensive CELTA course I was tutoring alone. It bordered on a screed. Maybe a bit of a scream. As I write this now the other trainer has returned from elsewhere and taken over for the second half. My involvement is essentially over, kaput, in the bag…and things definitely turned out….OK! Maybe more than OK!

Why more than OK? First, the trainees are doing well. As of this writing they’re all about to get healthy CELTA passes.  Second, due to the rather rough n’ tough start and the reflection it forced on me (after the fit) it has turned out to be a really solid learning experience for me.

I’m glad I got that really negative post out, too, and expressed something that raw here for the first and only time so far (I believe). Those less-than-excited emotions about my job. This was good, because it was real.

Below I follow up with some brief reflections and updates on the original statements…

1. Only 4 trainees. I have to feel tweek and rework all the input sessions I’m just getting tuned up. This turned out to function as a really good filter through which to pass my still-developing take on a bunch of CELTA input sessions. I needed to adapt them I uncovered some interesting new angles and ways to go about achieving the session aims (as far as I yet can, anyway). 

2. Input session Saturdays = dominoes of timing problems when input sessions aren’t really tight. Lots of moving parts in a tight space. This got much better towards the end – mainly because I gathered the discipline to censor and edit myself when I found myself wanting to keep going. I noticed a bit of a self-interested edge there, and realized I was, subtly, putting my own desires ahead of the needs of the trainees – specifically the need for getting to GLP on time and not forcing them to stay beyond the regular time! GLP! Beyond everything that goes down in Input Sessions, it is GLP that the trainee craves. 😉 

3. My MCT is gone. Off to train elsewhere. The stabilizer I’ve come to depend on, pOOf! Gone. Well, this was really decent training, ultimately, for the next course…on which I was (and still am, it ain’t done) MCT. So I got good experience dealing with the glitches and the admin stuff that inevitably comes up. The lining? Yep, it’s silver! 😉

4. Literally alone with my trainees and TP students eves. Nobody at the front desk. Nobody to deal with late TPers. Mess? It’s on me to manage. That could be a little bit anxiety-inspiring, but it all turned out OK. No emergencies. No larceny. No deaths. 

5. Five weeks of me, me, me. I’d get sick of me too! Even more anxiety-inspiring, when the MCT comes back and takes over for the second half – I’m handing over these 4 trainees in a state unmistakably conditioned by me (and my weaknesses, blind spots, and eccentricities). Nothing blended in. The question, seems to me, isn’t whether they’ll be a gap, but rather just how dramatic it’ll be! The trainees turned out fine. A bit self-aggrandizing in a negative way there, me! Grandiose, that thinking. I just read their final assignment – the reflective paper…and they mentioned all kinds of development from my half of the course. Who am I to think I could have thwarted that? Silly me…of course I get to lack confidence and work with my insecurities as a newbie. But the above does strike me as a bit melodramatic now. And slightly uncharitable to those trainees themselves alongside. 

6. There’s like 10-12 other things! And really b-b-b-bad ones! But I’m already awash in anxiety now after typing out 5! Oi! Can’t even deal. Because…Aaahhhh! Wow, I really was flustered! 

That’s that. Like I mentioned above, I’m glad for it now. This is how I can grow. Like a garden: it really helps to have some manure in the soil.

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From http://bit.ly/1nJBwb7

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My workplace on #ELTworkplaces Tumblr



That was fun 🙂

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Diary Post: What I Did Today…

  • Emailed back and forth for GLP (guided lesson planning) with a couple of extensive (part-time) CELTAers
  • Started constructing the next intensive course’s input session schedule
  • Fixed a broken stapler (yaaaaaalp!)
  • Emailed someone about ‘preflection’ in regards to an upcoming webinar I’m doing
  • Entered trainees’ names into the ‘Advanced Course Management’ online CELTA system thing I’m just experiencing with a bit now
  • Started sorting out my demo lesson plan for next Monday
  • Planned for my guest session coming up – gonna do some fun reflection & ‘ask the ELT nerd’ with another CELTA cohort
  • Read some ELT blogs and tweets
  • Made copies of the ‘training to teach’ chapter of Rose Senior’s book The Experience of Language Teaching for trainees
  • Did face to face GLP
  • Observed 2 TP 4s: a grammar and a vocab lesson
  • Did 50 minutes of TPFB
  • Shared some pita chips and hummus with my trainees
  • Waxed romantic about meeting Betty Azar…and her shawls
  • Recommended engames.eu to someone
  • Said hi to the trash guy
  • Left work just before 10pm
  • Now I’m back on the subway
  • Almost home
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