Introducing Web tools and PLNs to English teachers

Teaching English in Greek public schools is a challenging adventure. Lack of equipment, big classes, adverse conditions, negative mentalities, tape recorders that don’t work, headmasters that don’t see the need of English are everyday situations that all of us face . Maybe the conditions don’t change much for teachers of all sectors. Maybe they are the same for public schools all over the world.

What is special about English and all foreign languages for that matter, is that sometimes the concept of a foreign language itself is loaded with negative connotations. Things change of course and most parents and students are nowadays supportive to the idea of teaching English in a public school. Teachers of English have fought hard and gained the appreciation they strive for. Especially in primary education, where the teaching of English was introduced about 15 years ago, we have become a lively part of school and may I dare say an innovative one!

When I first met Ms Kollatou the English Advisor for the prefectures of Karditsa and Trikala, I was really glad because it seemed for the first time that a person who had the qualifications and the motivation to work for this sector was appointed to the right place! It is a really happy coincidence and a rare one for Greek standards, therefore even more appreciated. At about the same time I started working with the eTwinning progamme.

In the beginning it was just a matter of getting to know more teachers and informing them of the existence and the action and how it worked. But slowly as eTwinning was evolving from just another action to an active network of involved teachers, so did we. Ambassadors all over Greece are creating their own networks with teachers who have participated in the action and continue to contribute to it with ideas and projects. A great example is the Ning group that the Ambassador of Argolida and Korinthia has set up for the teachers in her area.

My further involvement in the Pedagogical Group of Greek eTwinning meant exploring even more the pedagogy of the action, and getting more involved with teacher networks. Discovering what Twitter can do for teachers was a great revelation for me. Suddenly isolation was not an issue and inspiration was coming towards me in loads from all over the world.

This is the background to the creation a presentation about three web tools and subsequently a talk for teachers in my region about how these tools can help them change their work, motivate them. I created the presentation in the summer, for a general group of teachers but then I showed it to Ms Kollatou and she was excited and eager to show it to teachers of English in her region. So last week, taking part in a training event for English teachers in primary and secondary education by Ms Kollatou, I participated introducing the idea of a personal learning network and presenting three useful web tools.

The first day in front of the primary teachers of Karditsa was the most successful I think because conditions were excellent: a computer lab which I had available an hour before the workshop, working projector, internet connection. I had the chance to present my slides, connect to my own Twitter account, demonstrate how it worked and ask participants to create their own account. Reactions were positive through the whole time and many of them created an account, started following me and twitted their first tweet successfully.

The second day was with teachers from secondary education in Karditsa was comparatively the most stressful because all technical means failed and had to improvise and present my material as well as I could under the conditions. I am not sure the participants got a good idea about the tools, but at least one of them came to talk to me about security concerns and how to get over them.

The third day with teachers from primary education in Trikala, went quite well. I did the presentation, introduced teachers to Twitter, some of them created their accounts and even had time to discuss a bit about sharing our work on the internet.

There is an interesting issue emerging here: for people who use tools like Twitter, Slideshare, Delicious and so many others, sharing our work, making available our lesson plans, our presentation and our pictures, seems quite natural. For people who are new to them, this doesn’t come as easily. “Why would you give out to the world your very own presentation about a lesson? So that other people can take it and present it as their own? Isn’t that unfair? ”. Well, you know? I don’t care! They may take it and improve it, they may credit me or not but what matters is that I want to share it, I want to show it to others to take their feedback, I want to help someone as so many people have helped me before! This is the spirit of Web 2.0 in my opinion, where everyone can contribute and enjoy the results.

So, in general my first experience of introducing teachers to the idea of a PLN and demonstrating three basic tools was a positive one. I hope I will have the chance to do it again so I can improve it.

Extra reading:

An interesting article about copyright in Kathimerini

Twitter for ELT

The presentation I did for the event: You can see it HERE and download if you like