Teaching online or talking to a brick wall?

At Polish universities we have been working online for the last 14 months. During this time I have struggled with new technology, magnitude of trainings, docked salaries and hourly fees, uncooperative staff and blank screen on which I can only see my student’s initials and not their faces, eyes, smiles or no smiles.

How have I felt during this time? Variously. Very stressed and tired during the first semester. I even had this nervous cough which I thought was an allergy but which disappeared the moment the classes ended and holiday started. The first semester was like a battlefield for me but I grew during that time as the head and became much more relaxed and self-confident when the new academic year started. I promised myself not to exaggerate with work and the speed of work. I started to plan things much in advance, test them more diligently and rely on my common sense, experience and practice more. I also reduced the number of hours I taught and thought more about my well-being and health in general.

Now the third semester of online classes is coming to an end. Primary and secondary schools in Poland are planning to open for a while before holidays. At my university nobody really wants to return to on-site classes now. Neither the students not the teachers. Have they started to enjoy the new normal? They can sleep longer or even “in class”, they don’t have to dress or make up, they can save money on leases and commuting, they can also cheat in tests and only pretend they are present.

When I look back I can see me, myself and I always present in class, visible in the camera, prepared with various activities and new materials, encouraging students to talk to me, to engage, to react. What do I get in return. A black screen with circles and initials, sometimes a response, sometimes a question about how I am. I decided to not care in October last year. Because if I did, I would go crazy or become depressed.

However, I consider myself a very reasonable person and very observant. Do you want to know my observation? Every relationship is a two-way street. All parties shall contribute to building it up. I do blame my students for not trying to establish a relationship with me. I understand that they are the customers and we are the service providers but education is about relationships, too. All this hysteria about privacy and image protection, and zoom fatigue, and stress, and being depressed and struggling with the fears caused by the pandemic is about teachers too, not just students.

99% of students did nothing about strengthening the relationship with me. Some of them were so preoccupied with their things that they forgot to say thank you at the end of the course, not to mention turning on the camera and waving their hands goodbye. I understand privacy, depression and stress but such behaviour is simply rude.

So, what has the pandemic taught me? A simple truth – you will not establish a good relationship, any relationship in fact, by talking to a brick wall. This requires effort. I am not thinking about „best endeavours”, just feeble effort.

Thank you for your attention.

Pronunciation Practice on Quizlet

I remember how my students once used to call me a „pronunciation pervert”. Well, I always tell my students that it is very important to master your pronunciation if you want to be understood. And being understood is crucial for communication.

This is how I sometimes help my students improve their pronunciation. I create QUIZLET sets for them where they either have the same word on both sides of the flashcard as we concentrate here on saying the word and not really learning what they men. Or like in the set I am showing here I create pairs of noun : verb or adjective : verb.

To benefit from this form of pronunciation work best you should a quizlet account and Here I recommend using a „flashcards” mode to be able to hear the pronunciation.

New Normal at Universities

[Polish below]

At the beginning of 2020, we still could write about the controversy surrounding the use of technology in foreign language teaching, about teachers’ fears related to it, their reluctance to technology and the lack of digital competence.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the transfer of all university classes online has changed a lot and accelerated many processes planned for the following years. Currently, we still don’t know what the final education at universities will look like in the academic year 2020/2021, but using the experience and skills acquired through the pandemic it is worth to change and modernise your approach to teaching a foreign language.

The new normal may require us to teach the so-called hybrid way, where several students are with us in the classroom and the rest participate in classes online. The number of students in our language groups is growing, and it is difficult to give all students the same attention and engage them in the work in the same way. It is important to ensure that during the classes it is the students who work doing practical tasks, cooperating and creating the final product, and to transfer the theoretical part of the classes to the online modules and ask the students to perform at home using the methodology of the flipped classroom.

This academic year I intend to focus on the development of practical tasks that my students will perform in the classroom after they have learned the necessary vocabulary to master the following topics. The texts from the textbook will be developed in the form of tutorials available on YouTube and materials for understanding and repetition of vocabulary will be developed in the form of presentations.

Jeszcze na początku 2020 roku mogliśmy pisać o kontrowersjach związanych z wykorzystywaniem technologii w nauczaniu języków obcych, o obawach nauczycieli z tym związanych, o ich niechęci do technologii i brakach w kompetencji cyfrowej.

Wybuch pandemii Covid-19 i przeniesienie wszystkich zajęć uniwersyteckich online wiele zmienił i przyspieszył wiele procesów zaplanowanych na kolejne lata. Obecnie wciąż nie wiemy jak ostatecznie będzie wyglądała edukacja na uczelniach w roku akademickim 2020/2021, ale wykorzystujące doświadczenie i umiejętności nabyte dzięki pandemii warto zmienić i unowocześnić swoje podejście do nauczania języka obcego.

Nowa rzeczywistość może wymagać od nas nauczania tzw. hybrydowego, gdzie kliku studentów znajduje się z nami w sali zajęciowej, a reszta uczestniczy w ćwiczeniach online. Nasze grupy zajęciowe są coraz liczniejsze i trudno poświęcić wszystkim studentom taką samą uwagę i w jednakowym stopniu zaangażować ich w pracę. Warto zadbać o to, aby w czasie zajęć to studenci pracowali wykonując praktyczne zadania, współpracując i tworząc produkt końcowy, a część teoretyczną zajęć przenieść do modułów online i zadawać studentom do wykonania w domu (ang. flipped classroom).

Zamierzam ten rok akademicki poświęcić na opracowanie praktycznych zadań, które moi studenci będą wykonywać na zajęciach po wcześniejszym zapoznaniu się ze słownictwem niezbędnym do opanowania kolejnych tematów. Teksty z podręcznika będą opracowane w formie tutoriali dostępnych na YouTube, a zestawy do zrozumienia i powtórek słownictwa będą opracowane w formie prezentacji.

Memrise Tutorial

This week I am going to present at the BLEC Conference „LANGUAGE AND LAW – TRADITIONS, TRENDS AND PERSPECTIVES” at the University of Białystok. I will talk about using memrise in teaching Legal English. Below you can find the abstract of my presentation.

I have also prepared a handout in which I explain step by step how to create courses on memrise. I hope it will be useful for you and your students.

Memrise is an educational tool available both online and for mobile devices. Memrise uses flashcards and mnemonic techniques to aid in teaching foreign languages and memorizing information from other subjects, e.g. geography, law or mathematics. Memrise courses are created by its users through the process of crowdsourcing, therefore they are tailored to the individual needs of the users and may focus on the specific content of a particular coursebook or classes.

The paper will attempt to present possibilities of using memrise in teaching and learning legal English vocabulary during a tertiary course leading to TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills) certificate examination. The paper will look various types of exercises which facilitate memorizing vocabulary, learning collocations, prepositional phrases, develop the skill of paraphrasing and defining legal terms of art in plain English. Application of the crowdsourcing method enables the learners to participate in the process of the course creation and constitutes for them a supplementary, out of class exposure to the target language.

The second part of the paper will discuss the results of the research conducted by the author among her law students. The aim of the research was to investigate the students’ opinions about memrise as a tool which might facilitate individual learning of the specialist language as well as to assess whether memrise may influence the test results achieved by the students during the legal English course. The paper will contrastively analyse the progress tests results achieved by the students who have used memrise to revise and recycle language material and those who have chosen traditional (non-mobile) methods of learning. The research will also attempt to address the question whether the students who have been the contributors to the content for memrise courses have performed in tests better than those who have only been the users.

WIKI for Students of Law

www.duralex.wikispaces.com has been specially designed for Polish and Russian students of Law.

The Project is coordinated by dr Elena Vyushkina from Saratov State Law Academy, Russia and dr Aleksandra Łuczak from Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland.

Below here is a presentation of WIKI DURALEX for the 5th International Scientific and Methodological Conference on „Information and Communication Technologies in Linguistics, ELT and Crosscultural Communication” at Lomonosov Moscow State University on 7-9 June 2012

The article describing DURALEX WIKI Project written by dr Aleksandra Łuczak from Kozminski University has been awarded the third place in the competition organised by a Polish magazine for foreign languages teachers „Języki obce w szkole” and can be read here: http://duralex.wikispaces.com/


Teach, Learn and Integrate with Technology

I can remember the day, in the late 1990s, when I first started to use e-mail. I might have, however, explored the internet a little bit earlier. At that time I was already a university graduate, in my late twenties and I intended to start working on my Ph.D. thesis. I was instructed by my thesis supervisor to set up an e-mail box and use it for communication with her, since it was the least disturbing or annoying and the most convenient means of communication.

Today’s students will never remember their first encounter with technology, since it has always been present in their lives.

Ask your students what they think is the best invention of the XX century. Many of them will mention a computer, a mobile phone or the internet.

I, therefore, believe that not using technology is irresponsible…

I am a Legal English teacher from Poland. I work with very demanding young lawyers-to-be who want to develop their Legal English skills in an attractive way. I believe that using new technologies in a conservative Legal English classroom is possible. I believe that technology, used with moderation and under no compulsion, may help add variety to Legal English classes and organize them better, as well as enhance the language learning process. I am not a “techie” and I do not want to convince anybody to use technology. I am not a “dogmeist” and I do not want to prove that technology should be denied. Falling into extremes has always been dangerous.

Technology, used with moderation and under no compulsion, may help add variety to Legal English classes and organize them better, as well as enhance language learning process of young university students, since the internet, Wikipedia, blogging, and social networking has become part and parcel of their daily routines.

The advantages of using technologies in LE classroom can be manifold.
E-learning platforms facilitate communication between the teacher and the students and become the place where they meet, discuss, exchange materials, leave messages, upload their works, develop team building skills through Wiki.

Technology enables teachers to design attractive classes. They can introduce an element of fun and game but also have 24 hour access to the latest news, and can encourage lawyers-to-be to debate on current topics on blogs, mailing lists or discussion forums.

Teachers can introduce cross cultural issues by taking the students for virtual tours of the UK Parliament, the US Congress, Australian magistrate courts, playing videos and podcasts.

And last but not least, the internet is probably the richest source of content knowledge which non-lawyer LE teachers will need to feel well-qualified for discussing specialist legal topics with students. Google Book Search, Wikipedia, free Legal Advice sites, official websites of various government institutions must be saved on the reading list of any LE teacher.

Dekalog Dogmatyka

  1. Nie bój się nowych technologii; w praktyce najczęściej okazują się one łatwe w obsłudze, intuicyjne i częściej działają dobrze niż nie;
  2. Nie bój się pytać i prosić o pomoc innych bardziej doświadczonych lub chętnych do pomocy kolegów lektorów, informatyków, bloggerów lub po prostu entuzjastów postępu technicznego;
  3. Zapisz się na kurs nt. wykorzystania nowych technologii w nauczaniu języków obcych organizowany dla nauczycieli lub zaproponuj zorganizowanie takiego kursu w twojej szkole;
  4. Jeśli wiesz, że twoja koleżanka lub kolega z pracy wykorzystuje w swojej pracy komputery i nowe technologie zaproponuj im, aby przeprowadzili szkolenie dla pozostałych nauczycieli. Koszt takiego szkolenia będzie zapewne dużo niższy od szkolenia przez firmę zewnętrzną i dyrekcja szkoły na pewno się na nie zgodzi;
  5. Zawsze możesz liczyć na pomoc swoich uczniów – prawdopodobnie wiedzą jak rozwiązać twoje problemy techniczne;
  6. Zawsze możesz zaskoczyć swoich uczniów pokazując im nowe narzędzia, których oni sami jeszcze nie znają – zostaniesz ich „idolem”;
  7. Ułatwisz sobie pracę: stworzysz bazę materiałów, które będzie można wykorzystać w przyszłości, ograniczysz ilość prac domowych przekazywanych na papierze i napisanych trudnym do rozszyfrowania pismem, włączysz swoich uczniów w tworzenie kursu, który prowadzisz, wspólnie stworzycie gotowy produkt końcowy waszej wspólnej pracy, którym będzie można się pochwalić rodzicom, przełożonym, kolegom nauczycielom;
  8. Wzbogacisz swoje cv; kursy e-learningowe coraz częściej stają się integralną częścią kursów prowadzonych metodami tradycyjnymi. Informacja o twoich umiejętnościach posługiwania się najnowszymi technologiami może podnieść twoje szanse na rynku pracy;
  9. Próbuj sam(a) jak najwięcej; najlepiej uczymy się i najwięcej zapamiętujemy sami wykonując zadania, które chcemy poznać lub rozwiązać;
  10. Koniecznie zajrzyj na stronę www.teachertrainingvideos.com, na której Russell Stannard w krótkich filmach będący zapisem zdarzeń prezentowanych na ekranie komputera pokazuje jak używać różnych aplikacji przydatnych w pracy lektora języka obcego; nie koniecznie angielskiego, gdyż na stronie znajduje się zakładka ‘Videos for All Languages’ (filmy dla wszystkich języków).