Language Teaching and Technology – EDER 669.73 Summer 2014

June 17, 2014

I am so excited to be teaching “Language Learning and Technology” this summer in the Master’s of Education program in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. The course combines theory and practice, looking at a variety of topics around technology and language pedagogy.

One of the elements I am most excited about is that some of the course content will be decided up on and driven by the students themselves. They get to choose what articles they read, as well as facilitate and shape the online dialogue we engage in. I’ve organized some broad general topics that we’ll follow, but the students will have the opportunity to co-create the course with me throughout the summer semester. We’ll customize much of what we do to their interests and let them drive their own learning process.

Here is a copy of the course outline:

View this document on Scribd

This course combines two of my favorite topics: language learning and technology. I’m so excited to engage with the students during this learning journey.

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10 Tips for Succeeding in Virtual Teams

March 27, 2014

Almost all of the online courses I teach involve group work of some kind. Some groups thrive in their virtual teams and others fail miserably. After observing what works and what does not, here are ten tips to those who are new to online collaborative projects:

  1. Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Be kind to each other. Point out one another’s strengths.
  3. Refrain from commenting on each other’s weaknesses.
  4. When in doubt, assume good intentions. Tone is very difficult to “hear” in online communications. If you find yourself miffed or offended, take a step back. Are you sure that you are not making an assumption about the other person’s intention? Then ask yourself, “Is this really the hill I want to die on?” Forgiveness is important in virtual teams.
  5. Focus on supporting each other through the process.  No one gets left behind and if there’s an assigned leader, that person doesn’t forge too far ahead. Instead, keep the group together and moving forward.It’s a journey and your job is to make it up the mountain together.
  6. Be flexible with one another. Scheduling can be especially challenging in an online context. Change up the meeting times to accommodate people from different time zones. Don’t expect the same person to always get up at 2:00 a.m. for a meeting.
  7. Ask what you can do to help or what others need most from you. Don’t assume that your virtual team mates know your strengths.
  8. Avoid writing frustrations down and sharing them. If you need to work out issues, find a way to talk about it (e.g. Skype or phone).
  9. Sometimes you are right and sometimes you are wrong. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about working together.
  10. Everyone is responsible for making back-ups of the work along the way. If one person’s system crashes, they get a virus or their laptop is stolen, the other members of the team all have copies of the back-ups. Using online storage such as Dropbox or Google drive is a great idea, but it’s not the only idea. Back everything up.

Working in virtual teams can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. With a bit of patience, common sense and a good sense of humour, you’ll be surprised how much you can achieve in a virtual team.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


10 Tips for Creating Successful and Sustainable Online Communities

August 7, 2013

NingI have set up a number of online communities throughout my career. Here are my top 10 lessons learned over the years:

  1. An initial time investment of 25 hours to get your online community set up is not unreasonable. It’s easy and fast to sign up, but there’s more to it than setting up an account and a profile. In the beginning, you need to build a foundation for ongoing and sustainable social interaction between your members. You need to create a community that provides value, resources and a sense that time there will be well spent.
  2. You also need to collect and add some quality content to populate the site from the very beginning. Do not wait until you have a critical mass of members, assuming that high quality content will simply appear. Set the example for what type of content you expect by populating the site with some initial contributions yourself.
  3. Most popular content includes “how to” information, tips, lesson plans and very practical hands-on type information. Avoid lengthy diatribes, theory or “heavy” philosophical material. Multi-media content is also popular.
  4. It’ll work best if you “seed” the community with at least half a dozen (or more, if you can get them) key individuals who are well-known in the social group. These “founding members” should be hand-picked by the administrator. They are folks who will be seen as trusted authorities or influencers. Get at least half a dozen founding members fully signed up (including their profiles and photos) before sending out a mass public invite. You may have to follow up with them once or twice to nudge them, but it’s worth it. Seeding your site with a few key influencers can help build the online community quickly and effectively.
  5. People will have a look to see who else is part of the online community before they sign up themselves. If they see people they know, trust and like on the list of virtual community members, they are more likely to sign up themselves.
  6. Ask each of your “founding members” to contribute one piece of content — an article, a blog post or something that will bring value to the community. Part of the success of your Ning will depend on having quality contributions from a variety of members.
  7. Plan on updating your online community at least once a week. One of the biggest downfalls of online communities is that they stagnate because no one contributes.
  8. Approve new members. Human spammers or spam bots may try to sign up for your online community. Some services that offer online communities give you the option to require that new members be approved. If your service offers that option, I recommend accepting it. It’s a little more work upfront, but it keeps the quality of your online community high… which will keep your members happy.
  9. If you do get spammers in the community, eject them immediately. No apologies and no questions asked. If necessary, you may need to apologize to community members for spammer activity and let them know that you have taken steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
  10. Invite contributions from members on an ongoing basis. Send out periodic and personalized e-mails to members letting them know that you have showcased their work or you’d like to invite them to contribute. Avoid sending form letters or messages that are not personalized. Sending occasional personal e-mail communications will be more effective than mass mailouts or “blasts”. By the way, this goes beyond a form letter that simply has the person’s first name in the salutation. That no longer counts as genuinely personalized communication. Add a comment about the person as human being. Ask about their spouse, kids, pets or latest project or vacation, using specific details that lets the sender know it is not really just another form letter.

Over the past few years, I have noticed a curious trend. Five years ago, fewer people knew what online communities were all about. Those who knew signed up without much resistance and contributed generously. Now, more people know what online communities are and understand how to participate in one, but at the same time, people are getting pickier about what they sign up for. Even though more people have higher technology literacy levels when it comes to understanding both the concept and the “nuts and bolts” of online communities, that does not necessarily correlate to a willingness to sign up for one.

The trick to creating a sustainable and successful online community is continually providing value to members, without overwhelming them. You must respect their time, their privacy and their willingness to engage. Time and energy are valuable personal resources. If you want someone to spend time and energy in your online community, make it worthwhile for them.

An online community is not a sales platform and nor is it a space for one person to broadcast their ideas or opinions. A community — whether it is online or in real life — must be interactive, engaging and supportive for everyone.

Ning is my favorite online platform for online communities, especially for education and non-profit. There is a cost, but it is minimal. The Ning name is also trusted and well-known. I don’t think you need to budget tens of thousands of dollars to have a custom-built platform.

(Note: I have no affiliation to Ning and receives no financial or other benefits from promoting them. I just think they are a good service that’s worth recommending.)

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Profile of a cyberbully: 7 Personality traits to watch for

April 3, 2013

Sarah Eaton's education blogIn a recent post I talked about 5 behaviors that might indicate that that your child is a cyberbully. In addition to behaviors, researchers have also profiled cyberbullies to figure out what personality characteristics are common among those who engage in online bullying.

Do any of these traits describe your child?

Characteristics of a cyberbully

  1. May be introverts, underdogs or underachievers.
  2. May have low self-esteem.
  3. Often feels like a victim themselves.
  4. May not know how to express anger in an appropriate manner.
  5. Would be unlikely to say to someone’s face what they say in cyberspace (especially if  there’s a parent or teacher to witness it).
  6. Use the Internet as a way to “get even” or vent their frustrations.
  7. Often unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.
If this sounds like your child, look for behaviors that correspond to cyberbullying. Having these personality traits alone does not guarantee that your child is a cyberbully, but they may be warning signs. The same characteristics may also be indicators of depression, inability to cope or other mental or emotional distress.Cyberbulling may be a sign of a much deeper mental illness that requires treatment and ongoing attention.
In my next post in this series, I’ll talk about what to do if your child is an online bully and how to get them the treatment they may desperately need.

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Related posts:

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References

Amercian Humane Association. (n.d.). Cyber Bullying Prevention and Intervention.   Retrieved November 19, 2012, from http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/cyber-bullying-prevention-and-intervention.html

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (n.d.). Cyberbulling: Indentification, prevention and response. Retrieved from http://www.cyberbullying.us/Cyberbullying_Identification_Prevention_Response_Fact_Sheet.pdf

PureSight Online Child Saftey (Author). (n.d.). What should I do if my child is a cyberbully?   Retrieved November 19, 2012, from http://www.puresight.com/Cyberbullying/what-should-i-do-if-my-child-is-a-cyber-bully.html

StopBullying.gov. (n.d.). Warning signs.   Retrieved 2012, 2012, from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/index.html#bullying

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


100 Top Experts in E-Learning and EdTech

March 13, 2013

100_top_experts_in_elearning_and_edtech_bannerThe website “Best College Rankings” has published their list of the 100 Top Experts in E-Learning and EdTech. I just found out that I made the list, coming in at #64 of experts around the globe.

I’m not quite sure how they decided who gets on the list. I have to say, I work with some pretty amazing people whose contributions to the field are much greater than mine who did not make the list. And there are some pretty impressive names on the list. I am proud to be counted among them.

Nevertheless, a reason to celebrate is a reason to celebrate. I have been feeling under the weather lately, so I think I’ll celebrate with some chamomile tea… (I won’t be making the list of the 100 Top Party Animals any time soon with chamomile tea, I’m sure…)

Thanks, Best College Rankings!

How did I find out I was on the list? Via a tweet, of course. Technology rocks.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Global Trends in 21st Century Education: Thinking about Technology, Teaching and Learning in the New Millennium – Speaking in Quesnel, BC

October 23, 2012

Last Friday, I was in Quesnel, British Columbia to present at the professional development day for K-12 teachers in School District 28. I was honored to be their keynote speaker, as well as do two workshops afterwards. Here is what I presented:

Keynote address – Global Trends in 21st Century Education: Thinking about Technology, Teaching and Learning in the New Millennium

This talk is based on research I have been doing since 2010 on emerging trends in education across most developed nations and what we might expect over the next 15 to 20 years. I am not a futurist by training, but there are elements of looking down the road and being able to say, “This is where we are today, and it is not impossible that this is where we are heading.”

Workshop #1 – Appreciating Innovation and Incorporating Wisdom Across the Educational Spectrum

This workshop had an educational leadership focus. We looked at how teachers with different approaches to technology can learn to work together for the benefit of students. It was a strength-based approach to working together in the digital age.

Workshop #2 – Learning the Twenty-First Century Way: Making Sense of How to Use Social Media for Classroom Learning and Student Engagement

In this workshop, I shared how I incorporated Twitter into one of my university level classes. Then we had some hands-on time in the lab and teachers got set up with their first Twitter account.

I really enjoyed my time in Quesnel, a small city of 10,000 people where the pulp mill is a major employer and residents are concerned about the land slippage into the Fraser River that is affecting homes and roadways.

I always find that I learn a lot from taxi drivers when I go somewhere to speak and Quesnel was no exception. The cab driver who picked me up at 7:15 a.m. to take me over to the high school told me that his fares so far that morning had included a round-trip drug run and that poverty was a major issue in the community.

Stories like that were countered by the one told to me by Mike Adams, the principal at Correlieu Secondary School, where our PD day was held. He told me that the young man who got the sound system set up for the day had essentially been abandoned by his parents as a teenager. Instead of turning to drugs, he was surrounded by friends, teachers and administrators who wanted to help. As a result, he was on the football team, in the band and part of the school musical. He turned his life around thanks to the strong sense of community and support he found.

Thank you gift from Quesnel, BC - keynote speaker, Sarah Elaine EatonThanks to Lisa Kishkan, who organized the whole PD day for the teachers, including the other workshops that included sessions on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation; the art of Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Eggs); and the aboriginal medicine wheel. I really enjoyed my time in Quesnel and as always, I think I learned as much as I shared.

I am excited to try the “birch syrup” that the teachers gave to me as a thank you gift at the end of the day. And I love coffee and I’ll enjoy the new coffee mug that will always remind me of the trip. Thank you to the educators of Quesnel for the great work you do.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


12 Tips to incorporate blogging into your classes

August 2, 2012

In a recent Master’s of Education course I taught at the University of Calgary, blogging was a required assignment for the students. The program coordinator (my boss) urged me to have the students blog as part of their course. She let me know that the students were enrolled in a graduate certificate program and that the course I was teaching was the first course of their certificate. She said that the certificate had been set up so that students would blog throughout their entire learning experience, as part of every course in their certificate.

The course I taught was on incorporating technology into educational practice. As an avid blogger myself, I was excited by the prospect of incorporating blogging into my teaching practice.

Most of the students were teachers themselves and some of them were technology leaders in their schools, but only one had her own blog.

After having incorporated “blogging for learning” into my teaching practice, here is what I learned:

1. Recommend a blogging service.

We (meaning the course coordinator and I) did not restrict what blogging service the students chose, but we recommended a few (including WordPress and Blogger). We recommended free sites and suggested that students not pay to register their own domain (at least, not to start).

 2. Show students the nuts and bolts of how to set up a blog.

I spent approximately 30 minutes in one class, showing students the “behind the scenes” of my own WordPress blog. Using an LCD projector, hooked up to a computer with an Internet connection, I took my students on a virtual tour of my own WordPress dashboard. I showed them how to choose a theme, write a post and then publish that post. They appreciated the demo and it gave them confidence to get started.

3. Give them time to set up their blog.

One student reported that it took her two hours to set up her blog. This included familiarizing herself with the dashboard, selecting a theme and figuring out how to post. Even for those who are into technology, setting up your first blog can seem overwhelming until you get the hang of it. The students needed dedicated time to figure out the practicalities of their blog.Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional development

 4. Link the blogs to the course content.

Emphasize that the topics that students post on need to relate to the cours content. Topics covered in class or questions raised during class were some suggestions. At times, I would encourage students to think about their blog by saying in class, “That is good fodder for a blog post.” This helped them to think about what a learning blog is and what topics make for good blog posts.

5. Assign a certain number of postings.

In our course, students had to publish a minimum of four posts throughout their course. Their instructions included “keeping up-to-date with postings throughout the course”. About half of the students were able to do this. The other half waited until the end of the course and then published three or four postings at once. Many students admitted to having their blogs in draft form, but did not feel ready to publish them.

6. Assign a minimum number of words for each post.

In our course, students’ blog posts had to be a minimum of 200 words. This meant that writing was part of the assignment. It was not enough to post a graphic or a video without a reflective response.

7. Encourage multimedia.

In addition to the 200 words, I encouraged students to post videos, graphics, Wordles and other multimedia to their blogs. Since our course was about incorporating technology into inquiry-based learning, this was appropriate. Some students were able to incorporate media quite easily, but others struggled with this.

8. Encourage students to include a blogroll.

Students were expected to read and comment on each other’s posts. To help them with this, we had each student post their blog address in our online class Blackboard site. I encouraged each student to include a blog roll on their own blogs, so they could easily access each other’s blogs. Not all the students figured out how to do this, but most of them were able to set up a blog roll. This helped them to keep track of each other’s blogs more easily.

9. Include commenting and interactivity as part of the assignment.

Part of the learning task included students commenting on their classmates’ blog posts at least twice. These comments counted as part of their grade for the assignment. Students were asked to post thoughtful and reflective comments that went beyond “Good post!” or “I liked this”. This proved to be problematic at the beginning, as some students had difficulty figuring out how to approve comments. Until they did, their peers’ comments did not show up on their blogs. Once the students figured out how to approve each other’s comments, this went much more smoothly.

10. Talk about blogging in class.

Not only did I highlight topics or questions that would make good blog posts, we also talked about the process of blogging in class. One student was excited to announce that someone from another country had read her blog post and “liked” it, using the “like” button in WordPress. Until then, she had no idea that anyone outside our class might read her blog posts. Knowing that another educator, whom she did not know, read and liked her post gave her great inspiration to keep writing. Her story also inspired the other students to think about how blogging can help them connect with others on a broader scale.

11. Differentiate between a personal and professional / educational blog.

Not only did I provide written instructions on the course outline, I also supported the written instructions with an in-class demo and ongoing discussions in class about blogging and how to use blogging for learning or professional teaching purposes. A couple of students had trouble figuring out how blogging for class differed from personal blogging. We talked about how a personal blog might include more family photos, recipes or other personal information, while a professional learning blog would include topics more focussed on work and our professional lives.

12. Help students find their blogging voice.

I made it clear that since the students were also professionals and teachers, that their blog was an extension of their professional selves. Some students initially found this a bit diffiult and said that they did not know what tone of voice to use in their blog. We had a conversation about language register and how a learning blog was one step down from a formal research paper and probably one step up from very informal conversations. By the end of the course, most of the students had found a happy medium.

Overall, the process of working with these adult learners (who are also teachers) in helping them learn how to blog was both challenging and rewarding. In the beginning, I had assumed (incorrectly) that since they had high levels of technology literacy and many of them teach tech as part of their professional practice, that they would find it easy to blog. In reality, it took time for them to learn the nuts and bolts of how to blog, to learn what topics made for a good blog post and to learn how to find their voice as a blogger.

In the end, they did extremely well with their blogs and I have subscribed to all of them. I am excited to see how they progress with blogging in thier next course.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

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