CILC Pinnacle Award Honorable Mention

November 8, 2012

Sarah Elaine Eaton CILC Pinnacle Award 2011-2012The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) is a national U.S. service that offers virtual learning programs and professional development programs for educators.

I have been offering professional development programs via webinar for teachers and other professionals for a few years now. My programs include:

Every year, CILC confers awards on those who have top scores in their program evaluations — in other words, based on how participants evaluate our programs.

Each school year, the scores of ALL program evaluations for each professional development provider are averaged based on 7 questions which are:

The presenter:

  • was knowledgeable about the content.
  • was engaging.

The program:

  • was engaging.
  • was applicable to professional growth.
  • aligned to presenter’s stated objectives.
  • contained strategies that will impact student learning.
  • will impact my teaching.

Each question has a numerical value and drives the CILC Pinnacle Award.

This year, I was thrilled to receive an honorable mention for high quality virtual programming and PD webinars. This is the second time I have received an honorable mention in the Pinnacle Awards. The first time was in 2009-2010. Check out the list of all the professional development award recipients. Mine is listed under my company, Eaton International Consulting Inc.

I love working with CILC. They create amazing opportunities for students, teachers, administrators, leaders and others to engage in collaborative or innovative programs with presenters from across the globe.

They also create opportunities for people like me, who love to do offer programs virtually, the chance to connect with new people from across the United States.

Thank you to the clients who took the time to evaluate my programs and give them high marks. I love working with you.


Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

What makes a good research question?

November 6, 2012

This week I posed a question to my students: What makes a good research question?

As Masters of Education students, they are learning about what it means to be a researcher and building a foundation of knowledge. They came up with some great resources this week. If you are looking for answers to this question, check out these great resources:

Sarah Eaton blog leadershipSonia Ospina’s entry in the Encyclopedia of Leadership on Qualitative Research

This is a 13-page document, available free in .pdf format. Published in 2004, this text shares some of the fundamentals of qualitative research, particularly as it pertains to leadership. It is also very useful for students and researchers working in education and other social sciences. It contains an extensive bibliography that serves as a great point of departure for more exploration. Link for this resource:

Sarah Eaton blogJudith Haber’s chapter called “Research Questions, Hypotheses and Clinical Questions”

Though marked as “Sample – Not final” with a watermark on the .pdf, this is an incredible 29-page resource that includes flow charts and tables of information. It is easy to understand and written in language that most novice researchers could understand. This one quickly became a favorite because it was colorful and concise. Even though it appears to be written for students and practitioners of health research, there are many elements that may be useful to educators and social science researchers, too. Link for this resource:

Companion for Undergraduate Research

This is a website ( that outlines the characteristics of a good research question. Then it talks about each characteristic in detail. It is written in clear language and is very well organized. The page also contains links to other helpful resources on research.

Figuring out how to craft a research question can be tricky. Resources like these help to demystify the process.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Social Media in a Family Literacy Program (Slides)

September 25, 2012

I noticed the other day that I never posted the slides from this presentation that I did last year at the annual conference of the Centre for Family Literacy, so I am posting them now. (Better late than never!)

Social media in a family literacy program from Sarah Eaton

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Where the Grass is Greener: How to Learn Anywhere (A year of inspired insights #9)

July 24, 2012

Don’t you just hate being cooped up in a classroom during the summer?

When I teach language during the summer months, I often take my university class outside to sit on the grass. We take our textbooks with us and do our lesson sitting in a circle somewhere quiet outside. For the most part, I try to stick with the lesson that we have planned for that day. It makes me sad that much of my teaching career has been governed too heavily by a curriculum that dictates what we must learn on any given day.

Every now and then, I rebel. The results are as inspiring as they are effective.

Once I told my students to forget about the textbook. I said, “Much of the real world vocabulary that we need to know is not in the textbooks. And a lot of what is in the textbook is not really useful in the real world. Look around. What are some every day items that you do not know the names for? Point or use the phrase we have learned in class for “How do you say…?”

We spent the entire hour learning vocabulary of every day items that were all around us.  We spoke only in the target language. Students learned to be resourceful with their body language to point, shrug and use facial expressions to express what they wanted to learn.

The students were engaged and energized. They were learning words that made sense to them in a real-wold context. They also realized how much they did not know… and how much they wanted to learn.

We not only said the words aloud, we made lists of the words. I spelled the words out using the alphabet. This encouraged them to listen closely and practice using the alphabet to spell out words.

Once we had a list of forty words or so, we began to categorize them. We came up with categories together that included: “nature” (grass, trees, etc.), “buildings” (library, student centre, etc.), “structures” (bench, stairs), “art” (poster, statue) and “other things you find outdoors” (bus stop, garbage can, etc.)

We not only learned vocabulary, we practiced spelling, listening, non-verbal communication and critical thinking skills to group the vocabulary words in a logical manner.

Often, finding inspiration in a textbook is difficult. But learning, that can happen anywhere.

5 Strategies to Learn Anywhere

1. Ditch the textbook. It may not be possible to avoid using a textbook most of the time, but every now and again, a teacher’s creativity, experience and wisdom are enough to shape an effective learning experience.

2. Involve the students in the learning design. Ask them what they want to learn. If you are using a “learn anywhere” approach for a second language, challenge your students to communicate using the target language. Also, have them tap into their inner resilience and problem-solving skills to use body language and gestures to communicate.

3. Incorporate scaffolding. In the activity I shared with you above, we looped back to the alphabet they had learned some weeks earlier. They had to work hard to remember it and use it again in an authentic context. As you incorporate previous knowledge and skills they have learned, you encourage them to internalize them even more.

4. Create order from chaos. After we did some brainstorming and generated numerous vocabulary words, we began to categorize them. This helped the students organize the material they had just learned in a meaningful way. The idea is not to impose order, so much as create it. The students had a say in the categories we developed. There is nothing wrong with random learning, but organizing the new material can help some students make sense of it.

5. Relate your learning to the real world. There is no point of learning in the real world if it is just an academic exercise. Get students to think about how and when they would use what they have learned. Link something as simple as learning new vocabulary to real world skills such as learning how to ask the names of things. This builds their resourcefulness and problem-solving skills.

Learning is a lifelong process. The opportunity to learn new knowledge and skills are around us every day. I love books, and I also believe that there is as much (if not more) to be learned outside books, as can be learned from inside them.

Go outside and learn this summer.

Related posts:

A year of inspired insights #8: A language teacher’s legacy

A year of inspired insights #7: What to do when a student hates technology

A year of inspired insights #6: You can raise me up: The lasting impact of a teacher’s words

A year of inspired insights #5: When reason falls on deaf ears

A year of inspired insights #4: How teaching Spanish to a deaf multilingual student opened my eyes

A year of inspired insights #3: Servant leadership in the scullery

A year of inspired insights #2: Conversations change everything

A year of inspired insights #1: There’s a silver lining in every ambulance

My 2012 resolution project: A year of inspired insights


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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) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Marketing your language or literacy program: 10 webinars recorded

May 31, 2012

This week we wrapped up our 10-week webinar series on how to market your literacy or language program. Nine of the ten programs featured ideas from  101 Ways to Market Your Language Program. The 10th and final webinar focused on social media, including:

  • Brief overview of social media marketing for non-profit and educational programs
  • Building your social media capacity to market your programs more effectively.
  • Do’s and dont’s of social media marketing.

Here is the tenth webinar recording for you. There are links to the other nine programs below.

If you like these webinars and find them helpful, please share them with others, leave a comment or “like” the video on YouTube.  Thanks to everyone who joined us.

Related post and recordings of past programs:

101 Ways to Market Your Language Program (10 Free webinars)

#1 Webinar recording: Marketing strategy and planning

#2 Webinar recording: Setting marketing goals and budgets

#3 Webinar recording: Writing effective marketing copy

#4 Webinar recording: Developing written marketing materials

#5 Webinar recording: Identifying what makes you unique

#6 Webinar recording: Speciality tips for programs at large institutions

#7 Webinar recording: The power of your connections

#8 Webinar recording: Relationship marketing

#9 Webinar recording: Effective marketing follow-up


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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