Models of Online Courses

In my experience so far as an ESL teacher who works from home fairly often, I’ve realized that I could help my students more meaningfully if I create an online course that would supplement some of my face-to-face teaching. To this end, I’ve been exploring options for creating a basic online course, and in my reading, I’ve come across an interesting article that addresses the fundamental issues teachers need to focus on when they set out to create their online courses.

This post was inspired by a question sent to me by a friend, who is a very talented teacher and would like to start an online course. In her message, she mentions not being able to find a good video tutorial which could help her get started and asks my opinion about the best platform.

 As I read my friend’s message, I thought of a way to answer it. In my opinion, a video tutorial showing us how to create an online course in simple steps would be a disservice to anyone wishing to become an online teacher due to the complexity of the task.

Read the full article HOW CAN I CREATE AN ONLINE COURSE? Oh oh, that’s not a simple question by Ana Maria Menezes.

The Elite College Admissions Scandal

The elite college admissions scandal has not only shocked the nation, but has resulted in a loss of faith among many students in the American belief that hard work lies at the core of success in this country.

This scandal has revealed to many that great opportunities are bought for the children of the rich and are not necessarily based on merit. When such a travesty becomes a systemic problem, how can this be addressed by the institutions themselves?

Yale, you’ll recall, spent $500 million to house 800 students in its two new residential colleges, which adds up to $625,000 per student.  USC spent a whopping $700 million on its residential village, which houses 2,500 students.  That’s inexpensive by Yale standards, at just $280,000 per student, in a neighborhood where the average annual income is just one-tenth that amount.

Of course, the champion was Harvard, which budgeted $1.4 billion to renovate its undergraduate residences.

Expenditures like those require lots and lots of money, and, as we have been reminded in recent days, some of the money that elite institutions raise arrives in unsavory ways, for example, in return for special treatment in admissions.  This, in turn, has encouraged other wealthy people to seek their own side doors into elite colleges and universities.

What, we might ask, will be the response to this scandal?

via Responding to the Elite College Admissions Scandal – Steven Mintz |

Explicit Phonics Instruction: It’s Not Just for Students With Dyslexia

“When we know better, we do better.” There is something forgiving and medicinal about that teaching mantra.

I am regularly realizing that I could have taught something more effectively or that I should have been more culturally responsive in my language or practices. Content becomes outdated or is later revealed to be incomplete or inaccurate. Some teaching memories haunt me so much that I have had fantasies about finding ways to apologize to former students for the cringe-worthy lessons they’ve endured.

I recently had a wake-up call around reading instruction, and determined I need to intellectually embrace something that I have long suspected: While dyslexics clearly need robust reading instruction (often more specialized and intensive than their peers), their needs are not as distinct from non-dyslexics as I have previously advocated.

Via Explicit Phonics Instruction: It’s Not Just for Students With Dyslexia – Kyle Redford |

Teach Less, Influence More

Many of us like to set a goal, intention or focus for a new school year. The chance to do so is a wonderful aspect of the annual teaching cycle. I want to offer a possible goal that could make a big difference in the quality of this school year for you and your students: teach less!

Yes, I’m being purposely provocative, but hear me out. I’ve been thinking lately about what we consider teaching to be. Our definitions of teaching are still so rooted in an old factory model of education, in which the teacher delivers a fixed body of knowledge directly to students, who listen passively and learn.

via Why We Might Consider Teaching Less This Year Ariel Sacks |


Classroom Management for Better Student Engagement

When we plan classroom activities, more often than not, we also take into account the levels of student receptivity we can realistically anticipate. We also plan for potential disruptions and try to structure our plans to avoid these and maximize student engagement. However, as teachers, we must admit that this can be a bit of a trial and error process with each new set of students. There is always something to learn about classroom management, which is very well framed in this blog I came across.

A classroom should have good student management in place, but it should also include lessons/activities that are engaging. It is very difficult to have one without the other. You can spend hours creating an amazing lesson, but if your students don’t pay attention, then they will not be successful or find value in your plan. If you create your lessons with only you in mind, then the likelihood of students finding it engaging also decreases. In this scenario, you won’t necessarily have open rebellion, after all, your class is well managed, but you also won’t see student ownership of learning, that sparkle that lights up their eyes when they are excited about what they get to work on. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Read the full article Management vs. Engagement for more.

College Habits – Do We Carry Them Through Life?

If we google ‘college habits’, we get a list of good habits that college students should focus on for success. Then there are articles with lists of habits that successful students typically have. At the bottom are other suggested searches related to college habits which include study habits, healthy habits and the proverbial black sheep of habits – the bad ones.

Habits – the good, the bad and the ugly

After going through the stress of preparing, shortlisting, applying, and getting into college, the years at college are when students revel in the middle of an explosion of information. It’s when they learn from their faculty, peers and the ecosystem they are in. Through these years they form habits which range from the trivial, like using flash cards for making notes, to life sustaining ones like practicing meditation for reducing stress. If they admire a peer or a faculty member, students might actually imbibe one of their habits knowingly or unknowingly, however good or bad it is.

Read my full article on Stanford’s Blog for College Success to find out how to make the most of your college years.

List-making as an ESL Teacher

As teachers, we are forever making endless lists of teaching tools and activities for our students. But why do we gravitate towards lists? And how do they make our lives easier?Here’s an interesting post on list-making that also lists great apps for the ESL classroom.

Why do we make lists? Jillian Steinhauer  in a 2012 blog post  says “We are a society of listers.” In other words, we could all be called “glazomaniacs” according to which defines “glazomania” as a passion for list-making.

We seem to enjoy lists: to-do lists, grocery lists, best-sellers lists, new year resolution lists and blog posts such as “10 BYOD apps for ELT”. But why? Umberto Eco in a very interesting interview to Der Spiegel talks about the place of lists in society. He says: “The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order.” He goes on to say that as human beings we try to understand and organize infinity through lists, catalogs, collections and dictionaries…

via The Redefinition of List-making: What Does it Mean to Teachers? | Ana Maria Menezes