Nicky Hockly is the Director of Pedagogy at The Consultants-e which is an online language teacher training and development consultancy. She has worked in the field of face-to-face and distance education since 1987, as a teacher, teacher trainer and consultant and holds an MA in TEFL from the Universidad de Granada ( Spain ), a CTEFLA (1987) and a DTEFLA (1991). Nicky has worked as a teacher trainer on Cambridge-ESOL CELTA courses, and has given seminars, in-service workshops and teacher training courses for practising language teachers in the UK, South America, South Africa and in many European countries. She has also been involved in materials development, for both EFL course books and online learning. Awards include: British Council Innovation Award - Winners 2007; Ben Warren International House Trust Prize 2007; David Riley / MacMillan / BESIG Prize - shortlisted 2008; British Council Innovation Award - shortlisted 2009.
Nicky kindly agreed to do an interview with Panagiotis for the She-in-ELT series.
The weather is what made me into a language teacher. That may sound a little odd. Born in Cape Town South Africa, I was used to decent weather, and after spending six years in the UK, I was desperate to move to warmer climes. The easiest way to move to Greece/Portugal/Italy/Turkey/Spain was by becoming a language teacher. The minute I got my British citizenship, I jumped on the first plane heading south, armed with a four-week teaching certificate, and got a job in Barcelona. I then discovered that I loved both teaching and Barcelona, and haven't looked back since.
2. Can you expand on your experience using technology in teaching?
I am first and foremost a teacher and teacher trainer. That's what I love doing. I'm definitely not a technical person by nature. I ended up using technology in my teaching quite by chance. I was offered a job as the Academic Director on an inter-university online MA programme in 1997, which was run entirely online. These were the very early days of online teaching and training. I cut my teeth on WebCT (a VLE), producing MA materials, designing online tasks, and tutoring groups of MA students online from Spain, the UK, and Latin America.
Although I had plenty of experience teaching face-to-face, I had none teaching online. After about six months of online tutoring, the turning point came when I myself was an online student on a course with a UK university in 1998. As an online learner, I learned more in six weeks than I had learned as an untrained tutor in six months. It was a real eye opener.
It made me realise just how important experiential training is for the online tutor. Not so surprising really: we all know that learning a foreign language gives a foreign language teacher invaluable insights into the process of learning a language; taking an online course gives one invaluable insights into online learning and tutoring.
I worked on the online MA programme for six years, until setting up an online training and online consultancy (The Consultants-E) with my colleague Gavin Dudeney in 2003. I now work about 80% online, training and tutoring, and managing a variety of online projects and consultancies. About 20% of my time is spent on f2f training and giving conference talks.
Using technology in my work has the obvious advantage of working in a cutting-edge field which is constantly evolving, and which I find interesting and stimulating. Fringe benefits to working online include avoiding rush hour traffic, and working in my pyjamas until 2pm if I feel like it.
3. Today we all witness the education world change and transform into something new through the use of technology. What do you think the future of education holds for us? How do you see online learning developing?
I think it's already the case that more and more educational institutions are offering both blended and online learning. Learners expect increased flexibility, and teachers need to be able to harness the potential of new technologies in order to meet these needs. This means that teachers need to be trained in how to effectively create and deliver both online and blended courses. In my experience the great majority of teachers are still woefully under-prepared for this, and many teacher training courses still persist in ignoring new technologies, whether in face-to-face teaching or in blended and online teaching. I personally find that infuriating! I think it is unfair on teachers.
4. Online learning, while becoming increasingly popular is still faced by many with skepticism and fear. What do you think are the steps needed to overcome these obstacles?
Online learning is not necessarily inferior to face-to-face teaching -- it's different. The problem is that there are plenty of bad online courses out there, with poor course design, and untrained facilitators. This gives online learning a bad name. I personally know teachers who have already taken poorly designed online courses and have had such a negative experience, that they can't imagine online courses ever working effectively. This is another thing that infuriates me! :-)
Good online courses, in which effective online tasks are combined with effective online community building , and effective tutoring, can be immensely rewarding, and highly developmental. In my own experience, excellent online courses can be even more effective than face-to-face courses.
The steps needed to overcome fear of online teaching or learning? Take a good online course as a participant!
5. How can a teacher make a successful transition from the offline to the online world?
I'm now going to start sounding very repetitive. In my opinion (and experience), teachers need effective training in e- moderation skills, and they need to experience online learning themselves as participants. Only then is the teacher really ready to consider how to design and facilitate his or her own courses online.
6. What do you think about the certification of online teachers? Do you consider it important and valuable for a teacher?
7. What do you think makes ELT teaching a successful and rewarding experience?
Without doubt the students. Working in online teacher training means that my ‘students’ are teachers from all over the world, from Azerbaijan to Zambia. That is an incredibly enriching and rewarding thing!
8. For many, ELT is still a male dominated field. You’ve had a very successful and accomplished career. However, did you as a female ever felt pressure or limits on your development? Did you feel a sort of “glass ceiling” in the field?
Well, it's very flattering that you think I've had a successful and accomplished career! I think there are plenty of women out there who have done a lot more than me, a lot more effectively, than I have! As to the glass ceiling debate, my only comment is this: of all the conferences that I have attended or spoken at in the last 12 months, the great majority of plenary speakers were male. In two of the conferences, all of the plenary speakers were male. I find that surprising in a female dominated profession.
Useful links related to this posting:
Nicky's very funny Pechua Kucha from IATEFL Cardiff 2009
This interview was conducted by Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos of Myngle.com - Myngle brings together language teachers and students from all over the world enabling live lessons over the Internet. Myngle offers the possibility of teaching or receiving live one-on-one lessons from the comfort of your home for practically any language, level or type of teacher. To learn more about Myngle, visit their LinkedIn page.Myngle also tweet from their handle @Myngler
Do you have a question for Nicky? Don't hesitate to ask and if you'd also like to contribute a guest-article on one of the amazing woman in our field of English Language Teaching, please don't hesitate to get in touch!