Sheila Vine on Valentina Dodge

The female in ELT who has had the most influence on me during the last four or five years is Valentina Dodge. Valentina is to online EFL what chocolate is to life: essential.

Valentina is a teacher, teacher trainer, blogger and online moderator working at the University of Naples and has very recently been appointed Teaching Community Coordinator of the English 360 for Cambridge University Press.

Vale and I first ‘met’ back in June 2005 when we were both learning to be e-moderators on the same online course and we hit it off straight away.

It was a great course with a lot of wonderful students but Valentina, or Vale as she prefers to be called, immediately impressed. In fact, scared was my first reaction, because she was such a powerful, knowledgeable and dynamic participant in all the various exercises and tasks we had to perform.

I thought she must be a plant, put there to encourage the rest of us. But no, as I soon found out she was simply exhibiting one of her best virtues: her passion for online learning and teaching.

After the online courses, we started to work together, virtually, on eChatBoX which was an online resource for real-time moderators, which we made available on the internet.

This project and the talk we gave about it to the IATEFL conference in Harrogate in April 2006 was developed completely virtually - Valentina lives in Italy and I’m based in Germany so we did not meet face-to-face until the day before we gave our prize winning presentation on the project.

My first conference speech: we got through it with tremendous mutual support, giggling with enthusiasm for the topic.

We went on to teach together, online, in our separate countries and were a great virtual team.

Vale is always totally up to the minute on the latest online gadgets and tools and her enthusiasm has continued to drag me along and encourage my faltering steps.

We also spoke together on Blended Books in Aberdeen 2007 and worked on a chapter for the book Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators edited by Chris Kimble, Paul Hildreth and Isabelle Bourdon ISBN 1593118678 or ISBN 159311866X. Our chapter is called Gender and Moderation: The Style’s the Thing!

We also wrote various articles for online magazines e.g. Cornered-The Experiences of Freelance Business English Teachers in Europe for Humanising Language Teaching. In addition we co-wrote CD-ROMs for the Flying High series for Macmillan

Valentina has spoken at many events and the excellence of her work has been recognized by many. She inspires with, not only her enthusiasm, but also her genuine desire to help her students and colleagues.

When you are working and/or studying with her it is completely clear that she in not “in it for the money” like far too many people I have had contact with in this field.

She works extremely hard, always goes the extra mile and this is often only appreciated when you realize how much she actually has on her plate at any one time. She is like the duck floating serenely on the water but paddling like heck underneath to keep up and is a perfect example “if you want something doing ask a busy person”.

Because at the same time as all these online and face-to-face teaching activities she has found the time to bring up two teenage children.

So Valentina, on behalf of all the students, colleagues, conference delegates and teachers who have met and worked with you: you give such a lot to us all, you are an inspiring example of the best in ELT .

Sheila Vine teaches International Business Studies at University of Paderborn and is an online moderator at Cambridge Assessment. She is a freelance author of various EFL Books and CD Roms and writes a blog about books she's read or used in classes.

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6 Responses to “Sheila Vine on Valentina Dodge”

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    October 15, 2009


    What a beautiful piece on Vale! I adore her & we've just interacted online as well. I think it is fascinating that you two first met while doing the Harrogate IATEFL conference. I am hoping for this chance this year if the proposal is accepted that I worked on with a wonderful EFL educator in Turkey!

    What I find especially amazing is that you both continue to collaborate from different countries!

  • Anne Hodgson says:
    October 16, 2009

    Thanks for filling us in on how you collaborate, and for putting a face on both your names. Your virtual teamwork is a great model for women in EFL.

  • Anonymous says:
    October 17, 2009

    Dear Anne

    Thanks very much for your comment I really appreciate it.

    Dear Shelly
    Go for it with your partner it is a great town and the conference is
    excellent. Perhaps we might even meet there.

  • Miguel Mendoza says:
    October 17, 2009

    Great post on Valentina Dodge, Sheila...I had the chance to work with her as a support tutor once. She is definitely inspiring and a qualified, creative wonderful professional.


  • Valentina says:
    October 17, 2009

    This surprise post has left me speechless so please forgive me if didn’t comment or reply here earlier and have only managed a few tweets since reading it yesterday morning as I rushed out… feeling like melted chocolate.

    Sheila, thanks for your public reflections and praise, I’m touched by your and Karenne’s sneaky ways!
    Let it be known that I’m energized by the two-way flow of exchanges that are possible and real online. When people ask me to define collaboration – I think of us and the words shared, mutual, cooperative are alive not monochrome characters used to describe revolutionary theories of human development but real concepts that I have been fortunate to experience.

    The “E-moderation” course we did in July 2005 was a definite turning point for me. I had already had some initial training (British Council in-house for a regional teacher training project) however, that 4-week course, or more to the point the online participation during those 4-weeks was a catalyst, an enlightening moment where I understood from first-hand experience what co-construction and social constructivism where really about. To quote the Confucius saying “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand”, well it was all the doing we did.

    In 2005, our interaction on that course, then on Webheads In Action EVO sessions, and Carl Dowse’s and my participation on the subsequent ICT in the Classroom (again as participants) demonstrated the human power and connections behind technology. (I mention Carl too, because he and you are the two people I’ve met online and worked with for months, in Carl’s case years, without first meeting in person. The proof that online can match face-to-face communication in its depth and intricacies. We discovered together that technology is about people and we discovered that together, my gratitude is enormous!

    Half a decade later the human perspectives of technology are more visible, more tangible and thriving more than ever. We only need to scroll down Karenne’s blog to see many wonderful examples. Reading blog comments and tweets, I find human depth which lies within these tools is unambiguous.

    I am astonished to find out that you thought I “must be a plant” – let us take the botanical multi-cellular definition of the word plant instead and view our online participation (forums, messaging, moodles etc) as the watering can which facilitates growth. The roots we have developed together have mutually supported us and allowed us to explore new cognitive paths, our team work blossoming and thriving with each exchange.

    Online networks overlap in unimaginable ways, they take us to the unexpected, they jolt us into “heads-up” states, and they let us progress and branch out. Women and men together pushing boundaries, meandering through new territories together and “being essential cocoa seeds” in other’s development.

    In awe and appreciation, in development
    aka Vale

  • Carl Dowse says:
    October 18, 2009

    As someone who has also worked closely with Vale for some years now, I can vouch for every word that Sheila says. It is no surprise to me that Vale has so many admirers and well wishers worldwide, as her boundless energy, dedication and vision deserve nothing less.

    Despite her many commitments as a language trainer, materials developer, online (and f2f) ICT teacher trainer, author, mother - the list just goes on and on! - Vale is always there for you to advise, discuss technical/training issues or just generally chew the ICT fat - this is truly a testament not only to her organisational skills but to her generosity of spirit!

    Thanks Sheila for turning the spotlight on someone that has done so much to help me and countless others make sense of the wonderful ICT world we now inhabit.


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