Thoughts on being an Edu-blogger

Today when people ask me what I do,

the first thing I say is

I'm an Edu-Blogger.  

Then I might add...

I write Kalinago English and on it I discuss issues related to teaching English as a Foreign Language, put up  free lessons plans every now and then, I talk about what's going on in my classes, waffle on quite a bit about dogme, do you know what dogme is?  I'm most proud of having a running series featuring amazing women in our industry - those are mostly guest posts from other bloggers, and sometimes I rant on about textbooks (not fond of them, me) but quite often I'll show how I use/d a particular computer application/ program or web 2.0 tool in one of my classes. 

Then, inevitably, one of the people that I'm talking to, in an after-work business suit, will say something like

So... do you make money from doing that?

and I'll blush and mumble something about how not everything in life has to be about money, you know. 

But then, because I have my pride and don't want him to suddenly think that 2010's answer to being a loser is being a blogger, I'll confess, of course, that  well, with regard to the moola, it's not so cut and dry, nope there's no income directly, but...   thing is, sometimes people do go on to my website from the blog and sometimes they buy my materials there but I tend not to "market" that very often (almost never) so most of the traffic on that particular site actually tends to come from Google, from countries and teachers who are non-native English teachers.  

And yes, well, of course I've gotten some paid writing work based on a lesson I did (Susan Boyle led to Working with Films).

At which point MrBusinessSuit begins to roll his eyes.

But, yeah

I have a topsy-turvey life:  my hobby (teaching) pays the bills and my job's a mind adventure.

There's something to it, tho'

There's something to all this work done by so many of us.

Where it's going, who knows...

EduBlogs, who offer various platforms designed specifically for the practice of EduBlogging,  list on a banner trailing across their website that there are

517, 432


written by teachers,

for teachers
for teacher-trainers
for students
with students.

To be honest, given this extraordinary figure, it does seem a really good time right now, to sit down, to stop, to take a pause, to look at this really quite astonishing and amazing development.   

I've decided to do this, partly on here but also, mainly, by specifically offering guest articles to my fellow Edu-bloggers  because it  is, in my humble opinion, working with your community that is one of the most, one of  the absolutely most essential parts of becoming and being a blogian: 

blogging is not just about one person 
who says that blogging is 
either this or that

but what the wider community, 
made up of each
of its individuals, 
says it is.

Blogging, or what I refer to with my own students as the digitization of paper, represents an incredible realizable step towards the democratization of education.

We're on an adventure.

It is teachers who are talking to teachers. 


 images based on a poll of 137 EduBloggers June 2010

And although this new series is specifically aimed at giving advice to the NewbieBloggers, based on the reading I did before I dipped my toes in, based on the successes and failures I've had along the way, delving into some of my strengths, revealing my own weaknesses ... telling you exactly how I managed to build a blog that gets so many visitors, has won and been nominated for so many awards, reaches an incredible global audience through versions of some articles rewritten for the academic journals in my field -  even though I'm just a TEFL teacher and EdTech teacher-trainer, really, who had no "special" personal or professional connections prior to hitting the page.

It is also an invitation to you, those of you who have more experienced voices, to disagree with me, to add your own pennies' worth in the comments on various posts (no zumping the theme tho').  

It is an invitation to share your knowledge with your community.

Useful links
Carnival! (27 bloggers writing on EduBlogging, 2009)

Blogging, chatting, discussions online: (we're still just writing on cave walls)
IATEFL 2011:  The ELT blogosphere symposium (call for YOU to join me as a co-presenter)
Recorded Presentation on Edublogging at the Reform Symposium July 31st, 2010

The Guest Posts

Glossary of EduBlogging Terms, Mike Harrison's Blog
Glossary of phrases and expresssions based on the word blog, Sue Lyon Jones's blog

The Dogma of Edublogging, Nick Jaworksi's blog

The Best Kept Secrets of Highly Successful Edubloggers
Part 1 Shelly Terrell's blog
Part 2 Janet Bianchini's blog
Part 3 Berni Wall's blog
Part 4 Monika Hardy's blog 
Part 5 Anne Hodgson's blog (coming soon)

Also on its way...
  • Lords of the Armchair (coming soon, on Jason Renshaw's)
  • Comparing EduBlogging platforms (coming soon, on Marisa's Constantinides')
  • Blogging with students (Barbara Sakamoto's)
  • Blogging tips to share with students (Tara Benwell's)
  • Why do Edu-Bloggers quit? (don't know yet, but help me out with this poll...)
What do you think?  Are there any topics in particular you'd like me to cover?

Current Poll


image credit: Artemis blogging, after Rembrandt by MikeLicht

The ELT Blogosphere, IATEFL Brighton 2011

Major Announcement!!!

My proposal to host a symposium at IATEFL, Brighton next year has been accepted!!!

This post is actually a call for your papers so that you too can become a part of this event and help host the conversation.

Here's a rough draft of what the five presentations will look like:

The ELT Blogosphere

1. Blogging within a community: (me)
From a handful of early adopters in 2003 to over 200 TEFL teachers blogging by mid-2010, we'll be looking at the writers who are driving the ELT blogosphere.   Where are they based?  What are they discussing, who visits their pages and comments on their posts?  Why do they spend so much time on them - what motivational factors are involved in keeping a personal web log and updating it daily, weekly, monthly?  
How do these bloggers find, connect and support each others personal growth?  Why?

2. Blogging as Teacher Tinkering: (you?)
In Tessa Woodward’s 2010 plenary, she raised the point that motivated teachers continue experimenting throughout their entire careers.    This presentation will look at how TEFLers share their philosophies about teaching, with other teachers via their blogs, and how they exchange approaches  and experiment with tools and technology in their classrooms.   

How and what lessons do they have to share?  

How has blogging become a part of their personal professional development?

3. Blogging as Teaching (with or for students): (you?)
More and more teachers are involving students in the process of keeping personal notebooks online instead of traditional paper.  How are teachers leaving homework and post-task activities for their learners?  What impact does this have on their autonomy?  How do teachers involve their language learners in writing for an audience?  

What problems have they faced? Is it possible for e-community leaders to motivate thousands of globally non-connected students in writing challenges?  What methods do teachers use to track and correct their own students’ work and how do they find subjects which will keep them motivated, writing across differing ages and backgrounds?  

What happens when students take on an ownership of their own blogs?

4. Blogging: Audiences, Reputation, Marketing & Money (you?)
By 2009, a number of publishers, global institutions and VIP authors began to notice the value in the two-way communication which blogs represent and they began joining in.   Does blogging have any influence  over brands or professional author reputation?  How do teacher-trainers and authors continue instructing after a presentation or conference?   

What negative implications can poorly chosen communication strategies represent to their global regularly reading audience? 

Does blogging lead to any kind of financial reward?

5. Taking the Issues to the Blogs: (you?)
From 2009 to 2011 a number of bloggers began to write about the harder hitting issues in the TEFL industry: pay, pensions, NNEST vs NEST, gender and racism in ELT.   What were some of their posts about and what were the responses of their readers? Did they take things too far?   

Should the blogosphere simply be touchy-feely diary style type of place (a love-fest) or does controversy and politics play a role in dealing with issues, reaching consensus and initiating action?

How to become a special part of this event
Would you like to be one of the presenters?  I am hoping to choose 4 bloggers who'll have around 20mins each to talk on their special area of interest + about 10minsQ&A with our audience...  so if you're keen, could you please make your submission directly to IATEFL (who will send them on to me if you have fulfilled their requirements)?  

And don't forget to entitle your presentation with one of the above draft topics (not fixed - if you have a better idea  or you would like to expand the subject and go in a different direction, don't hesitate to submit  this idea) and do kindly remember to mark on your submission that you would like to take part in the symposium!

DEADLINE :  17 September 2010
More details on the IATEFL Brighton Conference 2011 (here)

In the meantime, even if you would not like to present, are there are any subjects or questions you would like us to talk about when we're there?

Let me know your thoughts!


image credit: Women of WiFi, after Caillebotte by Mike Licht, on Flickr

Paid 2 Tweet?

It had to happen, didn't it?

I mean it's hardly surprising, now is it?

Money and the need for money always winds up affecting, tainting everything:

Coolio! I just became an affiliate for TOMS shoes. Nice to promote something with a cause behind it - (aff link)Wed Jul 21 21:33:39 via Seesmic

And although, sometimes, I think... well... that wouldn't be so so bad, sit in my pyjamas all day and all that - paid to tweet and work the hallways of Facebook?

I guess I'm not the only,

not the only one...

RT @pascalvenier: ...Perhaps I should tweet for a living. Do U know of any global brand who would hire a professional twitteratti?Please RT.Wed Jul 21 20:33:52 via Echofon

But the thing is...


As long as it's obvious.

As long as it's not hidden.

Something just off the corner of dark grey.

After over a year being on Twitter, I guess I don't have a problem with company tweeters, especially when they're upfront about what they're doing (it's a bit annoying they're so incredibly self-centered but you get used to it - they just don't get that special word "social" in the words social media).

And some of them have indeed really made giant steps towards reaching out to Tweeters.

Some of them wear their faces.
Some of them still hide behind their company logos.
But hiding behind someone else's face?

I mean hiding behind the company logo enables them to use more than one person to communicate directly with so if you're a company, I guess, and you've got lots of employees, I guess why not?   But when you load up a face in order to present an image of your company as being personal and in touch  then, pretty much, you should probably make sure then that you are your face.  

Not having time to tweet isn't an excuse to con others.

Let's look at what Chris did there, up above,  I can trust that. 

I trust Brogan, after all he's been a good voice to follow along my entry into the 'sphere and along the road into the world of Social Media.  He's a very hard worker.  I trust him because what he does, is always right there: smack-dab in the sunshine and let's face it, a man's gotta earn a living and all that.

He added that signpost: aff link at the end of his tweet.

So if I go on to his link, it's my choice.

If I click I know that I am consciously going to click on something he's making money off of. 

But if someone I really trust in education gets paid to socially network and the story behind that isn't in the open,  it's just well, really-very-on-the-down-low... then there I am, clicking on links innocently and.... mostly ending up, probably, in the beginning, on items of authentic information but then... slowly, slowly getting recommendations about an xyz course, then I'll start ending up somewhere else on someone else's site promoting some product or service and um, uh, um... 

I will be spammed.

On my home turf.

From my Twitter or my Facebook Friend.

When I find out that this action of his was instead, actually, paid work, then well, here I am thinking that he's using me and a whole lot of other people, really.

Do the words unfriend and unfollow and block spring to mind?

I mean just what are all these online friendships - is it, is all this connecting and getting to know each other, just a way to get money from others?  Just a way to use people?   I don't want to be MissInnocentEduTwitterIsaLoveFest but I sure do hate to say it - I sure do hate to be conned...

Having the Net Advantage is not meant to be taking advantage of other people via the internet.    Or is it?

What are your thoughts?

Where are we?   Where are we heading today as social media explodes and the multitude of educational companies enter with two left feet...

How do you feel about teachers being approached by various educational companies to become their chief tweeters; to retweet links to their  PLNs?
Do you think there should be a code of ethics in place?   A requirement for transparency?

Can't we add the hashtag #paid or #sponsored or words "aff link" to these tweets too?

Or do these tweeters and their employers simply not trust us and our intelligence?

Go on, tell me:

Do you think I am just a really old-fashioned Caribbean girl who simply doesn't get it and there's actually, really, no longer any need to exist in a world that has a moral backbone?



p.s very important clarification for those not on Twitter but read my blog:  the post above of the Tweet from Christina is a RT (a ReTweet) of another tweeter's musings and it does not signify that either she or the original tweeter would actually contemplate doing this activity themselves.
PLN = personal/professional learning networks (group of teachers who connect globally on Twitter and various social networking sites). 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these:

The English Language Teachers Guide to Twitter
In the space of 140 characters
Thoughts on Friendship
Thanks for your ReTweets 
Facebook and the Edu-Marketers
Face on or Face Off

and from out in the blogosphere
Mike Harrison's post on Facebook & Friendship

On Going Public by Dudeney
Prestwick House shows how it's done by Jason Renshaw

Social Media Education: how?

and my favorite slideshare, updated
What the F* is social media NOW by Marta Kagan

Blogging, Chatting & Discussions Online

One of the luckiest things to ever happen in my life was being taught by Professor Hein at MLS in the US.

It was his boundless energy, creativity, positivity, dynamism and knowledge which probably most influenced me to become a teacher myself but also, it was he who inspired a love of history.  

A passion for the past. 

I am lucky to have this, I think, because unless we as a species are able to look backwards then we are unable to see forwards.

On Saturday, 17 July 2010, we held Stuttgart's first Tech Tools Day - an interactive, hands-on, full day of workshops where teacher participants were encouraged to learn more about the use of web 2.0 tools in the language learning classroom.

Expert colleagues Carl Dowse, Gavin Dudeney, Anne Hodgson, Mike Hogan, Heike Philp, Dr Petra Pointner, Byron Russell, Shelly Terrell and Andi White reviewed speaking, listening, watching, reading, describing, applying, searching, evaluating, analyzing and creating and it was a fantastic day - we all learned so much from each other.

Details of their presentations: level one here, level two here.

My own presentations were focused around the use of some of the "simpler" and depending on where you stand, possibly the less flashy of the numerous and fascinating web2.0 tools which are available today, however it was my role to look at written communication.

During the workshops, so I could provide an easy online space & exercise for our trainees to experience  threaded conversations (forums) I created a Prezi which asked "why do we write?"

To look at this Prezi:
click on the play button to start, continue clicking play 
or select More and set to auto-play

Many great thoughts came up and discussions ranged from whether or not we write for the interaction, to record information; to communicate with others when we aren't within hearing; to keep in touch; to share instructions; to create and collaborate.

Then, continuing on the historical theme, I made a video of our species' development of the tools we  have used to write with in the last 500 years - this  led to the qualities of instantaneous chat, asking them to think of the pedagogical applications and purposes of web2.0 tools in our classrooms.

Create your own video slideshow at
song by Sue Lyon Jones

I was very proud to be involved in the creation of a TechToolsDay for ELTAS partly because I enjoy sharing my knowledge, partly because I am afraid that those who are shunning technology will be left behind in ten to fifteen years as unemployable adults (or relegated to only base-level service industries) and partly because I have long felt incredibly irritated by the very, non Socratic, question "But what about the Pedagogy?"  

This, personally, to me is an incredibly foolish and fear-based question.   

The creation of the tool, the actual tool and the reason for using the tool are all different and yet all interlinked. 

A lot of teachers around the world who are resistant to today's developments will spout for you Postman - in some kind of pseudo-intellectual argument for keeping life and learning simple.   They criticize the current development of technology in the classroom as if it were something random, something that is only occurring now, in our time,  in our generation.

If we look backwards we will understand our present and see our future:

62,000 years ago we broke off branches and dipped their rough edges into the juice of berries, added chalk and colored stones to tell the perennial story of love and strife.   When charcoal paintings washed away from the walls of caves we learned how to chisel into rocks so our ideograms would not be lost.  

We fashioned clay tablets when we realized that we could not carry giant rocks, when the seasons forced us to move on to our next destinations.

We developed papyrus when we saw that clay breaks.  

When we ran out of papyrus, in a labor-intensive step, we created vellum from the hides of animals and  then finally, we made paper which 1,200 years later we're still doing because Man has an innate need to transcend his mortality, to communicate across time, to leave messages for colleagues, to share knowledge.   

When we understand this then we are able to understand that the time we are living in today is a mere blip, the so-called paradigm shift we are currently experiencing is actually nothing more than the same resource-issues we have always faced, it is no different from at any of our other junctures and it must be solved  - for today, the felling of trees is responsible for a major part of our massive environmental damage and burden.

Writing has always been done in order to reach others, to reflect and review our own experiences.

Blogs, chats, texts, tweets and our other discussions online are simply one step along this long road of evolution.   

It is nothing more than it has ever been - an attempt to harvest fleeting thoughts, to gather experiences, to warn of pain, to share joy and the experience of being a human.  

To teach.

Through our digital web2.0 tools, we are doing nothing more than painting on cave walls.

imagecredit: man of many languages, by eyesplash on flickr

Useful links related to this posting:


A Love Story in TEFL by Nick Jaworski

Their eyes met across the crowded teacher’s room.  She had never seen him before.  He must be a new hire to replace Crazy Steve, she thought,  and boy, was he handsome. 

He smiled at her and she felt a few butterflies flitter in her stomach.  Smiling tentatively back, she gathered her collection of pens, freshly filled markers, worksheets and books and navigated through the mass of busy teachers making last minute preparations so she could introduce herself.

“Hi, I’m Kim, from Australia,” she said. 

“The name’s Sam.  I’m from South Africa.  Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too.”

Looking at the table in front of him, she was surprised to see only a few blank sheets of paper and some pens and markers.  Lessons started in 5 minutes and he didn’t seem to have anything prepared.  “Well, I better leave you alone.  You probably have some last minute planning to do.”

“No, that’s alright.  I’m a Dogme teacher,” he said, “My lessons are conversation-driven.  I generally don’t bring a lot of materials to class.”

A bit taken aback, she asked, “But what do you do if the students have nothing to talk about?”

“There’s always something to talk about,” he responded with a little smile.

The butterflies kicked it up a notch in her stomach.  Wow, she thought as worlds of new possibilities began opening themselves up to her,  

No book.  

No worksheets. 

I mean, I’ve recently started trying to make some of my own materials  rather than use that stuffy old course book, but to simply leave them completely behind, to let the lesson move along at its own pace; the thought was scary but somehow very liberating, too.  

She imagined him striding confidently into the classroom, engaging the students with his presence and that devilish smile.  Unrestrained by an armful of materials, he could walk freely among the students, his long wavy hair bouncing as he moved around.  “Wow,” she said in a sort of awed whisper, “That’s really interesting.  I’ve never heard of a teacher doing that before.  I guess it‘s easier than planning a whole bunch of stuff for hours.”

“Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds.  There is a lot of thought and reflection that goes into it.  You also have to be really alert and know how to work with emergent language.”

“It really sounds fascinating.  I’m not sure I could do something like that.” 

“Oh, it just takes a little practice, like anything else.  Hey, I know.  Why don’t you come observe me sometime?  You know, get a feel for how it works.”

“Really?  Would that be alright?  I mean, I wouldn’t want to disturb your class or anything.”

“Oh no, it’s no problem at all.  I have another class at 9 on Thursday.  Are you free then?”

“Yes, actually I am.  That’d be really great.  I’ll be there.”

Her head was swimming.  She couldn’t believe he had invited her to watch him teach.  She barely knew him for crying out loud!  She wasn’t normally one to get so involved with another teacher so quickly.  She was more the nervous type, quietly planning lessons by herself in the corner, too embarrassed to ask other teachers for help.  But there was something about him, perhaps a certain twinkle in his eye, an aura of daring.  It inspired her and gave her the confidence to be a bit more forward.

“Well, we better get to class.  It was nice meeting you and I look forward to seeing you on Thursday,” he said.

“Same here.  See you later.”

“Have a good lesson Kim,” he called over his shoulder as he left the room.

“You too Sam,” she whispered to herself as she watched him walk away.

To be continued… 

Nick Jaworski is a Director of Studies at Oxford House College in Istanbul, Turkey where he lives with his beautiful wife Hande.

He blogs about ELT in Turkey at Turklish TEFL.

It's a small world, after all : lesson plan challenge!

A friend of mine, Ken Dimmick, wrote this awesome poem which I just know can be turned into an amazing lesson plan.  But I was thinking, 2 heads are better than one... and 20 heads are infinitely better than 2...

Wanna help me put something together?

How would you use it in the ELT classroom - with business/general adults, teens or kids?  How would you construct the different parts of the lesson, would you use it as an ice-breaker, a supplementary material or the main text?

What would you do to encourage your students to think critically? 

Would you have them research aspects of the poem, get them conversing, what would you suggest to them that they could create as a final step in the process?

Get your thinking caps on, jot down what you think could be done or test out your ideas and then tell us what happened in the classroom - in about a month, I'll collate your ideas and type these up into a downloadable lesson plan to share:

Small World
by Ken Dimmick

I'm wearing rubber and leather sandals from China:
    rubber from Malaysia
    leather from god knows where
        (a cow of unknown nationality.)

My socks are from Bolivia
    woven from Egyptian cotton
        by a Brazilian factory
        hiring out-of-work Argentineans;

My trousers are denim, no longer "de Nimes," but
    constructed in the Phillipines
    of material woven in Mexico
    designed in Paris
    by a gay Italian, who like Madonna
        - the singer, not the saint
    has adopted a child from Malawi but that's another story altogether.

My shirt is from
    The Dominican Republic;
    of traditional Cuban design
    marketed by the Swedish firm: H&M
    yet purchased here in Stuttgart, Germany
        with my Mastercard from Texas.

And I have reason to believe
    that my pants, my briefs, my slip, my "Fruit of the Looms"
    began in a Guatamalan sweat-shop
        although the tag says Malaysia.

My Swiss watch
    fabricated in China
    is attached to my wrist
    by a leather band
    when still alive
    once swam free
        in Kenya's Lake Victoria.

But underneath it all
I am 100% pure American;
    in my particular case: mostly English genes
        (Celtic, Dane, Anglo-Saxon, Norman-French)
    with Irish and Scottish overtones.

I am the uncle of Africans
    my sister's sons, my nephews
And brother-in-law of an adventurous alliance
between Mexico and Quebec.

Yes, I am
as American as Apple Pie:
    made from the juiciest Japanese apples
    cooked in a crispy crust of Canadian wheat
    Jamaican sugar
    Irish butter and
    Cinnamon from the islands just west of Sumatra

Download the poem here.

image credit: atlas, it's time for your bath by woodleywonderworks


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