Bye Bye ISTEK, Hello Digitality…

digital tools

Last weekend I was at the ISTEK Conference- a truly fantastic, indescribable ELT event held in Yeditepe University  in Istanbul.

There were lots of well-known educators gathered in one single event. What I most liked about this event was that I had the chance to meet and attend some great educators on my PLN. The whole event- the plenary, the keynotes, the workshops, the topics, the cocktail party, and everything else was beautifully planned and organized thanks to the amazing woman Burcu Akyol.

As one of my primary learning goals this year is to learn more about Web 2.0 tools I can use in my teaching/training, I mainly attended sessions of some marvelous educators who focused on digital tools in teaching, namely; David Mearns, Gavin Dudeney & Nicky Hockly, Nik Peachey, Russell Stannard, Shelly Terrell & Sue Lyon-Jones (respectively in alphabetical order). No need to mention Lindsay Clandfield and Scott Thornbury who have been among my favorite educators. Whenever I learn something new and practical, I feel amazed and exited about the opportunity to experiment with it and refresh myself as a teacher/trainer, which was exactly what happened to me. In a word, in terms of my professional growth, it was not only truly a rewarding experience but also one that will always be remembered!

Thinking and reading lots about digital technology, and attending those insightful sessions,  I have finally come to believe that using digital tools is valuable as it can add some variety to the lessons and enrich learning. Attending the sessions made me, once more, realize that we can make the learning experience more enjoyable and more useful by implementing some digital technology into our teaching.

Not to mention, the new generation spends most of their time on digital technologies, therefore, we should create opportunities where students can make most of their learning in the real world with the help of Web 2.0 tools. Technology can cater for different learners; thus, provide with tremendous opportunities to learn both in and out class. Then, why not using this opportunity?

I am happy to have collected a huge list of ideas and examples, some of which I found really useful and applicable for my teaching context are as following:

  • Blogging: A blog could be used as a shared space where both the students and the teacher can write and make attachments, which could serve as a platform in which students could further work on a task either individually or collaboratively. Let’s say you have done a reading class, as a follow up activity you could have students discuss the ideas as if they are contributing to a forum or as if they were commenting on something in Facebook, which they already do everyday. If the school you work for does not provide a platform for blogging, or you don’t want to pay for a class blog, there are some free sites you can make use of as well. For example, one good web-site for blogging (suggested by Nick Peachey) is Posterous where students can automatically create their own blogs. Posterious is good in that it is very easy to use. The only thing you have to do is to send your post to  (Please also check Larry Ferlazzo’s blog post for further great ideas). Since September this year, my colleague Jesus Gonzalez from Mexico and I  have been working on a “global class project” in which my class and his class blog and share ideas on pre-defined topics and criteria we had established. Thank to Laureate International Universities that provided us with a platform, we have been able to try out different activities in order to have students collaborate by using L2 in a more meaningful way. What is good about it is that students have indicated that they have loved the idea of communicating with learners of the same level of English. There are still some areas we need to work on, though. Hopefully, by working on these areas, it will become much better in the second run. Once we have collected some feedback from our students, I will share the outcome here as well. Meanwhile, any ideas you have are more than welcome.
  • Video Recording: I also very much liked Peachey’s idea of using video recordings. One tool he suggested was VYou. You can create your own video and have students ask their questions related to what you have done in class, and students can make use of the opportunity to ask you questions even when they are home. It is a great tool in that it is both authentic and interactive. Here is a link to an example of Nick Peachey’s VYou.  It is great, isn’t it?  If you don’t want to be the one who records answers to their questions, students can have their own VYou where they can ask questions to each other. With this simple tool we could cater for different styles allowing them to make use of it the way they prefer it.  I am sure they would love doing this as an extra-curricular activity. So, why not making use of this tool?
  • Voice Recording: As  Russell Stannard suggested in his session, after doing ‘Simple Present Tense’ in class, for a post assignment activity you could ask your students to record a typical day and have them send the recording to you via email by using a tool called Vocaroo . The program is very easy and user-friendly even for someone like me who is not very tech savvy can use it quite easily. What is great about this tool is that such an assignment could promote students to produce language both in a more fun and meaningful way, and again cater for different learning styles. Other than that, recording and then listening to it can also help students see how fluent they are, and subsequently help them identify areas that they need to work more on, which, in turn, could enable them to take the responsibility of their own learning. By just clicking here you can listen to Russell Stannard’s talk on how to do it along with some practical suggestions.
  • Video-feedback: Stannard, who also won Times Higher Education Award for his work on video feedback, did a live presentation on how to give video feedback to students’ work, which I found very very useful. It’s not like the traditional method at all! You wouldn’t be giving feedback to students work by writing and marking notes on the paper in red, instead, with his innovative technique, students go through the feedback by viewing the parts being highlighted along with some verbal explanations given by their teacher, which I found very useful and more meaningful. The good part of this is also that students can go back to the recording and view it again as many times they wish to see where they need improvement on. Stannard suggested two software programs for this technique; Camstasia and a free software called Jing. You can listen to Stannard’s teacher training video on how it is done here . I also went to David Mearns’ session where he presented how he went about this technique using Camstasia in details. He also mentioned about CamStudio which is free.

In short, the sessions have provided me with lots of great insights and ideas. If I added all the ideas I had gathered, this post would probably be several pages long. I tried to keep it short so as not to lose track of what I am planning to do. Believe me! It is really short when compared to what I took down from the sessions! 😉

I would like to conclude that whether it is a digital tool or any other means to practice the language; we should bear in mind that it should cater for the diverse needs and wants of different learners. If it is used just because it is fun without really thinking of the rationale or how it matches to the lesson objective(s), or in other words, the lesson outcome, it may not really serve the need and therefore just remain as a “fun tool” but a redundant objective. Nonetheless, if harnessed carefully with a clear lesson objective in mind, there is no way that it can’t be advantageous. Wouldn’t you agree?

13 thoughts on “Bye Bye ISTEK, Hello Digitality…

  1. Hi Nesrin,

    I wish I could have been there with you in İstanbul. Instead I was in Paris for a Comenius project. I didn’t learn anything new there to use in my teachng – but I did have a lot of fun as a tourist! Anyway, thank you for your description here – it will help me with my “coin flipping” in Brighton next week. Most of the people you mentioned will be there too and giving more or less the same presentations I guess. Eva will be there too – did you know? The BC decided to send us both! Hope to see you ometime too. When is the next “big event” I wonder?
    xoxo Karin

    1. Hi Karin,

      It would have actually been great to meet, next time I’m sure we will, though. As far as I know the next ISTEK will be in year 2013, which is a long time. Nonetheless, there are many other events coming, so we will definitely make it before that, I’m sure.

      I wish I could be in Brighton with you. Yes, I know Eva is going, too. Hope you two will enjoy it there:) Please take some pictures so I can feel it somehow, too.
      Pussar och Kramar

  2. Hi Nesrin!

    Thank you so much for this great update on the Istek conference. I love how you have organised all the online tools for us who were not there! They are easy to find and it is great that you have descriptions for them.

    Hope to see you in 2013 in beautiful Istanbul, if not earlier!

    Çok teşekkürler,

    1. Hi Vicky!
      I am glad you found it useful. There were so many other practical things I could add actually; but for the time being, these would be enough to focus on I thought. Shelly posted link to her presentation via Twitter. Did you get that one?
      You are going to Brighton, right? Please let us know how everything is over there. Some update would be great 😉

      Hope to see you earlier than year 2013, though.

  3. Hi Nesrin!

    I saw Shelly’s link, she is always so great.

    Unfortunately, I am not able to go to Brighton this year, but thankfully we will be able to keep up on the website and from all the super tweeters who will be there!

    I also hope we meet earlier than 2013! I am very happy to have connected with you online.

    See you soon (I hope!),

    1. Yes, she is just amazing- one to definitely follow. There is so much to learn from her!

      It’s a pity you can’t go either. Anyway…As you say,we have the opportunity to watch it online and of course to follow the tweeters 🙂

      Take Care,

  4. Hi Nesrin,
    what a great refreshing post again! unsuprisingly 🙂
    I really liked how you summarized the conference with useful links and resources provided in the post. I find them quite useful myself as well and will try to use the voice recording one with my students. Looking forward to meeting @ Sabancı 🙂

    1. Hi Osman,
      Great to hear back from you- has been a long time since we last corresponded.
      The conference was really something ever teacher should have attended, it is a pity you couldn’t , though. I know you are busy (was with your MA or was it PhD?).

      Voice recording is just great, isn’t it. I will try and see how it works with my Ss. Let’s share the experience, maybe we could d a small scale study on it. What would you say Osman?

      1. Hi Nesrin,
        I am in the process of writing my MA thesis! Tougher than I thought 🙂

        We should definitely share and discuss ideas when we meet, do a study together! I am currently working on a voluntary project in Community Service class and planning a research on Twitter with my ELT-2 students. Let’s see what happens 🙂

  5. Dear Nesrin,
    Thank you for the great summary of the sessions you attended. The worst part of attending a conference like this is missing lots because you can attend only one at once:( Luckily participants like you share many things here and there. So do the speakers.
    Thanks again and keep in touch;)

    1. Hi Merve’cim:)
      What you say is so true! I wish I could have attended some more of the great presenters’ sessions as well; but you have to make a choice, and even sometimes toss a coin on which one to attend.

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