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Technical differentiation and the first f2f conference in almost three years!

Today was an absolutely mind-blowing day. Not just because I delivered a workshop that dealt with a different approach to online teaching, but also because it was my very first face-to-face conference in so many years after covid! Let me tell you about it...



 

So, as usual (this just seems to be my luck...), I couldn't attend the entire NYESZE Conference because I was teaching two classes in the morning. As soon as I finished, I ran over to the venue, where over 300 participants had gathered, and everything was just like in the old times - especially the snacks, freebies, and coffee 😉


Meeting new and old colleagues face-to-face was also such a great feeling. Everybody felt sort of the same excitement that

"Oh, my, you're here, you're a person, not a 2D image anymore!"

I also met lots of people who I have seen during online trainings, and it's such a strange experience to see someone with their arms and legs attached 😄


I also bought a book, "Activities for Alternative Assessment" by Leo Selivan (2021, DELTA Publishing), which I'm pretty happy about because I will be able to use it for my Assessment and Feedback in ELT course that I teach and also as preparation for my IATEFL Belfast Conference workshop, which is about the motivating effects of self and peer feedback in the secondary classroom.


And I managed to attend a session as well! It was Ildiko Lazar's workshop on SDL, i.e. self-directed learning, which encapsulates learner autonomy, students' involvement in the assessment process, meaningful learning (something that's more of a bottom-up approach instead of teacher-led), and interactive learning. I really liked the workshop because it highlighted how important it is to train our learners to be autonomous because they could do much more that way, and their learning could also be much more meaningful and lasting if they take an active part in it.


From the program, I really wish I could've seen Gyorgyi Orosz's plenary about getting comfortable with making mistakes ("Merj hibázni! - tiszta kommunikáció 3 lépésben"), Kolos Esztergalyos' "Project Work and the Inclusive Classroom," and Kristof Hegedus&Anna Csiky's "Professional Development - a little and often."


Now, onto my workshop, "Differentiated Online Learning Options!" 😁


I wanted to find a topic that fits the main theme of the conference, which was about guiding and helping our students along the way. And then I remembered a moment in one of my lessons when I wanted to involve some edtech tools into my teaching (as I always aim to do), and gave them some speaking homework task. The idea was that I would use Videoask for this. I record my question in the form of a video and they respond with short videos.


Now, I could see some bewildered looks on some of my students' faces as they probably imagined the struggles and lack of success this would come with. So, I decided to "tone down" my initial idea, and give a technically easier version (but still somewhat techy because that was my original intention) to those who are not on such good terms with ICT tools.


Just like we, teachers are at various levels of online teaching knowledge, our students can also be less and more capable technically.

After 2.5 years of online, blended, hybrid teaching, there are many things teachers would like to accomplish with the help of edtech tools because they offer so many advantages, the gist of which could simply be that they let teachers and students interact in broader spatial and temporal dimensions. But what if our students are not capable of doing these tasks? Shall we let them feel unworthy just because they cannot come to grips with certain tech tools? Definitely not. It just means that we need a different kind of differentiation - technical differentiation.


The second part of my workshop was about showing how linguistic and skills differentiation (let's say, the "traditional" one) can be done with the help of a tech tool - Wizer. This interactive worksheet creator is different than many others in that it lets teachers create specific learner groups based on special needs or weaknesses. Once those groups are set up, the teacher can create personalised worksheets for students who may need extra help in a language area before they tackle the main task, or for those who need extra challenges after they have finished the main task. You can watch my tutorial video here: https://youtu.be/Sok4xEZA3Ng


And you can access the slides here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1pcEupG-iRzQkGGkzqPLNjHfp_fzuLb5_gG_Aso_h5Rw/edit?usp=sharing



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