by Frances Walker
Our CPD Scholarship winner Frances Walker describes her learning journey with Trinity CertICT with the Consultants-e upon finishing her challenging but rewarding course.
Here’s her story:
I came to teaching relatively recently, after being made redundant from a 10-year dead-end admin job here in Barcelona. After that door closed, at the age of 48 I decided to walk through the door to teaching, and completed my CELTA course in September 2013. Even before finishing the CELTA course, I recognised a passion for technology and how it can be used to enhance teaching. I’m now a freelance ELT teacher here in Barcelona, and teach mainly one-to-one classes, both face-to-face and online, with students of all levels and ages.
My first year of teaching was a real voyage of discovery because I was pretty much left to my own devices. I quickly developed a thirst for learning more about using technology in my teaching. So, I did a few short online courses here and there, attended a few webinars, soaked up all I could online via blogs and websites, and tried out my new-found IT skills in my classes – with mixed outcomes. My experience using technology was rather hit-and-miss to say the least! I definitely needed more direction.
IATEFL & the LTSIG
I’ve been a member of IATEFL since 2014, and joined the LTSIG in 2015. What a great decision that was! In August of last year, I saw a post on the LTSIG Facebook page about the Trinity CertICT scholarship on offer. After reading about the contents of the course and the way it was structured, and I knew I had to apply! It was just what I was looking for – an online course which would introduce me to a range of technologies in a practical way with opportunities to try out this technology with my students. A couple of days before the application deadline, I submitted my application
and was thrilled to find out in September that I had been awarded the scholarship!
The CertICT course
The course is divided into three modules, which can be taken independently. I chose to take them consecutively, starting in October and finishing in June. Modules 1 and 2 are eight weeks long, and Module 3 is six weeks long. The structure of the course was excellent, and led us gently from ‘simpler’ tasks in Module 1, such as manipulating images, creating audio files, learning about digital literacies and their importance in teaching and learning, webquests and digital storytelling, to much more complex tasks in Module 2 such as podcasting, creating a wiki and a blog, mobile learning, evaluation of ICT software, and digital assessment. Each week, there were tasks to complete, and this gave us the opportunity to actually put what we had learnt into practice with our students. and then to give feedback to our tutors and fellow participants. This was exactly what I was after! The course made us think and analyse why and how the tools we’d learnt about might or might not work in different teaching environments, and to think about the learning outcomes for our students. The sheer volume of work required in these modules was at times a little overwhelming, especially when I still had my regular classes to teach, but it was certainly manageable.
Challenges & rationale
Module 3 initially seemed like it would be a breeze: choose a tool or two, use them in a class or two and write about it. Why could we possibly need 6 weeks for this module? Sounds straightforward enough, right?! Wrong! For me, this was the most challenging module of all, but for different reasons from Modules 1 & 2. This module reminded me a lot of my CELTA days with regards to writing a detailed lesson plan and analysis of the rationale behind choosing the tools we chose to use. Thankfully, we were given some very clear guidelines, and had support throughout. I had a lovely student who was very cooperative and patient and made the whole experience really enjoyable. This module was the perfect ending to the course. If anyone had told me in October last year that I would be giving two classes to one of my online students where we both use video and audio recording, Google Sheets and Google Forms and Quizlet, and where I use Windows Moviemaker and Jing screen-capture tools, I would not have believed them. These are now only a few of the myriad of tools I feel completely at home with, and that’s thanks to this CertICT course!
Collaboration & support
Another great aspect of this course is the sense of collaboration and camaraderie with our fellow participants. We all helped, supported and motivated each other throughout the course, which was, on occasion, really demanding (especially when it came to ‘Wikis’ and ‘Blogs’!). Whenever anyone was struggling with a task, or didn’t know how to use an ICT tool, there was always someone there to lend a hand. I have learnt so much from my fellow teachers via their task submissions, and their feedback. The tutors from The Consultants-E were always there to help us, and they were absolutely fantastic. Carol Rainbow and Robert Martínez guided and supported us and imparted their wisdom to us throughout the course. Any questions we had, no matter how small, were answered very promptly, making us all feel very cared for! On many online courses, one can sometimes feel alone, but this certainly wasn’t the case here.
One thing I found challenging as a freelance, one-to-one tutor, though, was the fact that the course was heavily biased towards teachers who teach groups in a classroom setting. I find this a lot as a teacher teaching in a one-to-one setting. However, I’m aware that Trinity can’t cater for the teaching setting of each participant taking the course. I’m also aware, of course, that from the outset, one-to-one and online teachers need to learn to adapt different approaches to their own professional realities. It’s an ongoing process which I feel will be much more focused and effective with the tools, methodologies, and critical analysis skills I’ve developed during this professional development experience.
Tools & transformation
The course finished last week, and I’m both relieved because it’s been really hard work, and sad because I loved the course material and have learnt so much. Huge thanks to the LTSIG of IATEFL, without whose scholarship I would not have been able to take this fantastic course! I’ve met some inspiring people from all over the world, and have made new friends with whom I share a common interest. Of course, my learning doesn’t stop here. Technology’s always changing, and there will always be more to learn. But I’ve come away from this course with so many more great tools in my teacher tech toolkit, and with the phrase ‘Pedagogy before Technology’ engraved on my mind!
Frances moved from London to Barcelona in 2000. In September 2013, she embarked on a career as an ELT teacher after successfully completing the CELTA course at IH Barcelona. Since September 2015, Frances has been working as a freelance ELT teacher, and is extremely interested in the benefits of using technology in her teaching.
All images created by Frances Walker as part of her training on the Trinity Cert course.