Puzzles are fun. Some people like crossword puzzles and some people like Sudoku. Solving a puzzle is rewarding, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. I like coding puzzles. They provide a logical challenge to solve a problem and learn a bit of coding.
I’m writing coding puzzles to provide you a gentle introduction to coding using a variety of coding languages. After each puzzle, I’ll give you the opportunity to solve the puzzle and then share the answer with you. I’ll also explain how the code works.
Continue reading on my Digital Schoolhouse blog.
Teaching online is an effective method for educating people whether it is academic (grammar school, high school, or college) or for corporate education. However, to provide the most value, you should follow these guidelines. These rules are also useful for online meetings. Teaching online is just a meeting between a teacher and students.
1. Your classroom or office should be free of distractions.
Being free of distractions is more than having a quiet environment. Distractions are also visual. Position your camera at a wall not a glass door or window. You want your students/co-workers, your audience, to focus on you, not who is walking past your door or what is happening outside.
Make sure your wall is free of distractions. You don't want your audience to focus on papers on a cork board or other material that is not relevant to your class or your meeting.
Disable popups. You don't want your audience to see your email notifications, Facebook, or other notifications. Shut off any instant messaging tools that send you notifications.
2. Notify your audience in advance if your online class/meeting will be offsite.
Sometimes your schedule will dictate that you will be offsite. Starbucks or other places that offer free WI-FI are usually fine for an online class/meeting. However, notify your audience in advance. That way, if your environment is a bit noisier, your audience can see people behind you, they will know why. Your audience will also know in advance if they were planning to discuss something confidential or display confidential information.
If your audience objects, reschedule the class/meeting. Remember, people are paying for your time and have the right to accept it in a way that they find professional.
3. Dress appropriately.
When I teach online, I teach from home. This does not mean that I can dress like a slob or that I have to wear a suit. If your school or workplace has a dress code, follow it even though you are at home. Some may require that you abide by the dress code. I find that dressing business casual always works well.
4. Take note of your physical appearance.
Many cultures associate tattoos with the seedier side of society, for example drug addicts and prostitutes. This is a good time to follow the old saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans." Wear clothing that covers your tattoos. Some schools or businesses will require you to do this.
For men, be clean shaven. Some cultures consider being clean shaven as a sign of professionalism.
5. Be prepared. Do your due diligence.
Nobody likes a teacher who is not prepared or a meeting that does not have a clear focus. It is your responsibility to know what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it.
Some schools do not pay teachers for prep time or only pay a small amount. This is wrong. However, you are the person on stage. Your audience does not care about the fact that your school does not pay you for prep time. That is between you and the school.
If you are referencing websites, have each site open in a separate browser tab. You can quickly switch between sites. If you are using PowerPoint, you may want to use the cloud version. This allows you to have your slides available in a tab and often, I find that it runs quicker than having the app open.
6. Be comfortable when the unexpected happens.
Sometimes a site becomes slow. Sometimes, my students can not see my desktop that I am sharing with them. At first, they can, then they have a bandwidth problem and can't. I don't stop the lesson. I know what I want them to learn from the lesson. If they can't see my desktop, I switch to conversation, I ask them questions. If they were reading, I will read to them and ask them questions. They may have lost the reading part of the lesson but they get extra time for their speaking and reading skills.
This is no different than teaching or having a meeting face-to-face. You don't stop because the technology is not working.
Online classes and meeting are useful and effective. Follow these steps to add more value to your class or meeting.
Technology helps students learn when it becomes part of the process. It is like a whiteboard where the teacher or students can write or draw. The whiteboard is not the star of the lesson, but is just a tool that is part of the process. When the teacher or students write or draw on the whiteboard, they are communicating. The teacher and students focus on the message, what is written or drawn, not the markers or the whiteboard. It's the message that is important.
The same is true for technology. When a teacher uses a PowerPoint presentation or educational software, the technology and software are not the focus, it is just the tool that delivers the message.
I am tutoring a student who needs help with parts of speech, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. We spend time reading and identifying parts of speech. I decided to write a program using Scratch, to add some variety to these lessons. It's a work-in-progress.
Click here to view and play with the program.
Learning English as a Second Language is beautiful. It gives students from around the world the opportunity to learn from native English speakers. It is also great for teachers, they can teach from wherever, there homes, offices, on the road, as long as they have access to the internet.
Online education has another benefit. It brings people from different cultures together. People of different religions, cultures, nationalities, and races come together to achieve a common goal. Both learn that there are more similarities than differences between each other. Professional friendships are made.
It is nice to see the political and ideological barriers that governments build, melt away. I always say that people aren't the problem, it's the governments.
I teach on Cambly from time to time. Cambly is an ESL platform that runs only on Google's Chrome browser. The founders are former Google employees. Students buy minutes which they use to talk to teachers. The pay is low, 17 cents per minute or $10.20 per hour. However, it is a good part-time job. You can teach when you want and for as long as you want.
I like Cambly because you have to learn to improvise and teach in the moment. You don't know who is going to call you and you don't know what the student wants to learn. (If students become your regular students, you can reserve time and have a prepared lesson.) This is beneficial and good practice because it gives you the skills to be adaptable and flexible in different teaching situations, whether a regular class, substituting for a teacher, or when spontaneity is needed.
To me, Cambly is like stand-up comedy. You don't know who your audience is, what they want to learn, or how they will react. You need to improvise and adjust. I like this. It is fun playing/teaching off of the vibe of your audience.
When I attend networking events and people ask what I do, I tell them that I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) online part-time and that captures their attention. It is the start of a great conversation. I'm glad, especially at a time when the teaching profession is caught up in negative politics.
There are many opportunities to teach ESL online. Teaching Chinese children is a booming market. VIPKid, a very popular site, raised $100M in venture capital a few years ago. They are not the only one in this market segment, there is DaDaAbc, QKids, and many more.
Each company has their own platform which is similar to Skype or Zoom. A lesson, in terms of technology, consists of the video call and the ability to share your desktop with the student. Each company has their own method for teaching so they write the lesson plans for you to ensure that all students are taught the same.
Each lesson focuses on conversation and pronunciation. They do not consist of grammar in the traditional sense where you are explaining a verb tense or other grammatical concept. Students want to focus on speaking with and listening to a native English speaker. You correct pronunciation mistakes, require them to speak in complete sentences, and if they make a grammatical error, you correct them by saying the sentence correctly and having them repeat it. They learn grammar at school so for them, the value that you add is that you are a native English speaker.
There is very little if any investment on your part. All you need is a computer, a reliable Internet connection, a headset, and a video camera. I use the camera that is built in to my computer and it works fine. If you enjoy teaching and want to help others, you will enjoy teaching ESL online.
Conversation classes are popular. It is the class that all new teachers want to teach. They can be fun, and they are if you know how to teach this type of class. This lesson explains what a speaking class is, how to teach one, and how to overcome the problems that may occur.
So what is a conversation class?
It is a class where the students speak and you, the teacher, correct the student's pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary mistakes.
There are many ways to teach a speaking class. You can choose a topic, for example, what are some differences between life in your country and life in the United States? What is your favorite type of music? Favorite movie? Favorite TV show? The goal is to have the students talk. The topic does not have to be difficult.
Engage students in conversation
There are many ways to engage students in conversation. Situation-based conversation is a fun method. Situation-based conversation is simply having your students work on a project together. They engage in conversation based on the situation, for example, having the students make a presentation, plan an event, etc. I read about a teacher that taught conversation through cooking. Each class, a student showed the others how to cook a particular dish. The students engaged in conversation as they were cooking.
Here is an example. Tell your students the following,
“Everyone has stress in their lives. You may become stressed before an important exam, your first day at a new school, a family event, and so on. Describe a stressful event in your life and what you did to overcome the stress.”
After the students finish, divide the class into groups. Let them discuss what they think are the best ways to overcome stress. Give them a time limit, for example, ten minutes. Walk around the classroom and listen to each group. Correct any grammar or pronunciation mistakes that you hear. At the end of their discussion, have the group select one student to summarize their group’s ideas.
Your job is to correct students' mistakes. When a student mispronounces a word, stop him or her and make the correction. When a student makes a grammar or vocabulary mistake, stop him or her and make the correction. It may seem rude to interrupt the student, but this is the best way to make corrections.
If your students are beginners, tell them how to pronounce the word, what the correct grammar is, or what the correct vocabulary is. If they are intermediate or advanced students, try to elicit the correction from the student. For example, for pronunciation, repeat the student's pronunciation. When the student hears the mispronunciation, he or she might realize the mistake and correct him or herself. If the student makes a grammar mistake, you might say that you used the plural form of the noun. Did you mean more than one? Do the same with vocabulary mistakes.
What if the students aren't talking?
Silence! Your students aren't saying a word. There are 59 minutes left in your one hour class. What do you do? You can change the topic. Remember, the goal is for your students to speak. If that doesn't work, start asking your students questions. Ask general interest, for example a question about music, a movie, food, etc.
Different cultures react differently to speaking in class. Americans feel comfortable expressing their opinions as do South Americans and Europeans. Asian culture is different. Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean students are used to speaking when responding to the teacher. You may have to initially engage these students in conversation, however, after a while, they become comfortable to the open format.
Conversation classes are fun Your goal is to engage students in conversation and to correct your mistakes. Ask questions, create situations where your students need to talk, and be prepared for those times when your students just don’t feel like talking.
PowerPoints are useful but they are sequential. What if you are making a sales presentation and your audience is interested in a topic that is in the middle of your deck? You need to flip through the slides to get there.
Prezi is a conversational presentation program. Double-click a topic on the first slide to display that topic. This let’s you present your deck in any order.
For my first Prezi program, I decided to create a vocabulary presentation to help an ESL student of mine. It’s still a work in progress, but the student and I can choose to start wherever he wants.
Click here to read. This story is part of my Learn Something New Everyday Challenge.