Success in teaching English depends a great deal on our ability to tap into advances in learning and technology. As we recently marked English Language Day, an opportunity to understand English’s importance as a world language, we look at how a team of English language instructors spearheaded an innovative social media-based teacher training project to crowdsource best practices for English learners.
The idea was born last fall, when the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs hosted a conference for more than 30 experts from U.S. universities and educational technology (EdTech) companies to improve English language teaching and expand markets internationally. One of the topics discussed was the American English E-Teacher program, an initiative that helps the State Department partner with educational institutions and private companies to develop and deliver online training and collaboration tools.
To inform the development of the American English E-Teacher platform, a team of educators and administrators from the University of Pennsylvania, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association, the University of Calgary, and Westcliff University crowdsourced advice from teachers around the world. The team created short videos with simple questions about teaching, and posed them to the American English Facebook audience of English language professionals. The group presented their project and its results at this year’s TESOL International Convention in Seattle. TESOL is the world’s largest professional organization for teachers of English.
“I truly enjoyed watching the video clips and reading the advice of all the teachers around the world,” said group member Sarah Sahr, Director of Professional Learning & Research at TESOL International Association. “I’m thrilled that so many people were willing to put themselves out there and share advice.”
Jen Hirashiki, TESOL Program Chair at Westcliff University and another member of the project team, also had positive feedback about her experience. She acknowledged, “Hearing the questions in each video definitely reinforced the idea that teachers are part of a larger teaching community and are united in the struggles they face and the benefits of colleague collaboration.”
This project is one of many examples of how the State Department is taking advantage of its unique access to the global English language teaching community to expand our relationship with domestic partners and better achieve foreign policy goals. When people in other countries learn English and about American society and culture, we are opening markets and minds, contributing to our economy, increasing access to reliable information, and promoting study in the United States.
About the Author: John Mark King is the Branch Chief for Digital Programs and Materials in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Office of English Language Programs.
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