When Blended Learning is normal

This is a representation of my classroom from a teaching perspective. What do you see? A wall? Yes. Well, that’s what I have. No whiteboard/blackboard. I have a wall but thankfully a wireless projector and a laptop, you should also know that EVERY student has their laptop but no pens or paper. They do have external mice, cooling platforms, web cams, external drives you name it. It’s like a laptop convention.

What does this all mean?

Well, it doesn’t feel like a traditional classroom, it feels like a modern classroom and where we’re moving. Don’t ask about IWB as most places don’t have them due to costs and lack of software. PPT is the name of the game where I work and Google.

But how do you teach without a whiteboard?

Thankfully, I have lots of PPT which I adapt for some classes while for others I just do speaking discussion, no grammar as they get that in a separate class and online. In essence, they learn English online via a programme so I am there for practice and in that class they don’t want long grammary focus sections. Most don’t mind being corrected every so often or helped along but it’s a speaking practice class for definite.

From a Dogme perspective, this means working with emergent language has to be done when it arises unless I want to not it on my mobile or laptop. What I have started doing is making notes and then choosing appropriate homework such as a reading/listening/video with vocab/grammar questions.

What has evolved in the speaking classes is ‘screens down’ time and lots of it. This is where students put their screens down and actually talk like human beings without Facebook. They listen and support each other. Lots of peer correction means I now only deal with the serious problems/weaknesses and then move things into more challenging areas. Yes, the topics move a lot too and develop.

It may not look like a classroom but it feels like a modern one. Any thoughts?


8 thoughts on “When Blended Learning is normal

  1. Hi Phil! I´ve been exploring you site and you´ve got some really interesting posts mate! I also read the info about your other blogs etc. A question: How in Odin´s beard do you find time to do all that?!? Sir, you are an inspiration! Nice post about whether tech is normal. It reminded me of a journal paper I read by Stephen Bax (2003). He discusses the normalisation of ed tech, and the point of at which it becomes invisible. Invisible in the same way a pen and a piece of paper are invisible in class. When I get home I´ll hook you up with a pdf – it´s pretty interesting (although you might have come across it already). Take it easy.

    • Thanks Don. It’s an unusual blog in that I just post ideas and thoughts and then discuss them with other people to see what we can come up with. The best so far has been a PGCE in TESOL to replace the DIP/CELTA/MA situation.

      Time? I use a lot of the stuff for my teaching ie the Adv Speaking in is for my CPE prep student, the debate 1 is/as for my MA debate courses, the BE one for corporate students etc etc. I also get inspired by other PLN members so just follow them, an idea here or there. A great example is my new article in BESIG with the great Mike Hogan which is based on an idea he had in his webinar. I contacted him after as it was similar to what I thought and then we came up with an article/worksheet. This is great because as I have no EFL colleagues here my PLN is my staff room and they are also on the same wavelength so to speak.

      Bax? Yep. I used him in my DELTA EP. In fact, most of it was based on him. This post is an example. He sort of ‘borrowed’ the idea though as when I used to teach English for E-commerce way back that was the prediction because it’s a natural development. Pete Sharma mentions him in his Blended Learning book.

      At the moment we are half half which makes things difficult ie paper registers that have to be entered into spreadsheets and worksheets that have to be printed off and copied. When my OHP/laptop and online videos followed by discussion and online written is normal then it’s easier. For example, yesterday I did a PPT based Q&A with interactive exercises students did on laptops and then the wrote examples of the major points on my Wallwisher board for correction. At the end they did a grammar/vocab game. This was normal for me and them. If I had found a board and wrote on it they would have gone “what?”.

      Thanks for the comment mate, hope your Twitter account is back to normal.

  2. Hi Phil,

    Long time, no comment. I’m back. And sorry for my absence.

    So, blended learning becoming the norm. Yes, it sure is. I have really been enjoying getting my students to use their phones to research, check, learn, test, teach and share in class. I’ve been doing this a lot more since I got back to England, mainly because my students are younger, 90% of them have a smart phone and we see each other every day, so there is more time to spend getting them to research and teach each other things that in one 90 minute lesson a week could arguably be seen as not so efficient. (And also, most of my lessons were in company, so they all left their phones at their desks!)

    I am yet to teach with a IWB (except on the two week orientation course on my Delta at IH London). At my school now, some of the rooms have computers/projectors, but none of these rooms are mine. However…… the school have recently bought an iPad for the teachers to use and are getting a 2nd one in the next week. Very exciting. (Let the fighting begin!!!) Am planning on a getting a tablet of my own soon for use in class as well as to keep up with my blogging, which I am failing to do as I am never at home any more! Looking forward to having a new toy to play with!

    Yesterday, I downloaded and used an app for origami in a 1-1 class. The student is doing IELTS soon, and had done a whole practice test in the morning, so was knackered and in need of some light relief. We spent the lesson explaining the instructions to each other and making jumping frogs etc… When he told me the instructions I only did EXACTLY what he told me to do. This lead to some great negotiation of meaning etc.. I plan to use it with my IELTS group next week. It was great fun. And now I have a jumping frog called Franklin.

    • Hello stranger. Nice to see you here, in fact anywhere. After you created the most popular Dogme post EVER you could probably retire now.

      IWB? Me too. I did think of investing the 100E that Mike Hogan says will buy you the tech to make your own.

      A shared ipad? Sounds messy. When I worked in London students rented little handheld ipod style things for learning podcasts on. they gave a small deposit and had them for a year. Nowadays, everyone use phones. What I HATE is that Flash doesn’t work in ipads/pods so that means most videos and interactive stuff. For my 121 HW stuff it’s a real pain.

      Don’t mention frogs, we eat them in France. Sounds cool. I added an idiom app to my new Adv Scoop, haven’t tried it but if you do pls tell me if it’s any good. BUT my own Apps will be out soon if you want SAT or TOEFL help. I haven’t seen the final products so have no idea what they play like.


      So, it’s all dogme tech now then?

      With my new CPE 121 we use online collocations/thesaurus stuff and it’s very handy. I’m going to use pron software next week to identify her weaknesses and show animations on the throat and voice box for voiced/unvoiced/dental/palate… differences.When I say she’s wrong she doesn’t believe me but she can’t argue with the computer. She can also see her progress.

      I look forward to your new post(s).

  3. I think it sounds fantastic, personally. Maybe it would be good to have a Google doc projected to use for the “whiteboard”. I must admit, the one thing I’d miss about having a chalkboard/whiteboard, would be to be able to draw over top of my projections. I was trying to think of a way you could do that on your ‘wall’. Of course, I just came up with the big sheets of foolscap… kind of wasteful.

    • Thanks for the comment Tyson. Yes, I’ve been thinking of investing in a Bluetooth pen and camera so I can turn the projector into an IWB as that will enable for interaction.Well, if it’s cheap enough. I used Wallwisher last week for my grammar students to write sentences on for each point we did, problem was that I had to keep refreshing the page. You’re right that GDocs is instantaneous so I’ll give that a try. Cheers.

  4. Hi Phil,

    All tech and no board, eh? Familiar bits, there.

    I’ve got a corporate client and there’s no flip chart, let alone a board. I kinda miss it. Because of their security, I have no internet connection. So I have to write things down on paper. Or sometimes I don’t even do that. I think perhaps I ought to invest in some mini whiteboards.

    I used to post-lesson prepare/reflect and post it for him to read and follow links, if any, but I’ve found myself unable to keep up. Once a week, I have a phone class with him – with that, Google docs act as our board, and I even email that day’s contents to him (mainly to satisfy rules of who I work for).

    Then I have a group (you’ve read some of my reflections on their classes) where I insisted on having a board, preferably with a projector; they’re a school, after all!

    Well, the only place they could give me was the computer lab! I do use the board, but less of the projector. Actually I haven’t touched the thing for the past few lessons. What I do use all the time is Google Docs, though. In fact, I use it for all my current students! It’s instant, interactive, and the stuff remains there. Paperless!

    Cheers, Phil.


    • Hi Chiew,

      Yep. I understand why they looked at me strangely when I asked for a board marker now.

      No internet either?Aiii. Mini whiteboards are good. I got loads free from McDonalds with kids meals but they have Sponge Bob on, not ideal for corporate training but a great ice breaker.

      Yes, I have to send post-lesson FB to my students and boss. I teach some students without it and they don’t make notes so they have nothing to show for what we did.

      Google Docs sounds useful. I’ve used it from time to time but not enough. I think I’ll give it another go after reading this.


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