Dec 232020
 

In my first research blog post for Immerse, I looked at research into teachers’ perceptions of using technology in their lessons in general and virtual reality and augmented reality more specifically. What are the challenges that hinder teachers in integrating technology into their lessons? What opportunities do teachers see in using VR or AR, and what would help them make the most of these technologies? Read the blog post here.

Jan 292020
 

New teaching experience

I’ve taught ten and six-week EAP pre-sessional courses at UK universities since 2011. In 2020, I was supposed to be teaching my tenth course, but I wasn’t keen on travelling and mixing with so many people for extended periods in the classroom or staffroom. Fortunately, the course came to me 🙂 So instead of spending the summer in the UK, we rented a house with a fruit garden in a beautiful village hidden up in the mountains, but still close to home.

I always believed the pre-sessional courses could and should be taught in blended mode. Some universities have been offering all or parts of their courses in blended mode or (partially) online for a while now. This year all universities had to go online. I really enjoyed teaching the course online, and I can say it was the least stressful one ever. I co-wrote an article with Zoe Smith for The English Teaching Professional, reflecting on the the challenges and opportunities of online pre-sessionals.

New role as research manager

A couple of months ago, I decided to change directions in my work. I started digital authoring and editing back in 2013 and it’s been really a rewarding and interesting seven years in which I’ve learned new skills and found a new community of wonderful people: editors, writers and publishers. When content and copy editing, I found it really interesting to go through a complete course and see how it was built, designed and what the writers created. I like editorial work, even style guides and spreadsheets up to a point! I even sometimes experience some kind of flow when copyediting…Yeah, I know what you’re thinking 😀 

But I felt I needed a change, or rather something in addition to what I had been doing. I felt I wasn’t creating anything and I wasn’t making much use of what I had spent years learning and experimenting with. I missed being involved in the planning and development of a blended or online course, doing research, exploring new things and writing about them.

As nearly all teaching and learning had gone online this year, one thing I noticed was often missing in online courses was the social element. Lessons also quickly start to feel the same in a video conferencing environment, and role-plays don’t work as well as in a face-to-face setting. So I started exploring how these things could be done better online. Which is exactly why I had started experimenting with language teaching in a 3D virtual world more than a decade ago. I started reading up on the latest developments in the field of virtual reality and building new connections on Linkedin with people working in this field. And this is how I met my lovely colleagues from Immerse. Their enthusiasm was so contagious that I had to join them when they asked me whether I’d like to work for them as a Research Manager. The good thing is that my role with them allows me to follow my interests in VR: read about research, meet researchers and other people who are doing great work in VR,  facilitate research and help disseminate knowledge gained about language learning and teaching in VR.

I still accept editing jobs because the skills set an editor needs, such as paying attention to detail, are useful in any job, and as I said, it gives me insight into how others design courses and write content. I also hope I can do some teaching too, because whether you are developing courses, writing lesson plans or doing research into teaching and learning, having recent experience as a teacher gives you invaluable insights.

I’m really looking forward to what 2021 will bring in terms of work and new experiences.