A Teacher’s Digital Toolkit

Workshop Review: Carl Dowse

By Anna Bedewell

Weekends are precious for us all and I was deliberating about attending Carl Dowse’s Teachers’ Digital Toolkit workshop for a long time. Luckily I made the right decision, as the course at GLS provided not only with a bag of digital goodies to supplement and support our teaching, but also a very enjoyable sociable weekend with Carl and the other participants. There were 10 of us in the end, a few less than anticipated, but this was probably for the best, as things would have slowed down with many more. We were all from a variety of teaching backgrounds: most of us in company or academic institutions. There were also various levels of digital knowledge, some people like Anne and Michelle were quite familiar with most of the technology, others like me had adequate knowledge. This was great as we could also get help from each other, as well as from Carl.

Saturday was a Google fest, in which we learnt about the benefits of using Google Drive (a cloud drive, where documents can be created, stored and shared on-line). For this we had to create Gmail accounts, if we didn’t already have them. We wrote and shared stories and pictures, then commented on each others. This can be seen by all participants at the same time, making it into an interactive experience.

Bookmarking was also a main theme. Creating favourites, or bookmarking on the browser, was not new for most of us. For those disorganised souls like me, Carl’s organisational tips were very handy. He also introduced us to Social Bookmarking sites, such as Diigo and Delicious. These sites give the advantage of being able to share bookmarks with students, as well as having an online backup of all your favourite websites.

As you can see from the highlighted weblinks, we also discovered the joys of hyperlinking. I was amazed at how easy it is to do and how much better it looks than inserting direct links.

On Sunday, we got to work creating our own Wikis (a type of Virtual Learning Environment VLE) on PBWorks. Carl chose this particular one, as he had created a Wiki for the course on this site. He also recommended Wikispaces. Videos can, of course, be used very effectively in class. I for one, often have technological problems though.. downloading them etc. Another bonus of our Gmail accounts, as Carl told us, is that we then automatically had a YouTube account. This means that we can join channels, such as Carl’s own one. YouTube gets to know which kind of programmes we like, so recommends us similar ones. We were recommended sites for downloading them and a good application – the YTD video downloader.

Carl is obviously a very experienced trainer, who made everything clear without being patronising. Sometimes I wondered if he was sponsored by Google but he always told us about the alternatives we could use. There was a great variety of media used and plenty of funny video clips, so it was always interesting. The pace was pretty good, although we had a few technical hiccups along the way, but they were due to the WiFi connection.

The Wiki he created for the course was very useful to refer to during and after the course. Along with all this internet knowhow, we got tasty pastries and sweets courtesy of Martin, who came over especially all the way from Morocco. Lunch wasn’t provided but there were lots of options around on Kastanienalle.

For me, it was a very useful workshop. I have already been able to put some of these skills into practise. Working in universities means more and more often using technology and Virtual Learning Environments. Although I now have to use Moodle, which wasn’t covered on the course, lots of the skills are interchangeable. I am going to set up a Wiki for another course too. Using the YTD video downloader, I was able to save a great video from YouTube and insert into my Powerpoint (something which I usually get wrong) to lead into Small Talk, “The Origin of Small Talk” from The Armstrong and Miller channel, as recommended by Carl.

Carl Dowse is based in Essen, where he is a lecturer of English for Business at the University of Applied Sciences. He is also the author of the Cornelsen Corporate Solutions Business English B2 Teacher’s Guide, an ICT teacher trainer with the award-winning The Consultants-E team, and Web Coordinator for IATEFL BESIG. For more, please see his BrandYourself profile.