Going Global in Korea with Skype

This article originally appeared in the May issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here

Going Global

In 2012 the Korean Education ministry announced it’s ‘SMART Education’ plan, the ‘T’ of which stands for technology. In an effort to create an education system which is less passive, more creative and more adaptive, the plan called for wide scale integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In fact, the plan set 2015 as the deadline for digitizing the entire school curriculum to make it more accessible to 21st Century learners. Yet in spite of the reported 67% of Korean youth ages 5-19 that have smartphones and the widely touted high-speed broadband access in Korea, ICT is not leveraged for learning in most classrooms yet.

This is where Skype in the Classroom comes in. Most of us have a broadband internet connection, a computer connected to a classroom monitor, a classroom document camera, headphones with a microphone, or, if you are an online “J-Distance” teacher, you have a webcam with a built-in microphone. This is all it takes to get started and begin using the ICT in your classroom to connect your EFL students with native English speakers the world over.


Where To Start

If you do not have a Skype account, you should start there. If you already have a Skype account, you can use that as your login for Skype Education. You can create a distinct teacherly profile name, like Mr. Short, add a professional profile pic, enter your location in the world and give a brief description of your aims for using Skype in your classroom.

Next, you can ‘find a lesson’ or ‘find a teacher’. There is a really cool map with classes and teachers pinned all over the world. You can zoom in and out and see more or less teacher pins appear as a result. If you click on a pin it will automatically scroll down to that teacher’s Skype Education profile and from there you can select that person and message them directly.

My suggestion is to ‘find a teacher’ first. I spent some time searching to ‘find a lesson’, I signed up for lessons, and did not get any responses from those teachers. However, when I started searching for teachers in our general timezone, for example, classroom teachers in Australia and New Zealand or International School teachers in Japan and China, I had much more success messaging them directly and proposing a Skype classroom collaboration.


A Global Lesson

The trending Skype lesson on Twitter is #MysterySkype. This is billed as a “global guessing game” where students in each class prepare questions, hints, show and tell items, etc. that allow the other class to guess their location. Skype Education recommends that #MysterySkype beginner classes start off playing 20 questions, preparing that set of questions and a few hints to give to the other class. This is ideal for our EFL students because it allows us to pre-teach the target language; questioning, locations, directions, place specific vocabulary and more. You can scaffold the whole process and interaction for your timid Korean students by helping them fully prepare before so they know what language to expect once you are in the Skype call.

There are many more ways that innovative teachers are using this all over the world to support a wide range of content learning. Students are brainstorming conflict resolution strategies via recorded Skype messages across the world and teachers are designing standards-based social studies lessons to compare and contrast their own customs and traditions with that of a foreign culture. The tool can be used as simply as a 21st century version of penpals or as complex as a collaborative research and writing project.


My Plan

I am currently planning my first #MysterySkype lesson with a 6th grade teacher in Hobart, Tasmania. For my first lesson I want to give my students the best shot at success, so we have agreed to limit the lesson to the Australian class guessing our location through questioning. This will allow my students to answer questions concerning basic facts about Korea, which they will know. And those questions and answers can be more easily supported by a bilingual Korean co-teacher. I suspect that the creation and translation of questions from Korean to English in order for my students to figure out where in Australia those students are would be very time consuming and possibly discouraging for both parties. At least this first time, I want to be able to scaffold this process so that both parties walk away feeling successful and encouraged.

The other way you can use Skype in your classroom is via a recorded message exchange with another class, similar to the old school pen pal programs. This allows for classes to have an exchange or do #MysterySkype in spite of impossible time zone differences. So, for those of you who know a teacher back home in Canada or the U.S., there is a way to connect with them even though they are in school there while we are asleep here.

I am working with two teachers right now to set up this kind of recorded message exchange, one classroom is located in Florida, U.S.A. and is interested in doing a basic show and tell cultural exchange, while the other classroom is in northern China and wants to do a #MysterySkype lesson over the long-term. In both cases we are planning on recording one short message per week.

Our first message from Ms. Hart’s class in China.

Final Tips

As you can imagine, considering the timidity of many of our Korean students to produce authentic language on demand, planning, preparing and practicing a recorded lesson might lead to a more fruitful exchange than a live Skype lesson. However, there are ways to prepare students for the live chat as well, introducing key vocabulary, sentence stems and making it completely clear in Korean the purpose and goal of the Skype exchange.

The planning and preparation will generally require significant buy-in from your Korean co-teacher, which I know may be a tall order for many of you. You may have to put significant effort into identifying your curriculum’s target language that will be used authentically in the Skype lesson. You may also need to start with a baby step like recording a simple message for another class one time, and then checking in with the co-teacher about the possibility of an ongoing exchange. It is probably obvious to you that the value of the lesson and the time it will take to schedule and plan it may not be immediately understood and committed to by your co-teacher.

Lastly, it is important to strategically choose a class you feel has the makeup to do well and get something out of this kind of global live lesson. You know your students best and you know the ones who are outgoing and who try and chat in English with you all the time. The first few times you experiment with this kind of lesson, you should lean on those students and those classes, if you have them.

I will check back in with more info and tips once I get a few Skype lessons under my belt.










My PLN Mind Map


I created this Mind Map using the Mindmeister ‘add-on’ in Google Drive, so that it automatically saves in my G Drive. This PLN Mind Map was made a few weeks into my Teach-Now online certification program. Since then my Personal Learning Network (PLN) has grown. Below is a list of the additions to my PLN in the last nine to twelve months. If you would like to view my Mind Map online, go here.

I am still looking for a classroom to partner with internationally to do a Skype in the Classroom series. Since I am teaching in Korea I am looking for English-speaking classes and teachers that are in a similar time zone. That means American schools in Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines or SE Asia. Or, a classroom in Australia or New Zealand. If you know any teacher in those countries who might be interested, please connect us!

Ed Interview: Craig Seasholes

Craig is a teacher-librarian at Sanislo Elementary in Seattle. I had the pleasure of collaborating with Craig on multiple occasions when I was working as a bilingual instructional assistant at a school in the same region of the school district. Craig brings a lot of energy, passion and innovation to his work as a librarian, but his work as an educator definitely extends beyond the classroom, participating on many district committees and involving himself in many education policy discussions. I count myself lucky to have Craig in my Personal Learning Network!

This interview was conducted by email. I want to thank Craig for taking time out of his busy schedule to thoughtfully respond to my questions.

1) Can you briefly describe your background in education and what your current position is?

My teaching started with ten years teaching mountaineering and everything you need to know to enjoy a month in the mountains of Wyoming, Washington or Alaska. From mountaintop to teaching Kindergarten was a short step, as children’s absorption in the adventure of learning is a wonder to behold. After completing a master’s thesis for Pacific Oaks College on “Growing Diversity” in a small independent school in Seattle, I switched my teaching to the library and technology program where I can impact students of all ages, including teachers and parents. Now I happily serve as teacher-librarian in a small, and deliciously diverse public elementary school in southwest Seattle.


2) What is one technology integrated lesson that you have done with your students recently?

Gearing up for a 11/17 presentation for the #globaled14 conference on the topic of connected environmental education I recently had 5th graders watch and respond online to a short video a local environmentalist prepared for them. Talking about doggy doo may not be highbrow science, but picking up pet waste before it runs into Puget Sound is a tangible effort. Likewise helping students learning to respond constructively and appropriately to online conversation is an important info-tech skill. The next step, connecting our students with other classes concerned about their local water quality issues. Contact me @craigseasholes on Twitter if you’ve know of some!


3) Can you share a story from your first year of teaching that illustrates an important lesson or skill you think all first year teachers should know or have?

I was walking down the sidewalk in Seattle’s Central District with Kindergarteners, happily leading them from tree to tree with “run to the cherry tree” and “stop at the laurels.” “eeeeeewwwww” came the call from kids gathered around something under the laurel, “It’s a dead cat!” Being the “teachable moment” idealistic first year teacher, my intent was clear when I asked, “That is so sad. What do you think happened to the cat?” Expecting a traffic safety lesson to emerge I was instead the one getting the lesson when one boy spoke out, “The police shot it. They shot my cousin.”

Welcome to the real world, Mr Teacher man.


4) How do you continue to develop as a professional? Where do you see your professional growth taking you?

The collaborative community of teacher-librarians presents a dizzying array of opportunities to connect and grow as an engaged professional. #tlchat, #globaltl, @WLMALIT @aasl and associates like @JoyceValenza, @ShannonMiller and @readerdavid have opened doors to communities of engaged learners who all call the library “home.”


5) What kind of learning culture do you try to establish within your classroom and among your colleagues?

I aim to build and sustain a culture of adventure and possibility to ensure that all students are effective users and producers of ideas and information.


6) What are you currently reading for personal enjoyment? And what book would you recommend for a first year teacher?

Later today I’m eagerly finishing Christopher Paul Curtis’ newest book “The Madman of Piney Woods” for school-review, but personal reading stack is topped by U of Syracuse iSchool Dean R.David Lankes’ “The Boring Patient” a brilliant response to undergoing extensive treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma. Jump online and view his “The Community is the Collection” video address http://quartz.syr.edu/blog/?p=5137 to get a quick sense of how inspiring “The Boring Patient” is.

First year elementary teachers should definitely read Vivian Paley’s “The Kindness of Children”  from Harvard University Press.

Secondary teachers might want to jump ahead and read a current-issue book like Jesse Hagopian’s “More than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing,” due out next month from Haymarket Books. I blogged it just yesterday and do think new teachers may find strength and inspiration in the test-defying push back against high-stakes, standardized testing. http://bookmansbytes.blogspot.com/2014/11/more-than-score-movement.html

Global Education Conference ’14 Sessions Archive

Session 1 – The Quiet Leader: leadership attributes of elementary social studies teachers in an era of deep change.

I have created a Storify archive of my tweet notes during the session. It was an interesting conversation among eight to ten education professionals from around the world. Katherine Ireland, the session presenter, is a PhD student in New Brunswick, Canada, studying teacher leadership in social studies education on the elementary level.

Session 2 – Going Global: A Literacy, A process, A Library Call to Action

Convergence – Librarians can be the catalyst to take advantage of the convergence of technology and global changes. There is no reason to be alone as a professional anymore. If a principal asks you “Why should I hire you?”, your answer should refer to your Personal Learning Network (PLN), “You are not just hiring me, you are hiring all the smart people I know.” The workplace of the 21st Century demands that we are able to connect and collaborate across borders and time zones.

All school subjects with the prefix of ‘geo’ would be more true to the issues of study. For example, biology or medicine as geo-medicine, would reflect current phenomena in global health like the outbreak of ebola.

Skype introduced a new feature this year called Skype Translator, a service that can translate communication between two languages, in real-time, both written and verbal translations. This service could be used in a Mystery Skype event to connect classrooms across the globe. Check out Skype in the Classroom to read more about all of these global education resources.  You can also participate in the Teacher Librarian weekly chats on Twitter which can be found using the hashtag ‘tlchat’.

GlobalTL – Librarians without Borders is the Google+ community for Teachers and Teacher Librarians to collaborate on inquiry projects across the country and world.

Paul Fleischman – Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines

The environment seems to be vastly under-reported even though it will effect today’s teenagers and elementary students vastly more than any other generation. This is a book for students age 14 and up who want to understand their place in environmental history. Paul reported on one field report based on the reading of the book by a class in Minnesota that investigated Colony Collapse Disorder and why beekeeping and apiaries were banned in their town. They ended up getting laws changed in their town. He reported on the Munich School System which connects every urban school with a cabin in the Alps so that students can spend time and learn in the natural world. Citizen science is taking off, for example, the U.S. coastlines have a citizen monitoring system which identifies, logs and tries to understand the cause of death of every animal which washes up on the shores.

Virtual Book Clubs can be really powerful for a small group of students. Being able to communicate with people and students beyond their own community can really enrich the learning experience for many students. The special hashtag days on twitter, online summits, and global awareness days are really powerful catalysts for connection for both teachers and students.  Figure out ways for let students lead the way in the creation, research and impact of global collaboration.

Shared Presentation Resources and Links:










Session 2 – Using Facebook and Twitter as online classrooms: Connecting students and educators around the globe.

– Katrina Ingco and King Pierre Moncal, The Philippines


A Babson Survey found that 61% of teacher have Facebook accounts, 18% use it to communicate with other educators, and 12% use it to communicate with their students.

The positives of Facebook is that students are already on Facebook, privacy setting options are available and you can create closed or secret groups for your class.


To safely ‘friend’ your students, you can create customized lists to keep things private from your students, or set-up a second professional account that you use just to connect with students.  You can also create a Facebook ‘Fan Page’ to organize your student ‘friends’ or a private group. Groups can be thought of as a place of creation for students and the teacher, where as a Fan page is a place where the teacher is still the ultimate mediator of the conversation and sharing.

The potential learning opportunities on Facebook mimic many of those that are advertised by traditional edtech dedicated social networks, mobile and web apps. Sharing documents and content, brainstorming, educational math and reading games, peer review of journal entries using the FB Notes feature, extra credit ‘flash’ assignments for students to take advantage of in a timely manner, class polls, school news, parent communication and involvement in the group or fan page (this can also act as a regulator of the students’ social media footprint). In fact, you can save paper and streamline the permission slip and newsletter distribution by posting them to a class FB page or group. Last, you can invite guest professionals, content contributors and mentors to add to the conversation and information sharing on the FB group. For example, after a guest lecture by a guest expert, they can continue the conversation with the class online.

FB ed apps


There are 1 billion users of Twitter. 5,700 tweets per second and 100 million Tweets per day. There are about 50/50 male and female Twitter users.

It is recommended that you create a special Twitter class account that students are to follow. You simply ask student to tweet @yourclassaccount every time they are interacting or responding to an assignment or conversation on Twitter. In addition, you can in turn follow your students Twitter account and learn about their interests via their feed.

Students can connect with the world, sharing their content, understanding the specific Twitter grammar and comparing it with traditional forms of grammar. Besides sharing, of course, they can follow the incredible feeds like NatGeo, NASA, and other inspiring and informative Twitter handles in a variety of fields.  The Direct Messaging feature allows you to have private communications with parents and students via Twitter. Parents are eager to monitor their children’s social media footprint, this is a great way to leverage parent support as a regulator of interaction on the social media platform and provide transparency about the content of the class.

Below are some Twitter apps which enhance the educational value of Twitter for teachers and students:

http://twtpoll.com/ – Twitter polls

http://www.twitterfall.com/ – Research and collect specific hashtag information

http://historicaltweets.com/ – You can follow the Twitter feeds of historical figures and those who Tweet histories of places and events

http://www.twtbase.com/twiddeo/ – Sharing video via Twitter

Bill Gates on Teacher Feedback

Feedback For Bill

Bill Gates’ most recent Ted Talk already has over a million views and has made its rounds through the interwebs in a variety of ways. The theme of this Gates talk is on teacher feedback and the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) which his Gates Foundation has developed. He identifies the key elements of MET:

  • Video recordings of lessons
  • Identification of effective teaching practices like deep questioning and providing multiple ways of explaining or demonstrating an idea
  • Student surveys of their teachers

I am currently in the middle of the clinical portion of the Teach-Now teacher certification program. This is a unique, all online certification program and as a result it requires us to record our lessons during our student-teaching clinical practicum. I am pleased to say that the teacher preparation program has asked me to do all three of the key elements of MET system. I have developed and implemented two student feedback and goal-setting surveys. I record one lesson per week to be evaluated by myself, my Korean co-teacher and my Teach-Now instructor. We use the District of Columbia’s IMPACT Teaching and Learning Framework to identify and develop my effective teaching practices, or those that are lacking at this point.

Without getting too much into what has become Gates’ controversial role in education, I would like to point out a few flaws and misconceptions he presents in his talk. Like many big-picture ed policy players, he is quite focused on the failings of the US education system when compared to those of other developed or developing nations. He displays a graphic that shows that 11 out of 14 countries who are ahead of the US in terms of student reading proficiency have a formal teacher feedback system in place already. Interestingly, Finland, which is often held up as the exemplar education system for how they prepare teachers, the quality of education for all students, and the test results they have as a nation, does not have a formal teacher feedback system.

At minute 3:05, Gates uses the much bandied buzzword in education over the past 15 years, ‘failing’, as in the US education system is failing, among many other things, to give teachers adequate feedback to grow as effective educators. He implicitly makes the specious correlation between anemic or absent formal teacher feedback systems and our student achievement rates in reading, math and science. More questionably, he is also implying that Shanghai’s and South Korea’s student achievement scores on international standardized tests like the PISA is due in large part to the development of effective teachers through robust teacher feedback systems.

I say that these are specious implications because I am unaware of any research which makes the correlation between a good teacher feedback system and student achievement results. Nor am I aware of any research that indicates that a certain teacher feedback system has developed better teachers who get better results in their students. Maybe I am ignorant to this body of research. Please let me know!

However, he is also positing an utterly simplistic notion that teacher feedback systems are at the root of student achievement in Shanghai, South Korea and elsewhere. I work as an English teacher in Yeosu, South Korea. From my experience of the South Korean education system’s professional development this seems like a specious argument in many ways. One South Korean commenter on the Ted Talk site put forward another reason for student achievement in his country, one of many contributing factors:

Gates cites Shanghai’s teacher feedback system as exemplary and says it includes:

  • Younger teachers have the opportunity to watch master teachers at work
  • Weekly study groups where teachers talk about best practices
  • Peer observation and feedback among teachers within a school

Well, this interesting because the last US school I worked in had a professional development system which included weekly Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), learning walks where teachers did peer observations based on the Danielson Framework, and we had Board Certified teachers mentoring University of Washington student-teachers in their classrooms. It had room for improvement as a formal ‘system’, but it had the components and I believe many other schools and school districts already have this in place.

Gates makes the claim that, “If today’s average teachers could become as good as those (highly effective) teachers, then our students would be blowing away the rest of the world.” I am not obsessed with the achievement results of American students compared with their international counterparts. I know that I don’t want American children to have the same childhood and student pressures that a South Korean student has, even if that means we are below them in the math and reading PISA rankings. I am concerned with my students’ growth as learners and people from the day they first enter my classroom. That is a personal evaluation which is much more valuable and relevant to both the teacher and student, but less so for policymakers.

Despite some of these critiques, I think that teacher feedback as a part of professional growth is an inherent good for the education field. Every teacher should want to develop and grow their practice and I think student surveys, observation of master teachers and recording one’s own lessons are certainly integral parts of that feedback formula. If Bill Gates is desirous to put his considerable clout and force behind an effort to improve and professionalize teacher feedback, kudos to him, I’m confident some good will come of that effort. In fact, you can read about 6 tools for teacher feedback on the Gates Notes blog, where he surveys how ed tech apps and services like Edmodo and ThinkCERCA are helping teachers better evaluate themselves and their students along with developing better lesson plans. There are some very interesting sounding tools there that I will have to do further research on later.

The absolute best part of the entire Ted Talk does not include Gates, but instead a teacher, and not just any teacher. Sarah Brown Wessling is a superstar teacher featured regularly on the Teaching Channel site. Her comment about capturing video of her classes is the key takeaway from the entire Ted Talk, “I think it is a way to exemplify and illustrate things that we cannot convey in a lesson plan, things you cannot convey in a standard…or book of pedagogy.” And I furthermore agree with Gates’ conclusion following the Wessling interlude, that, “You should be able to watch a video of the best teacher in the world teaching fractions.” The Teaching Channel is good start to such a resource, but I am sure there is more and better to come.



Booyeong Elementary ESL Open Class

Where: Booyeong Elementary, Yeosu, Jeonnam, SK

When: 2:20pm on Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Who: Melody Peters & Jeong Hang-i

What: 4th Grade ESL, Present Progressive


Last week I participated in my first formal professional development workshop as a Native English Teacher in Korea. From my understanding principle way, and possibly the only way, that administrators and teachers ever observe a teacher’s class is during a formal ‘open class’. There are two types of open classes in my school district, the first comes during the first semester of the school and is primarily an opportunity for parents to come and see their child’s teachers in action. Although, a principal or vice principal may also pop in to observe then as well. The second type of open class comes in the second semester of the school year and it is a formal observation and evaluation by your administrators and colleagues.

Melody Peters, a native of South Africa and a Native English Teacher with six years of experience teaching in multiple school districts at the elementary level, suggested a third type of open class when approached by district officials. She suggested a demonstration class for fellow Native English Teachers and their Korean co-teachers to come observe, discuss and identify strategies and best practices that they could use in their own classroom. Based on her previous experience with professional development in Korea, Peters was eager to create a more positive observation and evaluation experience for herself and other teachers. It was her hope that with an appreciative inquiry method of observing and analyzing the lesson all the teachers in attendance would experience more growth in their teaching practice. I am going to do my best to honor Peters’ vision in my analysis of her lesson here.


My Korean co-teacher, Hana, and I arrived at Booyeong Elementary and found a stack of lesson plans for us to refer to while we watched the lesson. The students filed in, already knowing why there were twenty or so teachers sitting in the back of the room, Melody and her co-teacher, Jeong Hang-i, taught their lesson. I recorded the lesson on my iPad as requested by Peters and took notes in the margins of the lesson plan. The students filed out at the end of the forty minute lesson and all the teachers went downstairs to debrief.

In the lesson debrief we are asked to comment on the following three positive statements; I saw a good method of co-teaching, I learned a new idea, I will put this idea into a lesson plan. These were the terms of our discussion, along with any questions or clarifications anyone had about the lesson planning.

Following the debrief discussion, we were asked to fill out and submit an evaluation of the lesson. The evaluation form was broken into three sections; 1) Planning, 2) Management, 3) Instruction. I was glad to see that “Identifies and plans for individual differences” was in the planning section. Usually there are few management issues in open classes in Korea because the students know that it is important to behave well and participate in these important, twice-a-year classes. Also, most non-homeroom teachers strategically select the class that they will use as their open class, based on the usual behavior of the students. participation and possibly, level of English. Last, “Adjusts lesson when appropriate” was in the Instruction section of the evaluation. Responding to the students needs in real time is a challenge for any teacher and I’m not sure I’ve seen a good example of that here in Korea. Peters and Jeong were given the results of the evaluations and noted the interesting remarks for further reflection.

Lesson Video Annotation:

Minute 1:15: The verbal cue to start English is when the teacher says, “Let’s study English” and the children respond, “We are ready!”, I love this! I use a drum in my after school third grade group to get their attention and signal the start of class, but this is better because it is a procedure which uses the content, i.e. the English language.

Minute 2:56 – You can see the regular use of Total Physical Response and physical cues for the target language right from the start.

Minute 3:30 – The review of past lessons begins and all the physical cues for the key expressions can be observed. You can see how the physical cues used by the students scaffolds the learning, providing an access point for future use of past learning. This is a definite strength of Peters’ ESL classes, chants and physical cues.

Minute 6:20 – Teacher Hang-i leads the class in the Korean recitation of the lesson objective. This is a Korean teaching emphasis in our district currently, emphasizing the big picture of what and why we are learning today.

Minute 7:30 – The unit’s present progressive song begins. Peters and Jeong design all their unit plans around an English song that provides musical practice of the target language of the unit.

Minute 9:25 – Peters has asked the students to tell the class what verbs they heard in the song. The procedure for student responses is to raise their hand and say “I can do it!” just once and then wait to be called on. Another procedure which contains English content. Great stuff!

Minute 12:37 – Peters and Jeong provide the students with a basic first person sentence formula, “I am verb-ing”. They then add a clap and chant routine to provide kinesthetic and musical practice for multiple intelligences. They model this as co-teachers, they provide guided practice for the whole class, then guided partner practice, and finally, independent partner practice. This gradual release is so practiced and so smooth. Watching this makes me realize that I often forget the middle steps of guided practice. I model many activities for my students, but I often skip a step and jump to independent practice. This is a good reflection point for me.

One of the only areas of improvement that I identified for this lesson was at this point. I would have like to see the students practice in pairs in front of the class while also manipulating the “I am verb-ing” visual cue cards on the board. Physically making connections, matching and categorization are high-impact learning strategies that could have been utilized well to consolidate this section of the lesson following the independent speaking practice in pairs. Also, a preview of the addition of prepositional phrase to the end of the present progressive verb formula would have helped students to better understand the listening comprehension activity that comes later in the lesson and becomes the target language later in the unit. For example, “I am fishing in Yeosu.” Although, I imagine Peters and Jeong thought of this and decided against it because this is an introductory lesson for this unit.

Minute 19:30 – Peters and Jeong use the curriculum for some listening comprehension practice. But it is a minimal amount compared to most English classes in Korea, or most subject classes, for that matter, in my experience.  Peters said in the debrief, “If we can do it better than the textbook, then we do it better.” Believe it or not, this is a controversial statement to make in Korea, but one that sparks a very healthy and needed conversation about the use of instructional materials.

Minute 21:11 – Peters and Jeong use the ‘X’, meaning yes or correct, and ‘O’, meaning no or incorrect, paddles to check for understanding of the listening exercise. In a class of 30 or more students, with only 40 minutes to teach, this a very efficient way to gage student learning. You can get a very clear pulse of the general level of understanding and learning from the whole class. However, it can mask individual student learning challenges, it can be tough to tell when and how a student is struggling with a specific piece of the content.
Peters and Jeong respond the pulse of the class based on the ‘X’, ‘O’ responses they get. The particular listening comprehension question at this point in the lesson is touching on the previously learned prepositions of place, ‘in’, ‘on’, and ‘under’. There are a mix of ‘X’ and ‘O’ answers from the students, which makes it clear to the teachers that the students require a bit of review and reinforcement on the prepositions. Peters immediately invokes the physical cue and chant for the prepositions of place from the previous learning and makes the connection with the current comprehension question.

Minute 22:47 – Peters and Jeong take turns using visual cues (images) of present progressive verbs and asking the students the key target language question, “What are you doing?” This is a fantastic display of co-teaching, as they are in rhythm and taking turns. They look very well practiced at complementing and spelling each other throughout the class.

Minute 25:10 – Here they are again modeling the Heads Up 7Up game which is going to ask the students to both produce comprehend the target language. The students are already familiar with this game and its procedures, but they make sure to scaffold it once again for those learners who may need it.

Minute 25:52 – Is such a good randomizer, the students love the visual and audio action. This is an appropriate way to randomly check for understanding with different students leading into a game. While pull sticks, self-assessment stop lights and exit tickets might be more appropriate for many activities in a traditional homeroom in the US, this kind of graphics-based randomizer can get students really excited about an activity and their participation in it, even if they are unsure of the knowledge or skill level.

Minute 33:47 – They end the Heads Up 7Up game after about eight minutes or so. The students were engaged and focused on the game the whole time. A variety of students were required to produce the target language during the game. There were not management issues and the required language of the game matched the lesson objectives. They only played four rounds of the game, it was appropriately paced and provided good practice.

Minute 33:50 – Peters starts the review by previewing the upcoming lessons in the present progressive unit asking “What are we doing?” and having students guess at a slowly revealed picture on the board. The pictures present the students with interesting images of their teachers doing relevant activities. Good preview. And again you see many hands in the air and hear many students saying just once, “I can do it!”

The pacing and planning of this lesson was excellent. They had a good amount of time to review the “I am verb-ing” formula sentence at the end and preview the next lesson, consolidating the learning for the students. Nothing felt rushed and they did at a couple points, deviate from the lesson plan, respond to the students learning needs and reinforce previous learning.

Minute 37:10 – Of course this co-teaching pair have a verbal and physical cue for the end of class, as well. The teacher motions and says “It’s time to….” and the students yell “It’s time to go home!” Great content embedded procedure to finish up.

Debrief Discussion:

  • Peters and Jeong divide and conquer the lesson planning, Jeong takes the textbook activities because she is most familiar with those instructional materials. Peters usually plans the reading activities because that is an instructional strength for her. Together they decide the unit’s key expression chant and physical cue, along with the unit song. Peters explained the importance of the song this way, “The lessons and unit are built around a song because the textbook curriculum changes often.” This is very true in Korea, more so than in America from my experience. My English textbook is changing next year, which will be my third set of textbooks in three school years here in Korea. Peters and Jeong have struck on a very flexible and sustainable planning model, where the procedures, the verbal and physical cues, the musical practice and other structures of a unit or lesson can be easily transferred or incorporated into a new curriculum and textbook.
  • Jeong Hang-i encouraged her Korean counterparts to rely on the Native English Teachers to teach the natural language of English, not the textbook. She said, “I want to teach the natural thing they say in America.”
  • Speaking about how they incorporate review into every lesson, Peters compared the units to a big spiralling circle and said, “We come back and make the circle bigger. We leave no lesson behind.” This paralleled the philosophy of a few reading and math curriculums I have worked with back in the U.S.
  • The debrief was primarily done in English by both the foreign Native English Teachers, of course, but also by the Korean co-teachers, which is a rarity for professional development in Korea, even for English open classes. However, for those who felt more comfortable Korean was certainly allowed and I noticed that Jeong translated every word of the discussion for Peters. Their relationship as co-teachers appears to be very strong, very collaborative and very effective.

The Global Education Conference 2014



I have signed up as a member of the Global Education Conference (GEC), which will take place completely online during International Education week (November 17-21). I have also registered my beloved cause of choice, Long Way Home, as an official partner organization.

On the GEC website they state the following as their mission:

The Global Education Conference is a collaborative, world-wide community initiative involving students, educators, and organizations at all levels. It is designed to significantly increase opportunities for building education-related connections around the globe while supporting cultural awareness, recognition of diversity, and educational access for all.
The conference seeks to present ideas, examples, and projects related to connecting educators and classrooms with a strong emphasis on promoting global awareness, fostering global competency, and inspiring action towards solving real–world problems. Through this event, it is our hope that attendees will challenge themselves and others to become more active citizens of the world. Let us learn, question, create, and engage in meaningful, authentic opportunities within a global context!

My goals are two-fold; as an educator teaching internationally I am interested in connecting with other educators around the world and learn from them. I am particularly interested in learning how teachers are connecting their classrooms in one country or region with another to create a meaningful inter-cultural exchange and cultivate global competencies in their students. This is a goal I have for my professional practice.

As a representative of Long Way Home, I am eager to spread the word of the good work we are doing in Guatemala building a sustainable green school, integrating environmental education, and designing a future green vocational school. I would like to expand our network and potentially find some professional development opportunities for our teaching staff in Guatemala (in Spanish).

But really, I am new to this kind of online conference format and am just trying to get my feet wet. I am interested to see how to make this a useful yearly learning and networking experience.

If you are interested in participating here are a GEC resources you should look at right away:

  1. Sessions & Speaker Schedule
  2. Keynote & Distinguished Speakers
  3. The Twitter Tagboard for the latest GEC updates and discussions
  4. Time Zone Scheduler – After all it is a global conference!

I am particularly interested in the following speakers:

  • Vicky Colbert, Executive Director of Fundación Escuela Nueva Volvamos a la Gente
  • Paul Salopek, journalist and founder of the iEarn program
  • Emily Havens of OpenIDEO
  • John Mergendoller of the Buck Institute for Education