Professional Development in the XXI Century

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by Gabriel Areas

Keeping up with new trends in ELT and learning about new gizmos for education can be a daunting task even for the most experienced educator.  Nowadays, professional development is not an option; it is a must.  Getting certified and learning new skills give teachers a competitive edge and an added value that can exponentially increase their career prospects.  There are many ways teachers can stay in the loop and not fall behind.  Three factors worth mentioning in this article are the Keiser International Language Institute Certification in ELT, MOOCS, and professional learning networks as ways to continue growing professionally.

The Keiser University Language Institute ELT Certification

The ELT is a five-month online teaching certification that gives new or experienced educators a solid foundation in methodology, lesson planning, and teaching principles which  have a profound effect in their teaching.  The program is divided into five modules where teachers read, write, teach and reflect on their teaching.  The course follows a blended format that combines online work and bi-monthly face-to-face meetings. The first four modules cover the areas of methodology, listening, speaking and reading.  The final module consists of a writing workshop and an action research paper that requires participants to apply everything they have learned throughout the course, and write an academic paper to eventually publish their findings in a quarterly newsletter issued by the Keiser International Language Institute. The program places a lot of emphasis on detail and personalized attention. Each participant has a mentor who provides guidance and follow-up, and works side by side with him or her to ensure their success.  Participants who fulfill all the requirements receive a First TEFL Certificate from the ELT Institute at Hunter College, City University of New York, and a Certificate from the International Language Institute at Keiser University.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

Let us start by defining a MOOC.  MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses and according to google, “it is a free course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people”.  Keep in mind that when we say a large number of people it can literally mean thousands.  MOOCS have become very popular in the ELT field in Nicaragua because of the great effort made by the US state department to sponsor their American English Webinar Series for English language teachers from around the world.  Registration for a MOOC is really simple, and as mentioned beforehand, they are free.  First, applicants need to find a registration link, which is usually shared by the host institution such as Coursera, www.coursera.com, or the American English website, http://americanenglishwebinars.com/main/authorization/signUp?.  MOOCs are usually short courses that can last 4 weeks or less, but they can also be extensive and last up to 12 weeks.  One of the most popular MOOCs on Coursera is “Teaching by Principles part 1 and part 2”, which reviews and expands on methodology  as well as new trends in ELT.  These courses can be useful for both the new and the experienced teacher because they review and expand on the most updated literature available in the field of ELT.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

A Professional Learning Community, also known as PLC, is a group whereby educators can share best practices and common goals.  In a previous article Bosco Bonilla, coordinator of the English for Professional Development Program at Keiser International Language Institute, presented the social learning network Edmodo (www.edmodo.com), which allows educators from around the world to join groups, follow learning communities and form their own PLCs. More information about Edmodo and PLCs can be found in this link:
https://assets.edmodo.com/images_v2/marketing/docs/edmodo_sellsheet2015_pdtools.pdf

A professional learning community can also serve as the platform where teachers can learn about new trends, share educational apps, and present new ideas to their peers.  Everyone in the community is interconnected in a kind of social learning network where educators can ask other fellow teachers for help, and receive the support needed from people who care and are willing to lend a helping hand when most needed.  Institutions around the world can take advantage of their own PLCs to conduct in-service trainings and to provide follow-up and feedback to their faculty.  The importance of joining a learning community is that educators become respected digital citizens who understand and follow proper electronic etiquette to connect with the world.  Other popular online services that professionals are using to make new connections are Google Groups and Microsoft Education.

To conclude, there are many technology resources available to continue growing in ELT.  Whether it is a teaching certification, a MOOC, a blended course, a social learning network or a professional learning community, they constitute new forms of professional development whereby teachers can collaborate, learn from one another and become truly global educators and a factor of inspiration and change in their communities.  The challenge still lies ahead and is up to each of us to take an active role in finding new connections and practical ways to continue with our professional growth.

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