Highlights, Battles & The ELT-T MOOC.

#30GoalEdu_6) Choose you battles wisely

Today I’m blending my EduGoals with my EduJournalism updates. Here is a report on our first week of MOOCing in the light of my own experiences and observations about education and life.

Choose your battles wisely with courage equal to desire.

One day I woke up and found myself in the middle of a MOOC. Jason.R. Levine, WizIQ Ambassador and Knowledge Entertainer, ELT RAP ESLebrity, and personally speaking, my Edufitness coach, had enlisted my help for an English Language Teacher training marathon.

I’m going to use my experiences with the ELT-T MOOC to also integrate my thoughts on the next #30 GoalsEdu, entitled ‘Choose your battles’.

My initial battle began a long time ago. Almost at the beginning of my teaching career. Kind of like Odysseus in The Odyssey, I set off on a world trip of teaching around the world, got seduced by Greece, and have been eating lotus ever since. Unlike Odysseus, however, I never went home. My Troy is still real. Helen can be the symbol of stolen inspiration, or even The Stolen Child in another poem by Yeats. Yeats said that there was No Second Troy, but I have courage equal to desire.

The Stolen Child, stolen inspiration, let’s reclaim it.

From poem to song by the Waterboys

The battle I chose was to live in Greece but rise above its economy. I made this decision before I was wired to the internet and before I ever considered the possibilities of teaching online. I succeeded as a freelance teacher providing English proficiency lessons to university students.

Then my four children were born in very quick, simultaneous succession ( if that could possibly make any sense) and one day, floundering beneath a mountain of nappies, my second ‘battle’ was born.

This ‘battle’ was to rise above the economy of Greece while removing limitations traditionally placed on ‘Stay-at-home mothers’.

It has definitely been a journey of epic proportions for me. I have been waylaid in my wanderings many times, but by following the stars I also chose my sirens wisely. My sirens are the brighter lights of inspiration calling out to me and steering me clear of the rocky shores of false comfort. My online journey brought me so many fellow travellers that my Second Troy is reaching out beyond myself.

My present ‘battle’ lies in facilitating a vision bigger than one I had personally pictured for myself. It’s not just about my online career or living independently of the Greek economy. It’s about helping passionate colleagues around the world to thrive and learn online. I’m no longer Odysseus now, I’m Penelope knitting a massive blanket for global inspiration. The ‘battle’ lies in the fact that I’m just one of multiple Penelopes, and we are knitting this blanket together. The ‘suitors‘ waiting for our wool to run out are the naysayers of inspiration. The ‘suitors‘ are part of a bygone establishment, ‘unnatural in an age like this‘, as Yeats said in No second Troy. Perhaps they are also the invisible clerks of Kafka’s Castle who make teachers everywhere Wait For Godot.

Our wool is of the finest quality, our view from our knitting window is beautiful. There is a creative tension forming a new, yet ever-present and endless battle in our Penelopian mindsets. This challenge is to keep the wool unravelled whilst never losing sight of the view.

As global teachers around the world, we are knitting a new dream together. The wool is getting knotty. We are unravelling it. We need a larger loom. We are creating it.

Here is a story of the first week in our knitting adventure, knots & all.


The facilitators

The numbers of participants and facilitators have increased rapidly since that image was created, here are our new facilitators.

The Sirens

Our Sirens are the presenters in live online class sessions who also post pre-class assignments and post-class assignments. Our Sirens are seductive and productive. They are musicians, story-tellers, game players, video-makers, and all kinds of creative Edutainers who double as teachers in our amazing new world of online education. They have websites, platforms, You Tube channels, blogs and hot social media status. Needless to say, while Homer’s sirens were dangerously destructive, my siren’s are just dangerously inspiring.

First presenter: Jason. R. Levine

In our first week, we had Jason R. Levine launched the MOOC by demonstrating his ColloTune methodology. Jason teaches collocations through rap songs that he writes and performs himself. Many great teachers around the world are using his songs in their classes. I have created some lesson plans based on his songs, another facilitator Wanessa Pires, has created her own lesson plans and rhymes also based on Collo tunes. Wanessa has also published a book of poetry called Visao Dupla in Brazilian Portuguese. Yet another facilitator, Maria Alejandra Pinardi had her classes rapping , chanting and dancing along to Jason’s songs in her classroom.

The beauty of our presenter/facilitator global collaboration is the respect, synergy and inspiration that’s driving Jason’s bold initiative. Through sharing and networking on facebook we have all got to know each other, and that’s how Jason managed to build up a strong team to support the MOOC.

Our present facilitators are so talented that I could picture them being presenters in future MOOCs.

Knots to unravel.

The first live online class was visited by some technical problems. I lost my connection before the class and couldn’t log in as a moderator to help manage the class. We immediately took steps to rectify the situation for further classes.

1) We decided to have technical support in the class on stand-by for all future MOOC classes.

2) That Dr. Nellie and I would attend all classes and use our experience to help presenters who have not used WizIQ before. Dr. Nellie has years of experience running MOOCs, so her help has been invaluable to us. I’m experienced in using the virtual classroom for classes up to twenty, apart from various webinars I present.

3) We repeated the class and everyone got a chance to see Jason’s inspiring Edutainment performance. It was delightful to see the reactions of attendees who had never seen Jason perform live before.

Second Presenter.

The second presenter was Dr. Nellie Deutsch. She presented a fascinating look at the jigsaw technique for learning vocabulary. She showed us a beautiful power point describing the jigsaw technique and then surprised all of us by dividing us into break out rooms.

My group had to plan a jigsaw lesson. It was wonderful that we could be divided into separate brainstorming groups and we are collaborating in creative groups as a post-class assignment.

Knots to unravel.

It was tricky rounding up our group members from the break-out rooms afterwards. If you ‘try this at home’ I suggest planning the groups before separating them into break out rooms. You can have lists of their email addresses and facebook profile names to connect with specific groups after the session.

We have set up google docs and facebook groups to continue collaboration without confusing any one.

Third presenter.

The third presenter was Maria Ines Methologia Brumana. Maria’s class was technically smooth, thanks to excellent moderation by Dr. Nellie. Maria demonstrated how to teach with movies and games by trying out some lesson ideas with us. There were many excellent questions in the chat box and the course feed was very busy before and after the class.

Knots to unravel.

Technically it was a good experience and Maria was a smooth, inspiring presenter. I have some points to make about course feeds.

Asynchronous management of course.

The blessing & curse of creativity.

When we have many Penelopes all knitting the same blanket we need a very simple knitting pattern so as to synchronise flawlessly. The nature of creativity is sometimes to fly with an impulse and notch up the pattern into something more sophisticated. When this happens with one Penelope, all of the other Penelopes have to start knitting frantically to keep up and learn the new pattern at the same time. Stitches can be dropped or lost, holes can be made in the blankets, or it can start ripping.

Complex simplicity as opposed to simple simplicity.

In some ways the coursefeeds were so simple that they were confusing. All of the course feeds and pages looked the same so people were posting their assignments in the ‘wrong feeds’. Also the threads got disjointed and it was hard to go back and follow up on things.

I feel that a colour-coding option would be great to separate class feeds, tutorial links, course ware and various discussion threads. We also need folder option to tidy up and organise the content better, and we need stable, separate intuitive discussion threads.

WizIQ is always seeking to improve. They need us to vocalise our concerns. Only teachers can really understand how intuitive a simple learning management system should be. Sometimes the technical experts need a teacher’s eye.

We are 2,000 + teachers from around the world. Let’s tell them what we want to manage large numbers of students and teachers. WizIQ is listening to us.

Remember, be honest, be true and always be you!!

Continuing with the MOOC experience we will be forming facebook groups for each class so that we can add discuss links and files and tag any lost participants. For extra collaboration we also have google docs.

One thing I must stress is that we have an entirely new slant. Most MOOCs are academic from universities – ours is for teachers by teachers – and we are open about experimenting – we are not the geeky experts – we are teachers trying to make sense of technology for teachers – so, we are experimenting with simple technology that the average facebooker knows.

We have deliberately not used moodle or any other sophisticated Learning Management System in order to see how simplicity can drive a focused experience.

Last but not least, I have to mention the amazing participants on the course. There were many positive votes of confidence even when things were knotty, and the constructive criticism of other participants was also very much appreciated.

The calibre of participants in this global collaboration is mind-boggling indeed. That reminds me of one of my favourite bloggers who helped us a lot last week, and who was just nominated for best blog by The British Council, Carissa Peck. Let’s all read her article and vote. That way we can all be on the same page;)

We continue with an amazing line-up of presenters tomorrow and I’ll be back with more highlights and knots to unravel next week;)

I’ll be back to monitoring threads and facilitating the MOOC in full swing tomorrow.

A final word on my EduGoal ‘Choose your battles’. I like to think of challenges as things we need to traverse flexibly rather than fight. Although there are many references to battles and war-like symbolism here, I redefine them in my own way.

I’ve faced many challenges in my life so far, and flexibility is the only way I know how to ‘fight’. This means looking at things from different perspectives and approaching things from different angles, but not head-on.

I may be right, I may be wrong, but this waterfall knows better than I do!!

Image credit: Joe Ormonde Sheosamh

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather



Sylvia is is an online teacher & writer with a background in English Literature, history and education. She is also an award winning blogger featured by The British Council, online teacher, official blogger for WiziQ, professional development organiser, and passionate researcher into creative learning via Educational Technology @Eslbrain. She is currently focusing on ELT publishing and children’s publishing. Her personal projects for 2014 include writing ELT books through story-telling, comics, poetry, and social and emotional learning, while continually creating and sharing brain-friendly learning materials and ideas online. Her other main interests are art, writing, poetry, and psychology, which which help her to create fun quality time with her children and add colour to her language lessons. When she's not teaching online, she's writing course books, blogging or running her English language Facebook groups.
Loading Facebook Comments ...


  • Thankyou for a beautiful blog of the first week of the ELT-MOOC, Sylvia. I LOVE your analogistic use of Yeats which you have so lyrically and metaphorically used to describe the first week of teaching and learning on the ELT-MOOC! I was rapt and listened again and again to “The Stolen Child” as I reread your article.
    Becky Mowat

    Becky Mowat Reply
  • Hello Sylvia.

    Thank you for a wonderful posting about the MOOC. Just loved the poem and song.

    I mentioned in one of the Facebook messages that my family was (still is) Irish, my father’s family from Louth and Sligo, my mother’s from Galway.
    My paternal grandmother was a cousin of Yeat’s so I was nurtured on all his works.

    I Haven’t heard that song since the 80’s when it was released on the Fisherman’s Blues album.

    Great to hear the Galway brogue of Tomás Mac Eoin again. Brings back very fond memories of my youth in the 60’s and early 70’s.

    I’ll be blogging about my experiences on the MOOC starting tomorrow (Monday 26/08). I hope to cover everything during this coming week.

    Thanks again,


    Thomas Hodgers Reply
    • This is such an unexpected and lovely response, Thomas. Your kinship with Yeats has me kind of speechless:)

      I studied in Galway university and I’ve yet to meet another city beautiful enough to still feel rural – especially with the folk music and live sessions in the pubs.

      I’m racing to your blog now…..

      silversal Reply
  • p.s. When will you post the second week’s blog?

    Thomas Hodgers Reply
    • Thomas,

      I will post my hindsight news this week – all memories in place;)

      silversal Reply
  • A little bit more on my Irish heritage, as told to me by my grandmother when I was a youngster. I always remember how proud she was of the family, how they had saved themselves from poverty. I didn’t understand at the time, living in England in the 50’s and 60’s. The only people who suffered from poverty were the “starving millions in India” :
    My grandmother, Mary Ellen (Helen?) Keating, whose family lived in Galway was related to the Keatings from Limerick – the Irish painter Sean Keating, famous for many works of art. After studying art in Limerick he went off with a friend to Galway, staying with his cousins. He painted on the Isle of Arran and fell in love with the local way of life. There he learnt to speak the local Gaelic dialect. He went to further study art in Dublin but was often drawn back to Galway.
    One of my grandmothers elder brothers was married to the sister of John B. Yeats, father of the poet W. B. Yeats and another famous Irish painter Jack B. Yeats. The Yeats family had connections in Sligo and Galway.
    Both J.B, Yeats and Sean Keating were famous for their involvement with early Irish politics in the 20’s.

    Thomas Hodgers Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *