My first online influence featuring Nik Peachey

This is an article I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Before I even had a facebook account or a personal learning network, I was reading Nik Peachey’s blogs and blending his EdTech knowledge with my years of offline experience to create what would become my own online brand of teaching. It’s the only article I’ve ever really procastinated on, if procastinate is the right word. Really, I was waiting for my blog to be mature enough to carry the weight of this special feature.

Nik Peachey has been interviewed and featured all over the world, and has won prestigious awards, such as the ElTon awards in 2012 and 1012. Needless to say, an article like this cannot be scribbled down lightly, yet it is light-hearted in a serious way. However, despite all of the accolades, I believe that he values feedback from grass roots levels, and that his ultimate purpose lies in helping teachers. He has revealed himself to be modest and appreciative of what teachers like me have to say. A lot of what I do on my blog is sharing my learning path with other teachers. Therefore would like to think that by sharing this I am helping other teachers to start off on the right foot. I’d also like to know that other busy at-home mothers like me could start some creative MOMpreneuring online.

So, without further ado, I found Nik Peachey online via One Stop English , and Nik’s Quick Shout was my main stop for a long time after that. I had three babies in nappies when I was studying online at night and gathering resources, ideas and creating materials. When I finally got onto facebook and into virtual classrooms I was all revved up and ready to go. This article is about my perspectives on his work. I think that my slice of life will also give Nik a deeper look at his power to influence and help teachers everywhere, especially freelance teachers who want to make a difference in education.

Educational technology

The breadth of Nik’s work is immense, which is why I needed a mindmap to clarify what he does. I spent most of my time on Nik’s Quick Shout when I was learning about educational web tools and their significance in education. Please bear in mind that in those days my edtech skills were limited to email, web surfing and microsoft applications. Discovering interactive web technology that was simple enough for teachers to use was a revelation indeed. Nik’s Quick Shout was my Aladdin’s cave of creativity. I think that my first tool to try was Xtranormal. The special thing about Nik’s articles on web technology is that he describes the tools clearly, has video demonstrations on how to use them, and offers many ideas on how to apply them in class. He also reveals his sources and where he finds things. He has worked in close tandem with Russell Stannard, based mainly on their close interests in teacher training and mutual respect for each other. Being an expert on twins, I used to think of them as my online tech-twin experts, which means I’ll have to write about Russell Stannard in future too.

Student Activities

What makes Nik’s work extra special and beyond teacher training is his brilliant website for students, which is full of ways they can learn English online using self-study activities. These are not the kinds of activities you find on other sites. These activities teach students how to use technology independently to learn English autonomously in interactive, creative ways. The site is such fun that teachers or students could spend hours there.

Teacher Training

A crucial factor in Nik’s ELT career is that he is able to reach out to teachers around the world in various ways. As an expert in technology he seamlessly manages writing, content creating, curating and teaching by blending face-to-face workshops with online courses. This, in itself, is a great lesson in what can be achieved by one person who knows how to extend influence. Although he travels the world teacher-training, he manages to leave much of his work open to the public. In doing so, he preserves his own energy and gives everyone a chance to benefit from this digital age of educational change and revolution.

You don’t have to follow him around the world to join a course. That is the best thing in the world for stay-at-home MOMpreneurs like myself. He has launched some interesting online teacher-training courses for 2013. ICT for ELT was launched with much excitement in English teaching circles.I was delighted about this as I’d love nothing more than to learn with Nik Peachey online. I was unsure of whether it would suit me or not, though, as I have experimented with so much already. When I inquired about this, his answer was a great validation of what creative education is all about, as well as a validation of my own Edupunk experiments online.

“What I’m aiming for is that each person should be able to participate at their own level and the focus will be more on developing pedagogical competence, so you’ll be getting assignments whereby each participant will create materials for their students and share them and get feedback on them. I’m hoping to draw on quite a range of tools and technologies, but in the end what people get from the course will depend very much on what they bring to it. So I hope that you would get something new and be able to develop what you already do.”

The courses are self-directed regardless of one’s level of edtech competence. This means that the teacher/learner is in charge of the learner experience, which is really what is needed; an expertly-guided experimental workshop. When I say expert, I mean not only the tools and technology, but mostly the brain-friendly approach. Developing more of that is what we all need.

If you are not sure where you stand on the edtech learning curve see my article about the four levels of competence. Where is your teachability index? When we have a low teachability index we become impossible to teach. That can mean closing our minds to life-long learning or keeping up with technology. Even if you are ahead of the curve, you may wish to continue challenging yourself by implementing more innovative ideas.

News, tips and social media

Nik Peachey scoops what’s hot and new on the web. He is a brain-friendly trend spotter. Whatever the tool, he will find unique ways to use it for language learning. Kind of like the McGyver of ELT. McGyver was also gifted in creativity and manipulating tools. Anyone who watched this American series on TV in the eighties will know what I mean. Of course, he not only scoops news on technology and tools, but he has his finger on the pulse of global educational trends in general. His scoops save me a lot of time, as surfing the web needs to be a finely-tuned luxury for me, given my schedule and commitments. I subscribe by email so that his scoops arrive with my morning coffee.

As if all that of that wasn’t enough, Nik also has a blog for those who want to learn more about social media, from blogging to tweeting. By learning from his articles and watching how he, himself, employs social media, we can definitely learn a lot. Large educational organisations and news outlets around the world ask Nik for trending advice and predictions about online learning.

Taking Care of teachers

Nik Peachey helps us to take care of our own professional development. It’s fun, fascinating and it keeps our educational fire burning, just as W.B. Yeats would have wanted.

Education is not the filling of a pail, it’s the lighting of a fire.”

I think that Yeats was referring to students, but we teachers need to pamper ourselves too. For me, professional development is pampering because it’s taking care of mind, creativity and, ultimately, overall health and happiness in work.

I will finish with a question for Nik.

As my Edupunk mentor George Machlan always says “The question is more important than the answer”

What’s the best question a teacher ever asked you and what’s the best question you ever asked yourself?

Nik’s response:

Where do you want to be in your life?
How do you plan to get there?

So often we end up drifting through our lives or expecting other people to direct us, but really what we do with our lives is something we have to take responsibility for. As far as I know we only get one, so we should make the most of it and that’s down to us to do.

If I had to tell you the most valuable lesson I have been taught by any teacher, I would tell you about my very first guitar teacher. He taught me how to learn and that has been the most valuable thing to me over the last 30+ years and the lesson that I will still use everyday of my life I hope. Unfortunately I can’t remember now how he did it!

Nik’s response is very thought-provoking on many levels and it reminds me of his Woody Allen quote from the video above which you MUST watch.

“Relationships are like sharks. If they don’t keep moving forward they die.” Are teachers like sharks?”

To find out the answer and enjoy more humour, tune into Nik’s ‘Taking Care of Teachers’ video for further inspiration.

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About Sylvia Guinan

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.
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