October 4th, 2015 marked the eve of WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY, a fitting reason to kick-off a worldwide webathon for EFL teachers. 10 in 10 for 10, a new concept in webinars took to the air at 6:00 am from Rio de Janeiro as the first of its kind event held by EFLtalks – talks for teachers.
After watching a number of great webinars in August and September from the likes of Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Higor Cavalcante and Damian Williams to name but a few, I thought about what was missing from the experience and what improvements could be made to webinars in general. I soon realized that the problem was not with the webinar itself, but with the fact that few people would really access the recordings after the live show. Sure, there is always a link, but if most teachers are like me, they are constantly bombarded by links to view past webinars and we tend to forget about them. It is a shame with so much great information, expertise and experience out there that there wasn’t a one-stop site to highlight all these great minds in one place. Moments later, I happened upon a TED talk, unrelated to education, and my mind started churning. I started brainstorming a bit and was thinking back to the first time I saw a Pecha Kucha at the Rio BRAZ-TESOL in 2012. It may sound like a future urban legend, but I was actually juicing my fruit and veggies for breakfast when the idea hit me. Put them all together. Yes, blended teaching, pun intended. After a quick shower, where I do my best thinking, it became clear. 10 in 10 for 10.
10 in 10 for 10 was built on the idea of teachers talking for only 10 minutes, using only 10 PowerPoint slides and running non-stop for 10 hours. The individual 10-minute recordings would then be archived and viewable on a searchable database via a website and YouTube. That meant 50 teachers. Great idea, but was I crazy? How could I pull this off? I immediately contacted Stephen Greene, a colleague and friend to see how crazy I was. Over the past year or so, Stephen, who I first met at BRAZ-TESOL Joao Pessoa, has been invaluable to me for advice and input, as well as a great mind to bounce ideas off and develop my plans with. It was decided. EFLtalks was born.
The idea I had in mind came out from one of my social media groups, ENGLISH STUDENTS worldwide (https://www.facebook.com/groups/englishstudentsworldwide/). I started the group last March on Facebook to attract students globally as an informal help site for those learning English. Now with over 3400 members I realized that a high percentage of the members were recent graduates and students at universities around the world preparing to become English teachers and interested in improving their own English. This became my focus. Experienced education industry experts helping the future EFL teachers of the world. Now we here in Brazil are blessed to know experts like Higor, Damian, Henrick etc. But a new teacher in Morocco or a soon to be graduate in Tunisia has never heard of them, and up until now, probably never will. How to “market” some of the most brilliant and innovative EFL thinkers to minds eager to learn outside of Brazil? EFLtalks.com.
Great concept, great idea, but who were the 50 presenters? I immediately reached out to Higor Cavalcante who jumped onboard without hesitation. I then thought about what I was trying to build… a global Personal Learning Network (PLN). Where better to look for teachers than my own PLN. I contacted about 100 educational experts and, one by one, they joined in with many offering suggestions for others to contact. Anyone who doubts the power of social networking pay heed, everything was done through Facebook. Only one of the presenters not on Facebook was contacted via email. I was amazed and blessed when Gavin Dudeney agreed to be the keynote speaker. When people like Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Chuck Sandy, Story Paul, Paul Maglione and IATEFL President Marjorie Rosenberg came onboard along with many BRAZ-TESOL members, I knew this would be big. Next came the sponsors: my company, Online Language Center, EFL Magazine, Integrating Technology, iTDi.pro, Gallery Teachers and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. The next step was the technology. Thanks to Dr. Nellie Deutsch, who I have presented for many times, we were able to come up with a workable platform that could handle everything we wanted to do.
The event itself was wonderful. It was lively, fast-paced and frantic all at the same time. It is easy to get a teacher to talk for an hour but to make a point in 10 minutes is much harder than you would think. The subjects were varied. Ideas, theories, tips, products, advice. A true mix of information from Mexico to Australia. I am still compiling all the viewer stats but we are more than pleased with the outcome, and the following is continuing to grow as word spreads. We have found out where we can improve and the next event shall be even more dynamic.
Fortunately, the problems were mostly minor. One no-show presenter, a last minute illness, a few connection problems but mostly, technology hasn’t caught up as much as we think it has. A 10-hour marathon with a huge amount of memory locked up computers and with hundreds coming and going and only 2 minutes between presentations, there was a little bit of pressure, but in the end, we pulled it off.
With the videos now uploaded to the site and viewable (at EFLtalks.com) the next step is the EFLtalks App currently in development. We are already planning another event for February of 2016 and when we get the technology up to par, we are planning 10 in 10 for 24, a 24-hour webathon with 120 professionals. We will be releasing updates on our future sessions through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/efltalks) and Twitter (@efltalkslive) I have made some great new friends through all of this and many have been connecting and collaborating with each other since the event. Not only have we built up our PLN’s but we have a chance to build a legacy for the future of EFL throughout the world. I hope for the next event, you can be a part of it.
Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center, a live online course for C1/C2 level students. He is a teacher, tutor, trainer, material designer and blogger for English as a foreign language. He is also a consultant and has been a frequent speaker internationally, both in-person and online, regarding online retention as well as using technology in and out of the classroom. He is also the founder of EFLtalks, webinars for teachers, utilizing his business background and social media to build a worldwide PLN for new and future language teachers. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, he is currently residing in Rio de Janeiro. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the BRAZ-TESOL newsletter, volume 04.2015.