Sometime last year, I was looking for ideas to better support my students’ learning. Unfortunately, there weren’t many professional development opportunities in the Ningbo area so I decided to look for online options. I wasn’t sure I would find what I was looking for because I had never taken an online course. I was afraid the learning experience might not be as fulfilling and meaningful because when I’m in a classroom full of learners, discussions and interactions are often what I remember the most afterwards. These little exchanges truly help me acquire new concepts and ideas. I didn’t think this would be possible with an online course. However, as soon as I started my online course I was hooked! There were about 20 students from different countries and with various backgrounds, as well as a team of very qualified instructors. We were asked to watch videos, read articles, comment on a textbook we were reading, etc. We also had to share about our learning experiences through blog posts. Participants exchanged ideas, shared resources, encouraged one another… In the end, I learned so much from that course. I believe that social interactions do have a big impact on learning and although sharing a room with other learners can be interesting, social media has the possibility of making learning even more interactive and enriching.
I am learning to include opportunities for my students to connect and learn through social interactions and connections beyond the classroom environment. A few years ago, I participated in a reading project called “Ecouter lire le monde” (http://ecouterlirelemonde.net/). The goal was for teachers from all over the world to read a book with their class and start a global discussion about the book. Students were able to share their predictions with kids from many different countries and give their opinions. It was a very motivating and rewarding experience for all of us! I am looking forward to hearing other ideas and learning how to better help my students develop their language abilities in my classroom.