Webinars for growth in the summer sun

Edo Forsythe, Hirosaki Gakuin University


JALTCALL 2013 has passed and I hope that you enjoyed our amazing conference at Shinshu University. For many of us, the spring semester is winding down and summer vacation is rapidly approaching. We will finally have some time to relax, recuperate, and renew ourselves in preparation for the fall semester. Summer vacation is often a time for teachers to take advantage of professional development opportunities, but for many, budgetary limits or time constraints mean that traveling to conferences or attending classes is not possible. Luckily, there are some options for professional development which do not require a lot of time or money, but allow educators to explore new areas or get up-to-date on their current research field: webinars. 

A webinar is a professional development seminar broadcast via the Internet (i.e., web seminar). Webinars allow people to attend lectures from their home or office at a convenient time with little expense beyond the costs of a computer and Internet access. Many webinars are available for free and most are recorded for review later to cover material again or to watch at a more convenient time. Below are examples of different webinars available for foreign language educators, but this list is by no means comprehensive—webinars are becoming more and more common as a means of sharing information among professionals and increasing numbers of organizations are beginning to provide webinars as a means to support their members.

Perhaps the premier example of Internet-based professional development is the Virtual Round Table Web Conference <virtual-round-table.com> held every May. This event is a 3-day, online conference which offers virtual presentations about technology in language learning from presenters around the world. The keynote addresses and many of the presentations are recorded and are available on the conference homepage. Some of the presentations at the 2013 Virtual Round Table Web Conference were: How to Motivate Online Learners, Self-publishing your own Blended or Online Course, Digital Tools to Help Creative Language Use, Empowering English Language Learners with Useful Technology Tools, and dozens of others in a wide variety of topics related to CALL. Participation and access to recorded presentations are free and registration is available on the conference homepage.

Another collection of online presentations is provided by the TESOL CALL Interest Section (CALL-IS) on their website <call-is.org>. The CALL-IS hosts the Electronic Village at the annual TESOL International Convention highlighting CALL-related presentations and hardware and software demonstrations. The CALL-IS webcasts many of the Academic Sessions, Keynote, InterSection, and Mobile Apps for Education Showcase presentations as well as Electronic Village Fair Classics sessions. Recordings of these presentations are linked from the CALL-IS website. 

Members of TESOL can also participate in free virtual seminars and online courses as part of the TESOL Professional Development program. These webinars and courses provide instruction in current practices in teaching English as a second or foreign language; upcoming webinar topics include teaching grammar, teaching students with learning challenges, language assessment, implications of brain research in English education, and using technology. There is a modest fee for non-TESOL members, but once a fee is paid by one educator, they can share the access information with others at their school for collaboration. Links to upcoming online courses and virtual seminars are available on the TESOL Attend & Learn site <www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/online-courses-seminars>.

eSchool News is an excellent resource for current news and research, as well as webinars on the topics of educational technology. Signing up for their email updates allows timely notification of upcoming webinars. Some of the available webinar topics include using websites to improve student satisfaction, empowering learning, dealing with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives, and technology integration. The eSchool News upcoming webinar list and archives are available at <www.eschoolnews.com/events/webinars>.

Other sites offering education-related webinars are listed below. Please visit the sites to see what webinars are available for viewing during summer vacation.

  • Pearson’s Connections Learning Conferences and webinars on digital learning solutions: <connectionslearning.com/connections-learning/resource-library/conferences-and-webinars.aspx>.
  • Marzano Research Laboratory webinars on blended learning and technology integration: <marzanoresearch.com/Free_Resources/event_presentations_webinars.aspx>.
  • Buck Institute for Education’s project-based learning (PBL) webinars: <bie.org/services/webinars>.

Summer vacation is a great time to relax and unwind after a hectic semester. It is also a wonderful opportunity to expand your knowledge by taking advantage of the vast selection of convenient and informative webinars available online for free. Please check out some of these great instructional programs and be sure to share your favorites with your colleagues. The information you gain will really help you and your students stay Wired!