Thursday, 12 February 2015

Flipping My Online Class to Promote Self-Study

Where did January go? It flew by and I didn't even manage to write a single blog post. I did, however, make some exciting new online discoveries and I'd like to share them with you.

Image courtesy of Kromkrathog at

Promoting self-study in my students' busy lives, continues to be a challenge; last year I wrote a guest post for the British Council on the topic of using mobile apps to motivate students to study independently. These apps are excellent, however, the motivated students use them, the less motivated, don’t. I aim to assist my students in progressing to the maximum of their ability in the shortest possible time. I want them to get good value for their money and to feel great about their language learning progress, but self-study plays an extremely important part in guaranteeing this. 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
For my students, time is an issue and not having enough time is a frequent excuse. However, let's face it, the majority of people can find one hour in a week to do some work, whether it's 10 minutes a day or an hour at the weekend, it's a matter of priority. I've been thinking about how I can transform self-study activities and make my students feel like they are one of their priorities and not something they need to do for me.

Courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at
I started using Padlet to create homework activities with the purpose of reviewing the lesson topics and/or preparing for the next lesson. The activities were varied: a link to a grammar exercise on the web, a short You Tube video, an article to read. My students responded well and this easy access format, where all the topic based activities were in one place, and only a click away, seemed to work. 

Courtesy of

Whilst looking for inspiration for advanced level lesson ideas, I discovered Jason West and his website English Out There. It's not new, but unfortunately I hadn't come across it before. In Jason's words "English Out There is the world’s first English course, specially designed to work with social media". 
The 'English Out There' materials are excellent, I highly recommend them. On the website there's an example of online content creation using Padlet.  Jason's lessons have three parts, Pre-Class, In Class and Out There (speaking to real people face to face or via social media). I think it's a brilliant idea and it got me thinking about how I could adapt my Padlet homework activities and effectively use Padlet to flip my class. This would increase the amount of talking time that my students would have with me and at the same time make self-study a fundamental part of the course.

Here is an example of how to use Padlet to create pre-lesson materials (this is based on an 'English Out There' lesson):

Feeling inspired (big thanks to Jason West for the inspiration and for answering my many questions) I immediately got to work using Padlet (example above). At the end of January I read an excellent blog post by Roberta Martino, in it she uses Blendspace (thanks to Roberta for introducing me to Blendspace).  The moment I saw Roberta's wonderful lesson, I knew that this was exactly the web tool that I needed to incorporate self-study activities into my lessons and combine all the different materials, webpages and videos that I've been creating and collecting in a professional, but very student friendly way. 

Blendspace enables you to create fast, interesting and interactive lessons, suitable for blended learning and flipped classrooms. It's very cool! It allows you to connect your Google Drive and with one click add your Google documents. You can upload a variety of files, for example: Power Point presentations, You Tube videos, media, photos from Flickr, webpages and Dropbox files and you can create your own multiple choice questions or add text as part of your lesson. It is so simple, yet has everything you need in one place and it also has very good security settings.

Here is an example of how to use Blendspace to prepare pre-lesson activities using the 'English Out There' materials (the EOT materials are not viewable due to copyright restrictions).

One of my students said that he prefers the look of the Padlet, but as a teaching tool I find Blendspace more functional and effective.  What do you think?

I'm extremely excited about these discoveries and I'm sure that both my students and I will have great pleasure using them.  If the results so far are anything to go by, I think that I may have also cracked the conundrum concerning getting my students to self-study.

Please feel free to comment, I appreciate any feedback.  If you are a Google+ member please comment below.  If you're on Facebook please message me there and of course you can always send me an email: