This is the first article in our series about building professional learning communities for online teachers. In this series, we share ideas from online teachers who work at 51Talk.
51Talk is the largest online English education platform in China. In June 2016, it became a publicly listed company on the New York Stock Exchange (COE). 51Talk’s mission is to make quality education accessible and affordable, and to enable students to talk to the world.
51Talk currently has over 10,000 teachers worldwide along with 100,000 quarterly active students. If you are thinking about teaching online, or would like to learn from your education colleagues, you will find a great resource here.
Debbie Fulthorp’s (Teacher Lynn Faith at 51Talk), shares her ideas for making videos that help other teachers. We hope you find these tips encouraging and helpful.
If you are interested in teaching with 51Talk, please visit this page.
When did you start making videos, Debbie?
I started making short videos a few weeks after I started working with 51Talk. I was new to online teaching, and started searching for ideas to teach online classes. I wanted to find a video other than the 25-30 minute videos that would help me with ideas about how to make my class environment fun. There were so many informational videos on YouTube. The main problem I ran into was finding ones that were short enough to watch. I wanted to watch them in between my breaks or while I was waiting for another student to fill the slot. After a few successful classes, I decided to create what I could not find. Why not make a few videos to give others ideas for teaching? I was learning so much through my experience with 51Talk, I wanted to share it with others. Here are a few words of advice for those who want to make videos too.
What goes into planning your videos?
I generally choose one main topic to speak about when I plan the videos. I think about what has worked, and what has failed. At the same time, I like to think about simple things teachers can use in their online classroom. I like to include practical applications of my tips in each video as well.
How do you choose the topics?
I choose the topics that are simple, easy, fun and work in the online classroom! If I experience success with something in my classroom, I know that anyone can experience the same success.
What’s your goal with each video?
Although I absolutely love teaching, there are many barriers that can occur when crossing cultures and teaching online. I am dedicated to overcoming these obstacles to have fun with my students. My goal with these videos is the same, to help others overcome these obstacles. I hope to take the stress out of teaching online. Although teaching online to students in China contains challenges, it can be fun, enjoyable and extremely rewarding. I try to reiterate at the end of each video that teachers can have fun and their students will have fun learning too!
What is it about online ESL that makes quick videos like these so useful?
When teaching online, a person must be ready at a moment’s notice to teach a slot that may get filled. 51Talk teachers don’t always have time to watch 10-15 minute videos, let alone the 25-minute videos of someone else teaching. Another thing I have learned in ESL teaching is to keep moving or the student will lose interest. It is also the same for those who are connected to social media. Everything is fast paced and quick. Expectations of useful videos are that they are enjoyable and quick. For North Americans, time is a commodity. The internet contributes to this idea by creating an avenue where if it takes too long, there is something else vying for attention. Therefore it is important to be concise, quick and fun in anything that is done through social media.
Any advice for teachers who want to make their own videos?
For those who want to make videos I would give 3 main words of advice:
- Be yourself,
- Have fun,
- Keep it short and concise.
One more thing I have found helpful. If you are new to making videos, find someone who can help you with the editing process or starting a YouTube channel. If you cannot find someone, check online. There are plenty of social media helps for starting your own channel or videos.
For 18 years, Debbie Fulthorp’s (Teacher Lynn Faith) passion involves teaching, educating and connecting with children, young people and peers in different contexts. Her wide experience of traveling to over 27 countries enables her to reach for overcoming cultural communication barriers both inside and outside her home country of the United States. In 2016, she graduated with a DMin (Doctorate of Ministry) in Leadership, and started teaching with 51Talk soon after. When not teaching for 51Talk, she is an online adjunct professor with School of Urban Missions Bible College and Seminary. She is married with 3 children, Mercy, 10; Samuel; 7; and Benjamin (due March 17). She loves her 51Talk students and loves to share with others creative ideas for teaching.