Τhe happy story is the one that continues. And the story of REALIZE! is continuing again this year. In April, 2014 English Online Inc. received funding from CIC Canada to organize and deliver another free national online professional development event for ESL/EAL practitioners across Canada. It has acquired a slightly different name – REALIZE! 15 National Online Forum.
The word forum has similar meaning to conference and is defined as a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged. Forum suggests discussion, interaction, and seeking a solution with the community effort. It is also associated with online environment. With this in mind, our plans are to increase engagement and decrease the syndrome of isolation in online format. We are generating some new sparks of creativity that could be implemented this year to help us communicate, network and collaborate more effectively at REALIZE! 15.
With fresh blood in its veins and new ideas in its mind, Advisory Committee started brainstorming and advancing the vision of the REALIZE! event. It is great to welcome new people on board and gratifying to see old timers staying with us for another round. You can check for familiar and new faces here.
Reflecting on the past months, I remember the English Online team’s anticipation of TESL Canada Conference. Apart from the unique opportunity to travel as one big crowd in one big van all the way to Regina, Saskatchewan, we were eager to see people whose participation in REALIZE! 14 made us feel so proud and satisfied with the mission accomplished. We were also excited to meet new faces and this time we had much more information to share about our forum – Video Gallery 2014, session slides and our enthusiasm about the Forum taking place next year. We hope to see them online.
We still notice some hesitation of going online for professional development. But curiosity to try something new takes over. We highly recommend attending our pre-forum technology training to explore and gain more knowledge on how it works. Even if you feel like “Where should I -click”, “too-old -for -all –these- things”, “Me-presenting-online? Never!”, come and join the sessions. They are best known for reducing your level of anxiety over technology and establishing positive communication between your computer and BBB software. Usually, in preparation for face-to-face conferences, we need to plan our time, explore the location and accommodations, etc. The same happens in online format. In order to avoid disappointment, we need to prepare in advance – test our system and equipment. We will provide you with an opportunity to click all the buttons and ask all the questions during these sessions. They will run in December and January.
Another great way to have a taste of online conferencing experience is to attend our series of PD webinars taking place throughout the year.
Going to TEAM Manitoba was another great chance for us to meet with the ESL community. We shared news and updates on REALIZE 2015 as part of our presentation on English Online resources for teachers and learners. One session in particular at TEAM Manitoba was interesting to me: e-Portfolios and Open Badges: Making learning Visible by Don Presant. Don talked about emerging need for establishing strong online presence not only by companies and organizations, but also by individuals who want to be competitive in this job market. It’s not a surprise that people who make hiring decisions search candidates’ profiles online (Linkedin, blogs, social media, etc). Many candidates want Google search to show their skills and abilities instead of party pictures, but unfortunately engine doesn’t differentiate between professional career and personal life. Of course, we can set privacy settings for our accounts, but what can we do to show our online learning experience? In the spirit of recognizing the potential of online learning and visualizing it, at English Online we introduced digital badges for participants of REALIZE! 2014. We issued badges for different types of engagement: Participant, Presenter and Moderator. This year we would like to introduce a new badge – Contributor’s Badge. Idea of badges is new to many members of the ESL community and numbers clearly prove it. This year we issued 154 certificates of participation and only 9 digital badges. Nonetheless, we are moving forward and expect increase in interest for digital certification as a step forward in education and professional development.
Following the tradition started this year, we saved the same dates for REALIZE! Forum – January 23 & 24, 2015. However, from the feedback we collected on REALIZE! 14, we plan to expand the sessions over two most preferable days of the week – Friday and Saturday. We hope that this format will allow us to accommodate diverse needs of participants located in different parts of Canada and find more matching points with their schedules.
Check back later for fresh news!