Friday, November 6, 2009

Welcome to the Language Teacher's Toolbox!


Hello and welcome, herzlich willkommen, bienvenue, bienvenido to the Language Teacher's Toolbox! This site is your source for all kinds of fun and useful teaching tips, activities, materials, and more! The site is intended for language teachers of all languages and levels, from beginning teachers to experienced veterans, you will find materials for many of the commonly taught languages. 


The original idea for The Teacher’s Toolbox came about in 2003 as I was just starting out as a teacher. I was disappointed by the lack of available materials that I had to work with and thus decided to rectify this by creating and gathering as many materials as I could. The desire to continuously improve my teaching skills as well as the number of resources and materials I was developing led me in turn to present my collected materials at several state and regional language conferences with the goal of exchanging my ideas with fellow language teachers. After coming to Purdue University, I felt there was a need to present a venue where graduate instructors could present their teaching activities, strategies, and materials in a relaxed setting with the goal of language instructors being able to learn from each other. This resulted from an observation that beyond basic teaching training and an introductory language teaching course, graduate instructors had few opportunities to develop their teaching skills and materials. The conferences were well received with a large numbers of graduate instructors who presented and attendance by graduate students and professors from all programs within department. 

Recognizing the need for language instructors to have such opportunities and to expand beyond a local context, I decided to progress into a third phase of operations regarding The Teacher’s Toolbox by creating a website called The Language Teacher’s Toolbox.[1] This presents a forum for language teachers to discuss and exchange ideas on a large scale with virtually none of the constraints of conventional conferences or meetings. The motivation to create the website-based version of the original Teacher’s Toolbox idea was motivated by the fact that I felt that language teaching is lacking the availability of easily accessible and quality teaching materials and activities. In short, there is no central and easily accessible knowledge base from which teachers can draw. Instead, language teachers generally must learn from experience or attend conferences and workshops, which may not always be feasible. I also feel that there is a lack of communication among teachers of different languages as most tend to congregate with other teachers of whichever language they are teaching. 

I have always felt that we as language teachers can benefit from learning what and how our colleagues in other languages are teaching. Thus, the Language Teacher’s Toolbox is designed for teachers of all languages. Activities and materials may be designed for a specific language, yet they are all designed with broad and flexible application in mind. Thus, German teachers may find an activity for Spanish interesting and vice versa. The site also serves as a forum for language teachers to discuss ideas and the materials presented there as anyone visiting the site has the ability to comment on the content posted there and people may then comment or reply to others’ comments leading to discussions. 

The organizational structure of the site itself reflects the integrated approach toward knowledge sharing I have described above in that rather than having one primary content contributor, the task of adding content to the site is shared by a team of language teaching experts from all of the languages the site currently supports.[1] Each language features a team of experienced language teachers each with their own areas of expertise who have full reign to add content as they see fit. 

Visitors to the site have the option of commenting on any posts directly or sending any comments or questions to the site via email.[2] Visitors are encouraged to comment in order to stimulate discussion and they have the opportunity to see their own materials or ideas published on the site by sending an email to the site with a description of their activities, materials, or ideas. All material sent to the site will undergo a review process and if it is found to be acceptable it will then be published on the site with full credit given to the original author(s). Visitors to the site may also subscribe to it via the site feed. For those unfamiliar with such technology, it is akin to subscribing to a magazine or newspaper. By subscribing you do not actually need to visit the site itself to check for new material; instead a user will receive updates within their browser window or through email notification. 

It is hoped that through this type of collaboration that a true community of language teachers can be established without any constraints. The site will be continuously updated with new content on a daily basis, thus it seeks to offer an alternative beyond conferences and workshops as they can only take place in established and finite time frames. This is not to say that the aim is to replace such venues, but simply to supplement them by offering a venue that is constantly accessible and in many ways more convenient.

The more teachers contributing to the site the stronger the community will become. 

Sincerely,

Christopher La Cross 


[1]    Currently the site fully supports German, French, Spanish, English (ESL/EFL/ELT), as well as Japanese and Chinese. As the site continues to grow we will expand our team to fully support other languages. Future languages will include Italian, Russian, Portuguese, and Arabic to name but a few.
[2]    The site can be reached via email at: clteacherstoolbox@gmail.com

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