“What needs to be changed is the way foreign languages are taught” – Chiew Pang, Spain

Chiew Pang is a self-described “workaholic, edublogger and teacher.” For more than 18 years, Pang has been an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher, “and I have never been more enthusiastic about it than now.” Why? “The reason, I’m sure, has a lot to do with technology – a teacher no longer needs to feel alone.”

Indeed, Pang is hardly alone, even though he lives in the Canary Islands – one of the outer-most regions of Europe. The Internet has opened up a world of infinite possibilities to Pang, motivating him tremendously and instigating his continual search for new ways of bringing fun into education. He currently juggles four different blogs on education, A CLiL to Climb (CLiL stands for Content and Learning Integrated Language), the Dogme Diaries, the Chiew Pang blog, which discusses the best EFL blogs, and IASKU, which features video interviews with teachers who “dare to be different.” Pang is also an associate with the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi) and manages their Facebook page. He is a voracious user of social media – he tweets, Facebooks, and uses Scoop.it. You name it and he will try it, all for the cause of furthering and bettering education.

Today, Pang brings us his passion for social media, and shares his favorite tools for making learning fun.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

It would be presumptuous of me to think that I have “achieved” professionally let alone “advanced innovation”…

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

I would like to think that I have helped some teachers overcome their hesitancy in using technology in their class; I would like to think that I’ve guided some onto the paths of personal/professional development, especially by way of using social media, and I would like to think I’ve influenced some students in their vision of what can be expected from teachers.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

The Internet has opened up all sorts of doors. I’d encourage others to create a PLN (personal/professional learning network). Find, and learn from, other like-minded teachers. I’d encourage them to find the passion in their work and believe in themselves.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

In the first instance, as I’ve mentioned before, social media, especially Twitter, has helped me tremendously in connecting with other teachers from all over the world and we support and learn from each other.

I also use tools such as Scoop.it, Evernote, blogs, etc, to help me organize material I have encountered on the Net.

Of course, there is also an incredible amount of tools available for us to use with our students and some of my favorites among these are Wordle, Google Docs, Flickr, Hot Potatoes, and the list goes on.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

I suppose it’s a common problem everywhere: too many students per class and ensuring teachers remain motivated not only to teach, but also to learn.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

It’s difficult with the economic situation being what it is, but I see schools trying to introduce digital tools (not always wisely) and gradually moving language learning from the grammar-translation approach to a more communicative one.

What conditions must change in your country/region to better support education?

I will speak from the foreign language teacher’s point of view. What I see is that, although some schools are better than others, the general standard of teachers can be improved. Many have been taught in the traditional grammar and translation method and attempt to do the same with their students now. Examination methods do not help either. So, what needs to be changed is the way foreign languages are taught; perhaps teachers have to be forced into some form of modernization.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Without a doubt, technology, especially the Internet, offers infinite scope.
Gone are the days where teachers are supposed to merely impart knowledge to students. Students now know more than their peers of previous generations. They have the library at their fingertips. Between Google and Wiki, they can get all the information they need. So, teachers need to be aware of this and they have to adapt. They have to find innovative ways to teach. They have to guide more than “teach” their students.  Just as in the often-quoted Chinese proverb “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.”

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Get connected. Get a Twitter account. I’ve mentioned it before. There are so many incredible teachers out there who are willing to share, to mentor, to help however they can, so start building a network. You’ll be surprised how fast your network will grow.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

The “trend” I see is the increasing amount of teachers who believe in continuing development. Teachers who are learning make better teachers. The aim is to get every teacher involved.

Although technology can do wonders to education, there is a danger that some teachers use it just because they feel they have to, without first establishing its pedagogical value.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

A tablet with all their textbooks in it. It pains me to think of all the paper used in printing all the textbooks in the world (only for them to be discarded, most of the time, at the end of the course) and it also pains me to see students breaking their backs carrying all those books!

About Chiew Pang Teacher

Birthplace: Singapore but emigrated to the UK. Now a British national.
Current residence: The Canary Islands, Spain
Education: Lifelong…
Website I check every day: Email, Twitter and Facebook accounts. BBC. Plus other feeds I subscribe to depending on time and interest.
Person who inspires me most: No single person. I take inspiration from many people in and out of the teaching profession who are passionate about their work and try to spread their enthusiasm to others. I take inspiration from sportsmen and women who work hard to get to the top. I take inspiration from people who struggle against all odds to get to where they want to go.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Armchair – travelling without moving!
When was the last time you laughed? Why? Probably when mucking about with my son. Why?  It’s easy to laugh with children.
Favorite book: Tao Te Ching
Favorite music: My taste is rather eclectic but the music I keep going back to is the blues and classic rock.
Your favorite quote or motto: Many. One that comes into mind right now is, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

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