In our first Meet the Teacher interview, we chat to Raquel Ribeiro, an EdTech expert, Google Innovator and English language teacher from Brazil about why she decided to become a teacher, her interest in educational technology and how language learning and teaching has changed over the past couple of years. You can also watch the interview we conducted via Google Hangout.
Hi Raquel! Tell us a little about who you are, where you live, and what you do.
I was born in Rio de Janeiro but raised in São Paulo, Brazil. I’m an English teacher, EdTech blogger, lecturer, and contributing author for Evolve, a new course by Cambridge University Press.
I started blogging in 2012 when my interest for apps that could be used in teaching started. Back in 2013 I gave my first talk at an international conference, sharing my classroom practice using a few apps. I haven’t stopped since then. Blogging and giving talks are great passions of mine. Since 2017, I’ve shared and communicated with my students and teacher colleagues via Instagram, especially using Stories.
When and why did you decide you wanted to become a teacher?
I believe being a teacher was always deep inside me. My mom is a retired kindergarten teacher and I grew up watching her teach and prepare classes. Then during my teenage years I changed my mind and wanted to be a journalist. My parents advised me to think again and consider a career with more employment opportunities… I gave it some thought and decided to study to officially become an English language teacher. I wanted to work in a teaching environment where students were interested and made an effort to learn. That was my perception from my teachers in the private English course I attended. I thought it must be rewarding.
You’re a Google Innovator and an EdTech blogger. Is educational technology something you’ve always had an interest in?
Not really. Up to about 2006 I was really scared of any technology beyond Microsoft Word! But I had changed jobs and my new school had a growing interest in technology. I remember I used to feel overwhelmed after the tech-related sessions. I was convinced that the tech world was not for me.
The turning point came when I bought my first tablet in 2011 and realised there was this thing called an ‘app’ that I could download in order to do something. The Play Store was a whole new world and I felt like a child again! I remember telling my students about the possibility of free dictionary and news apps. Every time I found something new, I’d tell them.
That was also about the time I discovered there were teachers from different parts of the world talking to each other, exchanging teaching ideas and encouraging each other… and so I found out about webinars! Then, as colleagues and students kept asking me for app recommendations, I decided to start a blog so all the information would be in one place. And so the Informed Teachers blog was launched in July 2012.
Since then I have been blogging, mostly in English but also in Portuguese. Eventually I was chosen from a selection of teachers from all over Brazil to be a Google Innovator. That was in 2014 – and included two intense days of the Google Teacher Academy with teachers from other states of my country and from different teaching backgrounds.
Can you explain why you think there is value in integrating technology into language learning and teaching?
The key values from my perspective are vocabulary expansion and acquisition, communication, and inclusion. Everything I researched and shared always pointed back to those principles.
The first value I saw was related to the benefit of using dictionaries to expand learners’ vocabulary. Then, an article about how South Koreans were using QR codes to sell goods on subway platforms gave me the idea that QR codes could also be used for communication during classes.
Inclusion became a new concern of mine when I met a blind student in a class with 15 other sighted students. I really wanted him to have the best learning experience possible and I realised that the QR code app had huge potential. And indeed, it could provide a more inclusive and communicative experience that turned out to benefit the whole group. For more details, see the links below:
Do you ever teach classes without using technology?
Yes I do! It happens more often when I’m teaching children because even though I’m a tech enthusiast, I’m very aware that children’s development requires other approaches. I’m also fond of post-it cards and papers which are common tools for ‘unplugged’ classes.
The most important thing is the combination of teaching and learning in a safe environment that promotes growth.
How would you define a great lesson?
A great lesson engages the students, values their contribution and promotes an exchange of information. There should be opportunities to communicate with each other in the foreign language so students can practice and build up their confidence.
Is there any advice that you always give to your students?
Teachers have plenty of advice to give, but if you consider the English language learning context, I usually tell them that the classroom is a safe space and that’s their place to communicate, take risks and learn.
What would make your job even better?
There are many things that have improved over the years in terms of infrastructure in schools. I hope this keeps going. I’m also hopeful there can be a more innovative way to look at the potential that digital libraries can bring to the school space.
In terms of teaching conditions, I look forward to when teachers can have fairer conditions in which to have their classes evaluated. There are still controversies in terms of feedback and teacher evaluation. I also believe that, due to the growing demands and responsibilities of our job, schools need to take mental health and teacher stress more seriously.
From your perspective, what have been the biggest changes in language learning and teaching over the past couple of years?
If we look at CPD for teachers, we have shifted from a book era to an experience era. Teachers such as myself can voice our practices through social media and this has helped us support each other and find more creative ways to teach and engage our students. Through the internet, teachers in faraway locations can access conferences, events and courses more democratically.
From the students’ perspective, there is more communication, interactivity and ways to bring the world to the classroom. There is a concern to include the diversity of cultures and respect for the accents of native and non-native speakers of English. Finally, along with the development of tech resources, especially apps, there has been a growing interest to include critical thinking as one of the literacies that we teach.
Stay tuned for more Meet The Teacher interviews coming soon and listen to a talk recording from Lenise Butler at our Better Learning Conference if you’re interested in finding out more about introducing technology in to the classroom.