Bob Nguyen started his time as an English Language Fellow in Adana, Turkey, in 2019, and then continued his project virtually through the 2020-21 year. “The move to online courses has given me the unexpected opportunity to pivot my instructional design to meet the needs of my students and use online tools to attempt to simulate an in-person classroom,” explains Nguyen.
At his host institution, Çukurova University, Nguyen taught skills-based English courses to first year pre-service teachers. Courses included Oral Communications, Listening and Pronunciation, and Writing Skills, focusing on both practical and theoretical approaches to using English in academic settings. He also participated in professional development opportunities with the English Access Microscholarship Program and another local university, helping conduct teacher observations and teacher reflections. For one of his most memorable moments, Nguyen presented with other Fellows from Turkey in a series of workshops at their respective host institutions. “These opportunities gave me a deeper understanding of the needs of local teachers from a variety of education contexts throughout the country,” says Nguyen.
Transitioning to a virtual fellowship, Nguyen continued teaching the same courses at the university, but adapted the materials to an online setting. He created an online course using the Canvas LMS so that students could view and participate in course materials and assignments more easily.
A Passion for Technology
With a background and degree in Computer Science, Nguyen has always had a passion for all things technology. Before and throughout his fellowship, Nguyen had been “looking for ways to incorporate technology in a deliberate and impactful way into my teaching practices.” Even before the pandemic and the shift to online learning, Nguyen had introduced online assignments through Google Classroom while in Turkey, and his presentations around Turkey focused on incorporating educational technology into classrooms.
Virtually, Nguyen took advantage of the opportunity to research and try new technologies with his students. Trying the “Flipped Classroom” approach, students watched videos and read materials before coming to synchronous sessions to practice the skills learned. Nguyen and his students got creative with online projects, designing infographics as part of their writing course, and creating podcasts for the speaking course.
Sharing His Story
As an immigrant to the United States from Vietnam and a former refugee, Nguyen views telling the stories of the marginalized and the unheard as an essential role as an educator and Fellow. The intersection of social justice and language teaching is a topic of continued interest for him. “I try to use my complicated background as a vehicle to discuss issues related to equity, inclusion, and the good stewardship of our planet” explains Nguyen. It is important for him to share his background while introducing various worldviews for students to learn and grow.
The transition from in-person to virtual teaching allowed Nguyen to learn new instructional techniques and push himself as an educator. He became a more reflective, creative, and innovative teacher. Since finishing his fellowship, Nguyen has had an English Language Specialist virtual project in Europe, training educators to use the OPEN Canvas courses. In the future, Nguyen plans to work with OPEN Programs to create online training materials. In his free time, he is developing an online platform for English teachers around the world to collaborate.
After receiving a B.S. in computer science from the University of California, Irvine and working as a computer technician in Southern California, Bob Nguyen realized the important connection between technology and education and embarked on his journey of becoming an international teacher. Multiculturalism, mutual understanding, and media awareness have defined his teaching career with his roles as an Assistant Language Teacher in rural Japan on the JET program, a Peace Corps education volunteer in Ethiopia, and as an ESOL teacher of refugee and immigrant populations in Sacramento, California. In 2019 after receiving his M.A. TESOL at California State University of Sacramento, he was accepted to work as a Fellow on the English Language Program in Adana, Turkey. Currently, he is teaching distance courses to English Language Teaching students at Çukurova University, all while attempting to master Zoom camera angles, YouTuber voices, online simulations of real-world activities, and working with little sleep. His interests in a wide variety of topics and activities continually push him to come up with creative, engaging, and meaningful lessons in the classroom.