Thursday, July 16, 2020

The NEW ALT Training Online Site Is LIVE!

Check out to experience the ALL NEW ALT Training Online collection of FREE courses.

The needs of ALTs have changed over the past few years. The team here at ALT Training Online has been working hard to keep pace with those changes.
After months of work and thousands of hours put into the new site, it's finally here!
We've heard your feedback and have implemented the changes you've asked for.

The old ALT Training Online website was good, but our new site is even better.

Long pages of text have been replaced by interactive, multimedia courses complete with progress tracking and certificates.

This was made possible by leveraging the power of Moodle to create a genuine MOOC (massive open online course) for language teachers in Japan to sharpen their skills and connect with each other.
As of our relaunch, we have 7 courses available with more on the way.
The blog section is now New and Updates. This is where we'll bring you our monthly guest blogs in addition to other useful information for ALTs.

Our newsletter, The Monthly Trainer, will continue to bring you the latest tips and tricks that you can use in the classroom today.

When the site's founder, Nathaniel Reed, set out to create this website years ago, his goal was to create a place for ALTs who wanted to be better teachers to get the training they so desperately needed.
The ALTTO mission is simple: Connecting and empowering language teachers across Japan.
Our new site brings us ever closer to this goal.

This site is a passion project made by ALTs, for ALTs.

Join us and be a part of the future of teaching English in Japan.

Start studying at ALT Training Online now!

-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

If you have something 'ALT' to write about that hasn't been covered in these blogs, email David at so we can work together and spread your story.

Don't have any ideas? We have a list of topics to write about that need a writer. Email in your interest to write and we can set you up.

Never miss another blog again! Click here to sign-up for our newsletter, "The Monthly Trainer," to stay up to date with everything ALTTO has to offer.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Introducing EFL.Digital: Digital Assignments for 21st Century English Teachers by Paul Raine

by Paul Raine

Bio: Paul Raine (MA TEFL/TESL, University of Birmingham 2012) is an award-winning teacher, presenter, author, and developer.

His books include the best-selling 50 Ways to Teach with Technology and the innovative multi-path graded reader Journey to Mars. He has also developed his own website for teachers and learners of EFL ( He has published numerous research articles on the teaching and learning of English as a second language, and is particularly interested in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). 

He currently teaches at two universities in the Tokyo area.

Special offer for ALT TRAINING ONLINE readers.
50% off monthly and yearly Premium plans for EFL.Digital!
Monthly $9.99 --> $4.99 / Yearly $99 --> $49.
Visit and sign in with Google.
Then input the coupon code: ALT-TRAINING-2020
COVID-19 continues to have a catastrophic impact on thousands of people around the world. But learners still need to learn. And teachers still need to teach. I really didn't want this to be yet another "what we are doing to help you during COVID-19" blog post, but the effect of the virus is all-encompassing, and it is impossible to avoid.
In fact, I have been involved with Ed-Tech for many years, and EFL.Digital came about at least two years before the current crisis. 
I believe that technology has an important role to play in the lives of language teachers and learners, allowing them to be both more effective and more efficient. Technology is a very useful tool for language teachers in times of normality.
But the use of technology becomes literally unavoidable when we find ourselves having to deliver language learning courses from our homes, without loss of quality of instruction.
So I will suggest here that the tools and features offered by EFL.Digital are useful both in situations of enforced social distancing, and in the face-to-face learning environments most of us are more familiar with. And I am not saying by any means that EFL.Digital is a complete solution to distance language teaching; it's not.

What EFL.Digital offers is a suite of innovative digital assignment types that can be created and administered in a completely online environment.
I'd like to spend the rest of this article introducing a couple of these assignment types, and explaining how they can be used in both distance and face-to-face language learning contexts.

Part of our jobs as language teachers is to assess student speaking skills. One of the most efficient ways to do this is with a short audio recording task. This is the method adopted by the TOEFL and other standardized tests.
Summarizing one's argument in a one-minute soundbite is a useful skill not only for such tests, but also in everyday life.
We're all familiar with the "elevator pitch" - can you sell your idea in less than a minute? EFL.Digital provides a way to set audio recording tasks that can be recorded and submitted all within the students' web browser.


One of the perennial complaints of language learners in Japan is the lack of suitable interlocutors for honing their speaking skills. This fact alone has given rise to the buyant Eikaiwa school industry most English teachers in Japan are familiar with.
Recent advances in Artificial Intelligence now allow us to create interactive dialogues in which the computer can act as the learners' interlocutor.
With naturalistic speech synthesis and increasingly accurate speech recognition, students can now avail themselves of extra speaking practice whenever they have access to a computer or smartphone and an internet connection. EFL.Digital's Dialogue tool allows teachers to create interactive dialogues for their students, and administer them completely online.


The spread of the Internet heralded an explosion of new media outlets, and the likes of YouTube and Netflix are now major broadcasters in their own right. There is a wealth of material available on YouTube for English language learners, from TED videos, to childrens' nursery rhymes.
EFL.Digital's Video Gap Fill assignment type allows teachers to easily tap into this resource to create motivational and inspiring langauge learning activities for their students.
Simply copy and paste the URL for an English-captioned YouTube video into EFL.Digital, and select the lines to show and the words to remove. Hey presto, instant Judy Garland.

There are many more assignment types on EFL.Digital (eight in total that cover all four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing). I hope this blog post gives you a taste of what you can do with the platform, and I invite you to check it out and see how it can help you both with your online and face-to-face language teaching.

-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

If you have something 'ALT' to write about that hasn't been covered in these blogs, email David at so we can work together and spread your story.

Don't have any ideas? We have a list of topics to write about that need a writer. Email in your interest to write and we can set you up.

Never miss another blog again! Click here to sign-up for our newsletter, "The Monthly Trainer," to stay up to date with everything ALTTO has to offer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Working With ALTTO by Nicholas J. Wilson

by Nicholas J. Wilson

Foreward by David L. Hayter: It has been a great pleasure to have Nicholas J. Wilson (or Nick as we call him) join the ALTTO team. 

His time working with our team hasn't been the longest but his impact has been immense. Since he started working with us this year, he has done a lot to support the team by heading up our monthly newsletter, working on the new website, assisting with projects, sharing valuable ideas, giving timely feedback, and implementing new systems to make our work better/easier.

Below is his entry in our "Working With ALT Training Online" blog series. Please join me in welcoming him to the community!

Hi everyone, I’m Nicholas J. Wilson of ALT Training Online. I never had the chance to formally introduce myself so I'll take this opportunity to do so.

I moved to Japan in 2016 and have had since then the lucky chance of working for a great ALT dispatch company (a needle in a haystack!) active specifically in Nagano Prefecture that provides continuous professional development through the year in the form of general training days, in-school workshops and specific one-on-one class observations.

When I started teaching back in 2012, I was in the middle of writing my Master’s Degree thesis and had already received training during the Cambridge CELTA course. While both had given me the necessary skills and knowledge to identify learners' needs, I was still lacking the necessary field experience to successfully apply what I had learned, so the training and suggestions I’ve received from my trainers really did make a difference in transforming me from someone who knew things to someone who could teach things.

During my time (4 years – and counting) working in public schools I’ve had the chance of meeting many other less fortunate ALTs complaining about the lack of training from either their dispatch companies or town’s BOEs.
While some of them weren’t interested in seeking further professional development, many understood their weaknesses and wanted to improve but simply didn’t know how!
The education system is always evolving: teaching in Japan has currently moved towards a student-centered style, putting an end to those never-ending classes where students used to passively listen for hours to their teachers while in fact daydreaming.

Recent changes brought by the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT), one of them being recognizing English as a real subject, requires HRTs and ALTs to engage the classroom in what’s called TEAM TEACHING, a practice that involves working together by planning, discussing contents and then teaching accordingly in synergy, constantly switching roles throughout each lesson according to who would be better suited to support or lead specific activities.

In light of this, many BOEs have recently updated their guidelines for hiring ALTs and are now looking for candidates who can understand Japanese classroom dynamics like never before, thus putting an end to the idea that ALTs are just “tape recorders” or “dancing monkeys”.
Unfortunately, the lack of funds and training resources many dispatch companies and BOEs suffer from prevents them from providing new teachers with the necessary knowledge to succeed in the classroom.
The consequences are dire: in a country where ALTs grow in numbers but not in quality, students are the unfortunate victims, losing years of potential education that might have changed their approach towards the world, cutting their chances to succeed in a global society.
Our mission with the ALT Training Online project is to empower ALTs by providing the necessary set of skills many can’t access and create an equal starting point for all teachers in the country with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all children in the country can receive the same level of high-quality English instruction whatever the school, whoever the teacher.
My role in ALTTO involves powering up the platform in order to meet our users’ needs. The “Monthly Trainer” newsletter service which began in March was only the first step towards a new age for the project.
I'm currently working on the new website, an evolution towards a more user-friendly interface which will definitely make things easier to find. Then there's another secret project which will really make the difference. So stay tuned for more!

-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

If you have something 'ALT' to write about that hasn't been covered in these blogs, email me at so we can work together and spread your story.

Don't have any ideas? We have a list of topics to write about that need a writer. Email in your interest to write and we can set you up.

Never miss another blog again! Click here to sign-up for our newsletter, "The Monthly Trainer," to stay up to date with everything ALTTO has to offer.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Professional Development For ALTs by David L. Hayter

by David L. Hayter

Bio: David L. Hayter is a teacher and freelance writer based out of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

He first gained experience in education by working as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan from 2014-2019. Although he primarily taught junior high school, he has taught all the grades from kindergarten through ninth grade.

During his time as an ALT, he worked in 11 junior high schools, 2 elementary schools, dozens of kindergartens with hundreds of Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) to teach thousands of students.

Aside from teaching, his other duties included training and managing new ALTs, designing and delivering teacher training workshops, and performing other duties for his local Board of Education (BOE).

Outside of work, he actively volunteers in his community, enjoys playing video games, loves to cook, trains hard, is working on a new podcast/blog, and helps run the ALT Training Online blog.
Why do ALTs need professional development (PD)? I guess the answer to that question depends on what you want to get out of being a teacher in Japan.
ALT Training Online actually started to address this need. The type of training and ongoing PD ALTs receive varies from placement to placement. (ESID, right?)
The Cambridge Dictionary defines professional development (PD) as, "Training that is given to managers and people working in professions to increase their knowledge and skills."
If you're going to pursue teaching as a long-time career, you most definitely would benefit from on-going professional development.

Even if you came to Japan looking to explore a new country in between graduate school or a job that's more aligned in your field, you could still benefit from sharpening some of those transferrable skills.
While the focus of professional development should be enhancing your ability to perform your current position, there are a few extra things that you get out of it regardless of your future job prospects.

Benefits of PD

1. Stand out from your peers

Most ALT contracts have an end. These contracts also tend to end around the same time every year (either March or July). That means that when you're going to start looking for a new job, there could potentially be a couple thousand other people doing the same thing!
A 2018 study from Ladders, Inc. shows that hiring managers spend on average 7.4 seconds looking at a resume.
It might seem trivial, but having a few more, or different, bullet points on your resume could mean the difference between starting a new job on Monday or heading off to your zannen-kai.

2. Build transferrable skills

You can lose material things but nobody can take away what you've learned.

Although you may be planning on entering a field other than education, most PD requires organization, writing, communication, and many other skills.

3. Show initiative

No matter where you work, employers are looking for people who can get things done without being told to do so.

Learning new things on your own shows that you have the initiative to do the best job you can and the passion to pursue it.

4. Networking

Chances are that there are other people participating in the same PD program that you are. While you may not also have direct interaction with others depending on the course, there certainly is a community of other like-minded individuals who are either have completed or are currently taking the same course.

Connecting with them is a good way to discuss the course, your industry, and make new friends!
This can go a long way to helping you build up your professional learning network and could lead to more job opportunities in the future.
5. Gain experience

One of the toughest parts about getting a job is that employers want to hire someone with experience. But you can't get experience until someone hires you!

Having some type of training in a certain area is better than having zero experience. Taking courses that involve some type of performance task (like teaching a sample class) can give you a boost of confidence when you go for the job interview.

Another good way to gain experience is by volunteering.

PD Opportunities

1. ALT Training Online

If you're reading this blog, then you must have some interest in teaching English in Japan and improving your skills. The ALTTO website has modules designed to make good teachers great teachers. Best of all, it's free!

Aside from completing our modules, you can also join our team and help out!

If you're interested in what ALTTO has to offer, be sure to sign up for our newsletter and join our Facebook group.

2. Google Certified Educator

The course created by Google teaches educators the basics of using Google in the classroom.

Although you may already know a lot about how to use Google, it's always good to get a refresher on the powerful tools Google has to offer.

There are multiple levels to the program and you can even become certified as a trainer. Lots of employers in Japan love certificates so it couldn't hurt to have another one!

Improving your skills in using Google tools can also help you get jobs outside of teaching.

You can take the course for free and pay when you're ready to take the test. Right now, the fee for taking the level 1 certification test is $10 USD.


If you're going to be in Japan for a long time, having a high level of Japanese will make your life A LOT easier.

The most widely accepted way to show your Japanese ability to potential employers is through earning a certificate for passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

There are many companies and schools that would rather hire someone who has limited experience teaching and speaks Japanese well over someone who has been teaching for years but wouldn't be able to communicate with their staff.

There are tons of resources available online to help you study Japanese to pass these tests.

This can also be helpful if you're planning to move into another industry in Japan.

Most employers want someone with at least an N2 level.


Obtaining a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate is a great place to start a teaching career.

Accredited courses cover the basics of how to start teaching including methodology, classroom management, and lesson planning. This can be a good way to get ready to start teaching or a way to get better at what you're already doing.

Aside from learning how to teach, some countries (like Vietnam for example), require a TEFL certificate to get a work permit so you can legally work as an English teacher!

This certificate can also help you get better teaching jobs because it shows that you're committed to the profession enough to continue learning about how to do it.

There are other types of certificates like TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Langues) and CELTA. Most employers treat these as equivalent certifications. Just make sure that whatever course you take is 120+ hours! Many schools won't accept it if it's not.

There are a lot of options for obtaining a TEFL including 100% online classes, in-person classes, and hybrid classes.

If you're interested in a TEFL course, here's a message from Philip Shigeo Brown. He runs the iTDi TESOL Certificate Course at iTDi and is a long-time friend of ALTTO's founder:

🔸 Explore learning and teaching in The Teachers' Room, the iTDi Blog, and iTDi Facebook page.🔸 Learn and grow with the iTDi Community wherever you go and however far you progress in your career.
Take an iTDi TESOL Certificate or Advanced Skills course online with like-minded professionals and leaders in ELT.

iTDi is FREE to join and you can sign up easily via our website:
There are many different professional development paths and opportunities for you to take.

Like us, we invite you to invest in your future ...

✅ better job opportunities
✅ better classroom experiences, and
✅ a better sense of fulfillment as a teacher!

And exclusively for ALTTO members, we're offering 10% off iTDi TESOL Certificate courses. (For each sign-up, ALTTO will also receive a small commission and all proceeds go to help pay for the ALTTO site hosting which is entirely run by volunteers!)

Secondly, we've extended our 50% off all iTDi Advanced Skills Self Study courses with coupon code ALTTO50 until May 31st!
(So feel free to stock up since courses can be taken anytime before December 31st next year)!

So, if you'd like to find out more, check us out, get in touch, and feel free to join us anytime in The Teachers' Room!

All the very best!


-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

Never miss another blog again! Click here to sign-up for our newsletter, "The Monthly Trainer," to stay up to date with everything ALTTO has to offer.

If you have something 'ALT' to write about that hasn't been covered in these blogs, email me at so we can work together and spread your story.

Don't have any ideas? We have a list of topics to write about that need a writer. Email in your interest to write and we can set you up. 

For upcoming blogs see the blogs tab here:

Friday, March 20, 2020

End Of ALT Training Online? by Nathaniel Reed

by Nathaniel Reed

Bio: Nathaniel Reed started his ALT journey in 2014. He was mid writing a dissertation for an MA in Linguistics and it struck him that there was no training for this new job. Even low-level jobs have some kind of training to help you do the job effectively, and teachers are dealing with people’s lives.

These thoughts gave birth to ALT Training Online (ALTTO). 

Quickly realising that ALT pay is the same as when the current ALT system started in 1987, he knew that this training must be free. Thankfully there are a lot of helpful souls in the world, even the leading scholars on language education in Japan, so piece by piece it started to build - this blog will take you on the journey so we'll stop there for now.

With a house and two incredible children, every day is full of surprises and happiness for Nathaniel. We are all on a journey though, growing and evolving who we are on a daily basis.

Let today guide your thoughts in some way to be thankful. Who knows, you may even feel like joining the ALTTO team and improving the quality of what we’re doing. It would be great to hear from you.

Around 6 years have passed since the birth of ALT Training Online. After writing an MA dissertation on the roles of ALTs I couldn't help but let go of the burning question: why didn't I receive any teacher training (pre- or in-service?) when I got the ALT job?

With no coding or web development skills, but an ambition to provide high-quality, free training to thousands of ALTs, my mission began.
Alas, hundreds of dollars out of pocket and many aspects of the site needing an update I face a crossroads – redesign it completely or let the thousands of weekly users down. 
It's quite a size now, there’s a lot of content, so the work would take a while….
On an ALT's salary with a mortgage and two children, the decision should be quite simple, but I'm really struggling with the choice.

I’d hate my own children to go to school and get a low-quality education because the teacher wasn’t trained.

The emails ALTTO receives from individuals in need of help and all the positive comments we get have been on my mind for over a year…...
Unfortunately though, it's adios to ALTTO and ALTopedia….

Just kidding!
I've been learning to code and the ALTTO team is growing - so the site is getting a makeover!
New features are in place and we're launching two new modules: ‘Vocabulary’ by Dr David Coulson at Ritsumeikan University and ‘Speaking’ by Richard Graham from Genki English – but this is just the start.

David Hayter is as motivated as ever to keep the wide-ranging guest blogs coming – from Vietnam.

Jake (an established coder) is excelling on the ALTopedia resources site, keeping it maintained and arduously updating resources everyday.
We've new affiliations too, and are being advertised outside of Japan with our new partners, including JET (big thanks to all of them).
The big news……(drum roll)….. is the latest member of the ALTTO team, Nick. He's been working incredibly hard to prepare 'The Monthly Trainer'; an email newsletter that’s just the right length with content covering all areas of the ALT world: what's coming up in your schools, teaching tips, teaching English in English….. one of the major changes the Course of Studies schools are sent is requesting from April 2020 - the timing of The Monthly Trainer couldn't be more perfect.

We're working hard to launch the new site sometime in April – so check our Facebook group for the new link:

Sign up right now for The Weekly Trainer, (first edition end of March 2020):

Join us and make ALT lives better.
You’re still here - great. Read on...
You may know that online courses (in general) have a completion rate of around 10% according to most studies. You may have started one or a tonne of courses online yourself (I’m working my way through 4 at the moment). The ALTTO course/website is no different, although some modules are getting 100% completion rates, interest leaves some users with completion rates of around 20%.
We’ve listened to your feedback, re-reviewed the practice of learning online and have completely changed how the free ALT training course looks - how you the user can develop skills to use in the classroom, whatever your learning style.
It’s much more interactive now. Not just long texts to read with reflection questions - modules are made up of shorter units, a range of media is used, plus interactive features and various questions styles are used to make being an ALT much more enjoyable.

We’re updating the modules too. The three previous categories: Contextual, Teaching and Professional Development are being expanded!

We’re also taking away unpopular modules that didn’t seem to fit people’s interests. We’ve listened to and taken on board suggestions, and then searched far and wide for writers.
We know that the resulting new modules, and whole new course, will deliver exactly what you want and need to make not just make you more confident and better teachers, but also dramatically enhance the potential of your students. 
How would you make ALTTO and Altopedia better? Join the team and make it happen!

-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

Never miss another blog again! Click here to sign-up for our newsletter, "The Monthly Trainer," to stay up to date with everything ALTTO has to offer.

If you have something 'ALT' to write about that hasn't been covered in these blogs, email me at so we can work together and spread your story.

Don't have any ideas? We have a list of topics to write about that need a writer. Email in your interest to write and we can set you up. 

For upcoming blogs see the blogs tab here: