MaW SIG May: Cleve Miller – ‘New Publishing’ : a summary/write-up

Cleve compares the old internet to a pipe. We would passively consume content that was very much top-down, expert-created, static. It was a continuation of how publishing had worked for the last 500 years. Since 2002 we got what we call the new web, though it’s not new anymore. This is an open platform where we contribute, collaborate and create content. This is where need to locate ourselves as content creators, as materials designers.

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The content continuum – the fundamental driving force behind the way materials design is going. On the one extreme, we have traditional publishing (the old web, the “pipe”) and on the other extreme we have a bottom-up self-publishing model. To allow this bottom-up stuff is the advent of web and web-technology. With a blog, we can publish to thousands of people, for free, in a very short space of time.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The top-down model is expert-created and high quality, but it is also a generic, one size fits all. 5 year publishing plans are normal. And it runs into a barrier. The bottom-up model is faster, up-to-date and isn’t restricted to a 5 year plan. It can be specific to language culture and student need. It is the difference between generic content and specific content, along a continuum. There are times when the top-down model is appropriate, and the one-size fits all is fine, this isn’t to knock publisher content. But there are also opportunities on the other end of the continuum, which Clive wants to look at with us.

The power of open platforms. 

E.g. Encylopaedias: on the top-down side, we have Encyclopaedia Britannica, on the other end we have Wikipedia. Wikipedia contains multilingual, user-generated information, meaning that for example things that don’t have much coverage in the traditional encylopaedia can in Wikipedia. It is much more localised.

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ELT also has a general to specific continuum. From General English to English for Chemical Engineers or any other ESP or more specific e.g. English only for Brazilian students. Most specific would be materials designed for an individual student to meet their needs.

Screenshot of slide - Clive's ELT self-publishing matrix

Screenshot of slide – Clive’s ELT self-publishing matrix

From a self-publishing perspective, let’s imagine you are going to design, on your own, some materials. How do you focus what you are looking at? If you are looking at low tech, general English, that is the difficult to succeed area because that is what publishers know how to do really well and they have lots of money to put into it. If you try and make an app for General English, then it’s still difficult because you are competing against the publishers, with all their money. There are platforms you can use, but it is tough and expensive. If you move towards the more specific end of the spectrum, then making an app is still ambitious but you at least will not be competing with the publishers when you are aiming towards something more esoteric, so it is ambitious in  terms of technology rather than competition. In the middle of both spectrums is the sweet spot (not too hot, not too cold), if you get more specific, then the market is much smaller e.g. English for chemical engineers, but it is needed.

There are of course exceptions to all the above. E.g. the case study that we will look at. Which is by Vicki Hollett. She started with the difficult to succeed, scary area. She already has content published in traditional models but she is doing this anyway. And her content is multi-modal. Online teaching, you tube channel, website. Her revenue model for You Tube is the advertising.

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What are the success principles for Vicki Hollett?

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The next case study is English Success Academy by Jaime Miller. It’s one exam. Nothing but TOEFL prep. She is engaging, has lots of videos, a well-designed website, she does one-one teaching her content is multi-modal. Her revenue model is premium price e-books.

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What are her success principles?

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The third case study is Deborah Capras. She wrote a book and is delivering it on Amazon. Very specific topic. Business, politics, small talk. Her revenue model is print book sales. And the mainstream publishers then took notice of her.

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What are her success principles?

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The final is Claire Hart. Blended English for Engineering. She used English 360 platform. There is an online component but then there are also face-face lesson plans and all the handouts you need, for the university department customers. Importantly, she copyrighted it. She can sell it by way of other channels. Claire can take the content and repurpose it into a print book on Amazon, or put it through YouTube as videos, she can use it in any way.

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Her revenue model is revenue share between Claire and the platform who takes 40%. If you use a platform with a good user base, the marketing is there for you.

What are her success principles?

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“Self-publishing”

  • Rather than thinking of self-publishing, you are thinking of developing a new product. So you are an entrepreneur. You need to think like a business person. You need to think about “sales-y things”. The hardest part is the marketing. How many videos are there on youtube? How many books are there on Amazon?
  • You need to get an editor. Very important, indispensable, in order to maintain a good level of quality. Clive thinks that peer editing could be an interesting possibility. So that there is a network of self-publishers that support each other.
  • You need a niche. Be the very best at one specific thing. That is the most powerful way to move forward. E.g. Ros with regards to English for Medicine. There’s a lot of ways to get specific. Combine your teaching with it. Niches are much easier to market to. Go to professional associations, look on LinkedIn. If you market to a niche, it’s not expensive, if you narrow your focus it’s not and you can do it.
  • Pull everything together on a website or blog.
  • Think outside the box for customers. For example, can you add value to a Business?

To summarise, the future of materials design is bottom up. That doesn’t mean top-down will disappear, but bottom up is the way forward because it can be more specific than any top-down model can be. Britannica doesn’t have the resources to produce 17 pages on Salina, Wikipedia enables that.

In the Q and A time, Sue Lyon-Jones reminds us:

“Keeping your copyright doesn’t always mean you can publish your work elsewhere. Some contracts may grant publishers exclusive rights to publish in specific formats or for a set period of time, for example. Make sure you read and understand the small print, folks!”

When you use a platform (e.g. Instagram, YouTube), lots of times you give up control. So be aware.

To contact Cleve for more information about any of this: cleve@english360.com

 

 

IELTS Speaking Part 2 (Fun) Practice Activity

Each week on a Tuesday, since my IELTS courses finished, I have been doing IELTS PSP Speaking, which is basically an hour of IELTS-focused speaking practice. I have found that when practicing part 2, students frequently dry up before 2 minutes, sometimes well before, so I came up with this activity to encourage them to extend their answers as much as possible… It is a mixture of an activity that was suggested by a Sheffield Uni colleague of mine from last summer, Tim Ball, at the IELTS Swap Shop session that took place at IATEFL this year, and the well-known game, connect 4.

  • It consists of a 6×6 grid (click on the picture to access a ready-to-use document):
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Game board

  •  In each square of the grid there is an IELTS Part 2 Speaking topic.
  • Students are aiming to score as many points as possible by getting 3 or 4 squares in a row, with 3 being worth 10 points and 4 being worth 20 points.
  • In order to “win” a square, students must speak for the full two minutes about the topic in question.
  • The instructions on the game remind students to think about the what/who/why/when/how type questions that accompany speaking part 2 topics.
  • As with the exam, they have a minute to think about what they are going to say and make a few notes.
  • Students play in pairs.
  • Student A speaks, Student B listens and times, and vice-versa.
  • Teacher listens and does delayed feedback at suitable moments.

The students were engaged by it and the aim was fulfilled: instead of just giving up after 1 and a half minutes, they did push themselves to keep speaking! (How important winning a square becomes… ;-) )

Let me know how your students get on with it! Enjoy!

IH Teachers Online Conference May 2015

On Friday the 8th of May, barely a month after attending IATEFL, I gave a ten minute presentation as part of the International House Teachers Online Conference. The topic of my talk was 10 reasons why you should attend a conference.

It is no secret that I am a conference buff, both as a participator and as a speaker, and, as usual, I had a fantastic time at IATEFL this year. So I thought it would be a good use of my ten minutes to infect as many people as I could with the conference bug. Aladdin helped me, through the medium of “A Whole New World”…

If you would like to see a recording of my talk and find out my top 10 reasons for attending a conference (as well as how Aladdin fits into this!) please click on the picture below:

Lizzie @ IHTOC!

Lizzie @ IHTOC!

Thank you to the IHWO folk for giving me the opportunity to be part of a great day. If you feel inspired, click here to be taken to a page where links to all the presenters’ talks can be found, divided up into categories (along the top of the page) as they were in the event programme. For example, in Culture and Nurture, Sandy Millin tells us about how diverse the IH network is, while in Rampant Resources my colleague Suzanne Goodwin talks about how to make worksheets that work and Shaun Wilden introduces a particularly cool app which I still don’t understand very well but people really should know about (!), and many more. You can also find the longer sessions from Saturday the 9th May.

Enjoy! And attend a conference when you can! :-)

Vocabulary Review Activity for Teenagers

Aim: 

Review previously met vocabulary in a fun, game-like way.

Materials: 

A pre-prepared slide with all the target vocabulary on it (and some red herrings as well, if you wish…) – see example below; fly swats or post-its or balls (I used fly swats in this case but no reason why the other methods can’t work! Balls might be quite challenging on the motor skills, of course due to the target size…); a set of cards with one piece of target vocabulary on each one.

Some vocabulary!

An example: Some L5a vocabulary!

This game is a cross between the board bashes I do with my Ms (10 to 12 year olds) on a regular basis, which is a case of I put a bunch of target vocabulary pictures on a slide, I say the word, they bash the word, or post-it the word or throw a ball at it, as the case may be, and the backs to the board game I often do with my L5a (upper int 13-15yr old) teens. It came about because I wanted to review vocabulary with afore-mentioned teens but change up the usual backs to the board with a bit of variety… 

Method

  • Put learners into teams
  • Invite one member of each team up to the board. Hand them a fly swat or post-it. (Or, get them to stand a bit away from the board and hand them a ball…)
  • One team picks a word card, looks at it, passes it to the next team to look at and so on. Once all teams know what the word is, they start to try and get their team mates at the board to guess the word, in usual backs to the board style (definitions, synonyms, banana sentences…).
  • Team members at the board swat, post-it or throw the ball at the word they think is the answer. (NB to avoid random bashing, stipulate that incorrect guesses lose points…)
  • First team member to swat, post-it or throw the ball at the correct word gains a point for their team.
  • Teams each send another person up to the board for round 2.
  • The game continues until the word cards are finished or until you feel enough time has been spent, whichever happens first!

It worked well, my teens got really in to it. Of course, as you can imagine, the losing points stipulation came about in reaction to the random board bashing issue! It takes a bit more preparation than usual backs to the board but it’s very quick, easy preparation really.

No reason why it couldn’t be used in adult classes as well, of course!

Enjoy!

Learning Polish – being a true beginner (my newest challenge!)

Those of you who follow read my blog regularly will have seen a number of posts relating to my journey of learning Italian, something that I have thoroughly enjoyed doing. In my two 8-month stints in Palermo, I have managed to get myself from beginner level to intermediate level, though a lot of that improvement actually took place during the summer between those two contracts where I studied intensively and independently, partially to improve my Italian and partially to experiment with independent learning techniques.

This year, I am leaving Italy and returning to the UK, a move which I hope will be permanent. While I fully intend to hold on to my Italian (by speaking to Italian friends, reading in Italian and watching films in Italian, for example), I also decided that it was about time for a new linguistic challenge.

Enter Polish.

Why Polish? 

In no particular order:

  • I am a complete beginner at Polish. I can only say goodbye (but not spell it) – because once upon a time my mum had some Polish kids in her L2 unit at primary school. (Once I started secondary school, holidays did not coincide and so when I was on half term or holiday, I would often go into school with mum and listen to kids read and suchlike. The Polish children used to say goodbye in Polish at the end of the day when they went home.) = indubitably a challenge!
  • I have never tried to learn a language whose alphabet is different from English. Polish has some different letters, as well as using some consonant clusters that English either doesn’t use or doesn’t use in the same way. So, not as difficult as, say, learning Arabic would be but more difficult than French, German or Italian, which are the languages I have learnt to varying degrees so far. From a learning perspective, this is a challenge; from a teaching perspective, this should help me better understand the problems students whose L1 is further from English might experience.
  • My sister’s husband is Polish and his family don’t speak a lot of English, so it would be nice to be able to communicate basically with them when they visit. Of course, my sister is learning Polish too, for obvious reasons. And anything she can do, I can do better, right? Well, maybe not but we can egg each other on and practice together on Skype and stuff, I imagine. :-) And of course, when I visit them, I get practice opportunities!
  • Sandy Millin is moving to Poland to take up a DoS job there, and I would like to visit, as I have never been to Poland before. It would be nice not to be completely helpless if this happens! Also, a bit of healthy competition never hurt anybody! ;-)

What I have done so far:

  • Downloaded a Memrise course in Beginners Polish.

(This was my starting point for Italian too…).

The good thing about this is the recordings that accompany the words and the memes that you have to choose to help you remember the words. The memes for my Italian course seemed all too often to involve random rather unhelpful busty blonde women, whereas the ones in this Polish course so far are quite useful memory aids. However, I have noticed that I can often remember the sound of the word via the meme, but then can’t remember the spelling associated with it. So on my list of things to do is get to grips with the sound-script thing. Fortunately this shouldn’t be tooooo difficult (famous last words?) because, as I understand it, Polish is written phonetically, with a very small number of exceptions. I need to stop applying English sound-spelling rules (dodgy as they are!) to Polish words.

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Beginner…that’s me!

 

  • Looked for resources: 

This started as a hunt for Graded Readers, but apparently these are thin on the ground where Polish is concerned. What wouldn’t I give for an A1 Black Cat Graded Reader in Polish now… Nevertheless, I have found a Polish for Dummies book which looks promising (I have been looking at the free sample!). It comes with an audio disc (or, as I would get the e-book, an audio download) in that it explains the pronunciation and some grammar stuff, as one would expect, but also apparently has lots of conversations recorded. I feel like it would be helpful for me to just read and listen a bit to start with, to help me get to grips with what Polish looks like vs how it sounds, because in my life, I have not heard a lot of Polish or seen a lot of Polish. Hardly any, actually!

For Dummies like me! :-)

For Dummies like me! ;-)

I have also seen some Usborne Everyday Words flashcards, which I find rather appealing. Which reminds me, I must have a trawl through Quizlet and see if there is anything ready-made on there that I could use. I should also start to make my own in due course. The Usborne ones I saw have also reminded me that I could also post-it everything when I get back to the UK… :-D

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Yay, pictures!

 

Finally, I will confess, Harry Potter in Polish has crossed my mind as a possibility… or perhaps Twilight … using the same approach as I did with Italian initially, i.e. the original text and the translation side by side until I can manage without the original, but I think I need to get my head around pronunciation first!

Good old Harry Potter...!

Good old Harry Potter…!

What happens next?

  • Probably very little this week, being the last week of term and therefore very busy. If I can log on to my Memrise course a couple of times and do some review, I would be happy with that!
  • Once I am on holiday, download Polish for Dummies and start listening and reading. And work on the sound-spelling thing.
  • Then, when I get back to the UK, make myself a learning contract!

Of course, it’s going to be a bit different from last summer.

A) there is no time limit on the Polish, whereas with the Italian I wanted to get it down by the end of the summer last year.

B) I want to work on my other languages too – my French, my German and, of course, keep up the Italian. I am wondering what my brain will make of juggling 4 languages plus English on a regular basis. (Another experiment…) So I suppose my room will be little Europe rather than little Italy as it was last summer!

Let’s see what happens… I’ll aim to post another update in a month’s time! For that matter, I also aim to actually publish some of the pile of drafts that have built up on my blog ‘work-desk’ since IATEFL!! It’s been a busy time. The tumbleweed will get booted out of the way soon, though – watch this space! :-)

Reported Speech Whispers 

Premise:

This activity is a variation on the age-old activity ‘Whispers’ aka ‘Chinese Whispers’ aka ‘Broken down telephone’. I have played it with intermediate adults and upper intermediate teens, both of which groups met with good old reported speech this term. Both groups responded well. It provides controlled spoken practice of direct speech – reported speech and vice versa conversions and encourages students to subsequently reconsider what they have said and check it for accuracy.

Not that my students are monkeys...

Whisper, whisper! (Not that my students are monkeys…)

Procedure:

  • Put students in groups of 3
  • Student 1 whispers something to Student 2 (it can be helpful if you feed in a few examples at first, to get the students going)
  • Student 2 whisper reports it to Student 3.
  • Student 3 says out loud what they think Student 1 actually said, based on Student 2’s report.
  • Student 1 confirms or repeats out loud what they originally whispered.
  • Student 2 explains how they reported it and why (particularly if the message got lost)
  • Together, the group decide if they were correct according to ‘the rules’. (with teacher help where needed)

The only preparation required is the handful of examples that help set the activity up.

For further (written) practice:

  • After they have played this game you could get the students in their groups to write down as many direct speech sentences as they can remember from the game.
  • Students then swap papers with another group.
  • Groups then work together to convert the sentences from the group they have swapped papers with into reported speech.
  • The groups then swap back and correct the other group’s conversions of their sentences. Of course the teacher monitors closely during both game and follow-up, providing help and feedback as appropriate.

My blog is 4 years old today!

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 21.43.44   I was closing tabs in my browser when I reached one that was open to a WordPress site, not mine. However, as I am logged in, my tool bar was in evidence along the top and I noticed a little cup symbol in the notifications part. I clicked on it out of curiosity (knowing it couldn’t be about likes or stats because I have been allowing tumbleweed to blow through my blog since IATEFL – work issues have kept me occupied) and discovered that, as per the image above, I registered with WordPress 4 years ago today…

Where was I?

4 years ago, I was coming towards the end of a year in Indonesia. I couldn’t remember why I decided to start blogging, so I dug out my first blog post and it turned out to be part of the ‘30 Goals Challenge‘, created by Shelley Terrell, which I believe is now in it’s I don’t know how many’th reincarnation and even has a related e-book out. I had found out about it through Twitter. My early posts largely fell into 2 categories – 30 Goals Challenge  and #ELTChat summaries. (It wasn’t until I did my M.A. ELT and Delta at Leeds Met, now Beckett, that I started writing in earnest, as it was then than I found my voice…)

Where am I now?

Now I am nearing the end of a second year at IH Palermo. My blog bears little resemblance to how it looked in the early days (during my M.A., I learnt about tech-y stuff and then gave my blog a complete overhaul, in an attempt to make it more attractive and user-friendly to navigate; it also now has 270 posts, 9 pages, 777 followers, 336,634 views and 1,370 comments) and I, myself, have had quite a journey since then too…

What have I learnt?

In no particular order…

  • how to relax!! (I have been perfecting the art today, in fact, as it’s a national holiday in Palermo! This is extremely important for avoiding burn-out…)
  • that saying ‘yes’ can lead to lots of unforeseen opportunities (it’s been an exciting few years!)
  • that you have nothing to lose in trying something, and everything to gain (e.g. I only submitted my dissertation project for an Elton because I had nothing to lose, in the end I won a prize which has led on to other exciting things…)
  • that the world of ELT is so big and multi-faceted. We may see only a tiny corner of it for the majority of the time, but attending conferences like IATEFL puts things in perspective and helps you see how rich (not in the monetary sense of the word!) a world it really is. You can then differentiate between ELT as your job and ELT the profession that you are a tiny part of.
  • that I can work really damn hard (c.f. M.A./Delta year and the distinctions I got out of it plus all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into all my jobs before and since!)
  • that I love CPD (action research, reflection, materials writing, presenting at conferences, attending talks at conferences, doing webinars – as presenter or participant, blogging, chatting on Twitter when I can, writing articles/book chapters, doing courses..and so the list goes on…)
  • that however hard one works, it’s never enough so one has to decide when enough is enough.
  • that it’s ok to have a life outside work and stop thinking about work from time to time ;-)
  • that I can’t please all of the people all of the time, and however much I put into my lesson planning and teaching, some students won’t be satisfied. This does not make me a bad person.
  • that 10-12 year old Italian children can get very excited by post-its. This is a blessing when you forget to take the soft balls into class for vocabulary review! I love my M2s. :)
  • that the amount of time spent doing things expands to fill available time. If available time is limited, things have to get done quicker. And Things to Do lists can develop multiple layers of priority!
  • that the beauty of learning is that it is never-ending. :)

And the list goes on…

What next?

I haven’t renewed my contract at IH Palermo this time around, so I am stepping out into the unknown again. I have a ten-week summer contract at Sheffield University lined up but beyond that? Who can say. One thing’s for sure though, I will keep blogging and I will keep saying yes when opportunities arise. And see where it takes me next… Thank you all who follow my blog, read my blog, comment on my blog and in so doing make it what it is. And happy 4th birthday, Blog! :-) (Also, to anyone who watched my recent webinar on Metacognition, the promised write-up will happen… just as soon as I can make the time without overly upsetting my precarious work-life balance! ;-)  )