Following the first break, we were treated to two more fantastic talks:
A technological toolkit for Writers – Nick
Nick starts with a whistle-stop tour of technological history, also sharing the story of a very large internet-related phone bill with us. Apparently his parents weren’t so impressed…
The three key areas of focus are:
- Useful hardware
- Timesaving software
- Avoiding internet-related distraction
Computer – PC or Mac or… what suits you
Operating system – OSX, Windows, Linux or… what suits you
Word-processing software – Word, Open Office.. what suits you
Browser – Don’t use IE…try something else…please…
Screen-size – as big as you can; multiple monitors (less switching between applications e.g. What you’re writing and your source….avoid work and email or what you’re not writing and your distractor!) And use desktop arrangement/Fences – you can draw a box on your desktop, give it a label and put your files in it.
Keyboard and mouse – touching them all the time, make sure they are comfortable. Mechanical keyboard – clickety clackety; these days mainly used for gamers.
- Must solve a problem: if I’m only doing it once a month, probably don’t need a fix…
- Integration – should talk to all devices, if relevant
- Cost – should be reasonable
Nick’s ELT courses include:
- Vocabulary presentations
- Practice exercises
So how can technology help?
1. Images – these sometimes generate a long url (that you need to paste into the document). Fix: Use browser extensions (these extend functionality of your browser): URL shortener. One touch to shrink the URL. As a rule of thumb: If you do anything with your browser that requires 2 or more clicks, someone has designed something that will enable you to do it in one…
- Taking a partial screenshot (easy on a mac! yay!)
- Online dictionaries: CALD space word – searches Cambridge dictionaries online. Go to search field in the dictionary, go to add as search engine, change the keyword to something quick to remember, and bingo! (I really have to set these up!)
2. Texts – Archiving for future reference. We have moved on from filing cabinets and from endless folders of unsearchable pdfs to…
http://www.evernote.com – it’s brilliant. (At some point I should write a guide to using it…)
3. Practice exercises (grammar or vocab)
Use macros: automate a set of actions that you can repeat ad infinitum.
- Teacher’s Pet: a massive collection of macros that you install and it creates a custom tool bar, which does all the boring jobs for you. Fabulous!
Distractions – Tough love techniques
- Stayfocused: A toolbar extension limits time per day on certain sites – you define which sites distract you and how much time you can spend on them today. When you look at the website, it starts counting down.
- Strict Workflow: – Page blocked until a break timer starts. Back to work!
- Rescue time: A weekly report on how you use your time…
Your mileage may vary… you may get more out of this than others do.
Tiny.cc/mawsig_techtools – link to a google doc for adding info to
Nick’s email: email@example.com
What an incredibly useful half an hour! It flew by, was full of humour and we got to learn lots of great techie shortcuts to doing stuff that materials writers do. What more could you want?
Session 4: Writing ELT audio and video scripts. From basic principles to creating drama
With the improvement in technology, going out into the street and recording is becoming more possible. You discover all sorts of interesting bits of language that you don’t discover if you script it all yourself cold.
Need to consider:
- Is there too much target language shoe-horned in?
- Is the context clear? (Stated in rubric? A picture? Sound effects?)
- Is there enough turn-taking? Breaking it down makes it easier for students to handle the language load, particularly at lower levels.
- Is there a suitable number of speakers? More than 3 or 4 is too many. E.g. 4 people in a meeting is quite hard for the student to know who is speaking each time. Variety of names, genders and accents can help with this. (Must be stated in the script for the actors to be aware of…)
- What about the lack of authenticity? How can we introduce more feelings of authentic speech into the writing and make it less stilted?
We had a go at considering:
Features of authentic speech:
- (Diverse) Pronunciation and accent
- False starts and repetition
- Fillers and filled pauses
- Contract and full forms
- Idiom, slang, jargon, idiolect
Which of these should we be putting into our scripts? Depends on who is using the materials. Maybe not errors! The grammar of spoken English… Are they errors? Or are they just spoken English? And what will the editor remove? Ums and errs and I think are more likely to be kept? False starts often removed. It is important to start thinking about how to add some of these things in…
You need a central character who wants something. Then you add some kind of conflict situation that makes things more difficult for them! “Try it 3 times” – the main character tries and fails twice and then third time lucky, within the script. 5 or 6 times, becomes more like Fawlty Towers…
Video producers say that ELT writers coming from an audio background tend to state the bloody obvious. Show don-t tell. Slightly in conflict with language teaching but… we need to come up with ways to make it more visual yet control the language.
Well, by the end of talk no. 4, it’s easy to see why people say MaW SIG’s PCE is the one to come to! So far, the diversity in the topics has made me think just how diverse Materials Writing is, there are so many different elements that meet in this discipline. It’s really rather fascinating! Also, I’m really enjoying the opportunity of doing all the little tasks that the various presenters have conjured up, working alongside people who know their stuff – a great learning experience!
Phew! After an action-packed morning, it’s time for lunch!