Materials Writing SIG Conference Session 2 – Working in a digital space

The second session of the morning is by Antonia Clare, co-author of Speak Out. (Also Total English, ELT Writers Connected and Free and Fair ELT – I picked Speak Out  as that is what comes to mind first when I see her name…) She says she has been writing materials for a scarily long time – when she started, the internet existed but she didn’t have access to it. She would go to the library with a notebook in hunt of texts. She wrote with J.J. Wilson – he would provide lunch, she would travel there and supply the computer. They would submit drafts, then they would wait three months, do life stuff, and then receive the drafts back with red pen all over them. Every now and again, a writer would come to her school but other than that or the odd publishing event, no day-to-day conversation with other writers.

The first question is what has changed since YOU started writing? (My answer is quite short given I have only just started… 😉 )

For Antonia, the existence of the collaborative coffee shop – even in Norfolk! She doesn’t need to lug heavy reference works and dictionaries around. She can be in touch with co-writers over the world. She also notes the following changes with the move to digital:

  • less paper, a lot more screen time
  • in the last few years, more online collaboration than face to face
  • content and skills have changed – more multimedia content, and the skill set needed therefore has also changed: need awareness of different tools and apps
  • expectations (deadlines – no more three months between drafts! weekly deadlines not uncommon, small chunks of material rather than whole drafts of books; payment – no more royalties mostly; the role of writer has also changed – more to come on this)

According to the title of a Times Higher Ed article, “Everyone’s a winner in this digital space”. This title struck Antonia as this is the narrative we often hear in relation to digital – it’s better, smarter etc than old ways. In education, in publishing, in business, in government. Need to take a step back and look at that critically. Are we being snake-charmed? Or can we really add value to what we are doing, if so, how?

Online collaboration

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What struck Antonia – average office worker checks emails 36times an hr. 9hrs a week is used searching for information. More than a billion people using Facebook so we are all accustomed to new streams and other such tools, so such elements appear in online collaborative tools. The tools that production companies use for online collaboration will also generally integrate with well-known tools like Google drive.

Antonia gets up, does her work, reaches the point of no more for today, sends it to J.J. in New Mexico who is just getting up, and goes to get her kids from school etc, while he has a look and sends it back with his thoughts ready for the next day.

She reckons that it offers us opportunities and makes us keep learning, which is motivating.

A couple of projects that have grown from coffee house conversations that Antonia has worked on

Some others she is aware of:

  • The MaW SIG e-book
  • ELT teacher2writer – database for writers and publishers; series of e-books with tips on writing materials in its different aspects
  • iTDi.pro – online teacher training, for teachers by teachers
  • The Round – founded by Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings
  • TEFL Commute – podcasts for English Language Teachers
  • PARSNIPS – some ss want to address taboo issues, so a group of teachers came together and wrote a set of lesson plans dealing with each of these issues.

So, lots of exciting, innovative projects going on as a result of talking – online, at conferences, in coffee shops real and virtual.

Collaboration tools

  • Dropbox
  • Google Docs/Drive (for sharing and editing docs)
  • Skype (useful for regular talks with co-authors)
  • Slack (you can set up channels for different projects, discussion and file sharing; cuts down on emails!)
  • Google Hangouts (For a Skype-like conversation with too many people for Skype)
  • Trello (for keeping tags on how a project is developing)

These can be useful for the sort of projects referred to above.

Publisher Content Management Systems (CMS)

These are huge spaces for documents relevant to a given project to be shared. Useful, tricky when the system goes down, difficult to access from a beach (if you need to work while you are on holiday – those weekly deadlines). Antonia doesn’t want to give the lesson plan to Pearson/the system before it has been back and forth between her and J.J. so she arranged to download it, do the back-and-forth then upload it at the end of that in time for the deadline.

Antonia’s Concerns

  1. virtual distance
  2. content control
  3. screen time

1. Technological interaction is replacing face to face interaction. And there is a lack of ‘depth perception’. Collaboration is more than passing data backwards and forwards. It is achieved through ongoing, meaningful discussions. Relationships. Antonia thinks online collaboration should be supplementary to face to face interaction, not a replacement.

2.Antonia thinks content should be an important driver of how the material is delivered, rather than the how dominating. The process is all separated out into components – needs to come together more. She thinks the future is being part of a collaborative learning community.

3. We spend too much time in front of our screens. We needs to find ways to get up and do something different. Stretch, shake, move, walk, play the piano, 10 minute burst of housework, weed the garden, eat goji berries, swim, shift device/medium, meditate for a minute, go and get a drink and don’t take it back to the computer, do something else while you drink it, take an hour for lunch… (How lovely – Antonia had us doing the twist like we did last summer! 🙂 )

We need to be savvy, careful and not lose sight of the content, then there is the opportunity for all to win.

 

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One thought on “Materials Writing SIG Conference Session 2 – Working in a digital space

  1. Pingback: New ways of working for new ways of learning – MaWSIG conference, 20th February 2016 | Publishing and Pondering

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