IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG PCE – Print VS. Digital; is it really a competition? (1)

Having got up at 05.15, got a train at 07.18, negotiated Birmimgham New Street station (I’m going to walk – I’m already lost – right, where are the taxis?!), registered, been rescued by Sandy Millin (as ever!) I am now ready for MaWSIG PCE part 1. For those who don’t know about MaW SIG:

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Rachael Roberts explains that the speakers are going to be look at creating both print and digital and the interface between the two and that the day will culminate with a panel discussion. We are asked to write questions for the panel on the post-its floating around the room. She then goes on to the flight attendant thing (safety announcements) in record time and reminds us of the SIG day which is on Friday  and includes the Open Forum at 12.30 followed by a ‘MaWSIG Meet-up’

Ceri Jones – Same but different

Ceri started teaching in Italy in the 1990s and enjoyed creating materials from the beginning, and soon also for publication! Since then she has published just about everything you can think of!

Ceri opens with a question based on her experience over the last few years – are print and digital so different? Is it print VS digital, so black and white? She asks us to decide if we think they are the same or different. Humans learn by finding similarities or differences, and what we find depends on our mood also. She showed us a book called the Pointless Book, written by a ‘YouTube couple’. The book is blank pages throughout, lots of tasks, a blindfold drawing challenge. The App for the book shows Alfie (of the couple) doing the tasks, so bringing it to life. Then she shows us something called ‘Google Cardboard’ – $10 and comes in an Amazon flatpack, and you blend it with an App…

Ceri will look at a very specific learning outcome and look at different manifestations through material to ‘get at’ that outcome. Print only, blended, digital only scenarios, all working with the same very small learning outcome. We were asked to identify with one of a list of scenarios. I picked ‘blended 2 – ftf coursebook plus platform‘ for my current context. We are going to look at various scenarios along the cline.

“Describe a Memorable day in the past”

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First we imagine an elementary group – keen to talk, missing some language, this linguistic need is identified. Ceri tells us about what happened with her students in class. She chose a video from Vimeo and shared it with the class: https://vimeo.com/15304152  Goes from day time to night time, a load of activities patched together in the video. We were asked how we would scaffold that f2f.

  • brainstorm ingredients of a perfect day
  • categorise them under places, activities, people
  • prediction re video
  • view and check
  • discuss how the video measures up with their idea of a perfect day

How do you take what works for you in class initially and put it on paper as materials? Does it translate? What about limitations: print only (no video link-up); budget allows for 3 or 4 stock images; half to two thirds of a page max; need to engage with topic and introduce a vocabulary set plus the brief (see pic above).

  • stock images
  • vocabulary box
  • gap-fill exercise
  • personalised discussion

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What about the learning experience? Moving to a new scenario: how does this become a digital lesson? How do we convert the print product into digital?

  • video file
  • interactive activities (i.e. on the screen, with the computer!)
  • multiple screens
  • engage in topic
  • intro vocabulary set

Budget? Way beyond any project currently in existence!

How would the digital material be used? Very important question – is it just the student + screen? Something to use in class? In a virtual classroom? The answer is yes to all these things. To work, it has to be as free as possible, blending all situations.

Next Ceri shows us some printed grammar material. Dialogue, noticing questions, extra practice. What happens if we do this digitally? Ceri shows us an example and asks us to look for the similarities and the differences. There are limitations on both sides. She suggested the sample might suit slower students at home. What is the best way to handle something like this? E.g. student working on their own might need more structure added e.g. a table to complete through drag and drop.

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Finally, we look at the communicative task. How would it be structured in the various scenarios? What would be the differences? What would be the advantages for ftf and digital?

Ceri says she reckons she has posed a lot of questions and given no answers but we will be thinking about this kind of thing all day so it’s ok. We’ve seen some examples from both sides of the fence and seen limitations/disadvantages of each but also the advantages which exist for both.

She suggests that if the digital is moderated then the potential is very exciting! But…very often it isn’t!

Ceri’s blog: http://cerij.wordpress.com

Genevieve White – Adapting  ELT Materials: how to digitise a print course

Genevieve is based in Shetland, thinks she may be the only one! She tells us this will be quite a practical session with loads to pack in. Looking at the skills needed, the challenges faced and a hands-on adaptation task. There will be a prize!

A quick introduction to her own writing experience: a mixture of the concrete process of adapting materials but a personal process of adapting mentally in terms of beliefs about how languages are learned. She wrote a bunch of lessons on Word and then had to put them onto a platform when it was ready. It didn’t really work and she had to do a lot of adapting. She has also adapted student print books into digital format. More recently she has been adapting workbooks to go online. Different projects make different demands on your skills. Sometimes demands are technical, sometimes they are demands on your creativity, it all depends.

Are the skills needed any different from those needed for print. What skills do ELT writers need? Time management, reliability, ability to stick to a brief, awareness of market, creativity. For digital?

Skills

Creativity within tight constraints. Important for all types but particularly important with adapting print to digital. E.g. a small pool of words (beginners book) to create multiple screens of engaging activities.

Good communication skills. For all, but v important for print-digital because you receive huge amounts of information – student book, teacher book, answer keys, link to platform, audio and sound files – so much information, more than usual, so good communication skills essential. You need to be able to look at all that is sent, be in touch with the project manager and organise your questions (there will be lots!). A good project manager will be delighted to help, even over Skype etc.

Up-to-date tech knowledge. Obviously. But…a lot of projects that Genevieve has worked on involved fiddly platforms to navigate. To save time, it is a good idea to spend a bit of time familiarising yourself with things you are expected to know about BEFORE you are in the middle of a project. E.g. dropbox, being able to edit a pdf, being familiar with tracking changes and responding to comments.

An awareness of how digital material is experienced by learners. If you haven’t tried to learn a language online, have a shot. E.g. Memrise.com (check!), Livemocha.com, fsi-languages.yojik.eu, http://www.busuu.com/enc (need to visit the latter 3!)

Challenges

Need to think very carefully about the support and interaction. For digital learners who are using the materials for self-study purposes, need to think about what is missing i.e. the teacher and replicate that role. When we adapt a print page to a digital format, need to think about the teacher’s role and include certain lesson routines within a digital sequence. Need to think about how the lesson will flow – warmers, intros, practice, feedback etc. A good teacher can make a dull lesson come alive, how can digital replicate that? I.e. engage learners. Could be pictures, questions, short video clips with gist questions. You can use a clip for a warmer and then the same clip for a language activity later on.

A successful print lesson has a nice flow, how can this be carried over into digital? Put yourself into the shoes of a learner and sequence the activities so that the learner can do them step by step with opportunities for reflection, repetition, practice and revision. We need to think about how to build into complexity into tasks vis a vis print material. With online materials, the complexity needs to be built in more gradually. As, with print material there is the teacher who is aware of all the students needs and can tailor things if students aren’t getting things as quickly as they should etc. Need to balance cognitive complexity, linguistic complexity and task complexity. Digital material can provide support via hints, useful language boxes and global tools e.g. a dictionary. Scaffolding and sequencing activities properly ensures that students can take control.

Sensitivity to cultural differences needs to be ensured. Publishers will have a list of things to avoid! Genevieve tells us about a prepositions of place unit with items of furniture in a bedroom. Students had to record their voices describing where items were in their room. She had a limited list of items and prepositions. She was getting bored and so did an artists brief with a messy room and things all over the place. It got sent back because in some cultures messy rooms are a no-no! In one brief she put dvds on the bed. Thumbs down. Apparently putting dvds on the bed is dodgy….! Being aware of these issues can save time.

A checklist from Scott Thornbury all about how SLA research can inform edtech.

  • Adaptivity
  • Complexity
  • Input
  • Focus on form
  • FB
  • Interaction
  • Chunks
  • Personalisation
  • Investment
  • Output

Works as a checklist for adapting materials to digital. See Scott’s blog post for detailed explanation. E.g. input should be rich and engaging. Need chunks not just single words. Personalisation is hugely important to bring into digital materials. She says it is not prevalent enough in digital materials.

Task time! Outcomes Pre-Int Unit 2 ‘Shops’ p16-17

We have 8 minutes to look at the activities, identify lang focus, theme etc, and say how we would adapt this digitally for self-study. We need to create a sample which we will be pitching to the rest of the audience. No publishing contract but a prize to be won! It was fun discussing it and then hearing others’ ideas, and it brought us right up to the end of a very interesting session, as well as the first tea break!

 

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3 thoughts on “IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG PCE – Print VS. Digital; is it really a competition? (1)

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