The final event for the 2016 PCE day is the Panel Discussion. The panel are: Katherine Bilsborough to give the writer’s perspective; Jo Sayers who is with ELTJam and most recently in e-learning and product management roles, currently tech coordinator for MaW SIG; Macmillan’s Debra Marsh; Damian Williams. The discussion was chaired by Rachael Roberts.
(Edit: I did my best but it was all moving rather quickly! If you were there and you think I got something wrong, please correct me!! I did a mixture of direct quoting and paraphrasing/summarising…)
Question 1: Do you think writers will have more or less freedom to be creative in the future?
Kath: I think writers will have more opportunities to be creative in the future but probably by doing it ourselves i.e. self-publishing in small groups of people with different strengths and expertise.
Damian: Writing for publishers the briefs are becoming tighter and tighter which means that they are asking you as a writer to write something using this many words from this wordlist covering this grammar using these topics. It opens up new opportunities to be creative in a different way. The profession is going to demand being creative as a writer.
Debra: (Publishers view) We want the writers to be creative and get excited when something creative comes through but we have to think about what we are publishing and selling. The teachers have to facilitate learning through that creativity. Many teachers can find it difficult to work with very creative materials, they wouldn’t know what to do with that creativity and are looking to teach off the page. This could be why the most creative ideas might be rejected. If we can get teachers to understand the creativity and what it brings to the classroom, then we can use that creativity.
Jo: People seemed to get really excited about the brief of be creative for digital. It would be a shame if the potential for digital wasn’t used. It should hopefully be an essential part of writing.
Question 2: Why have we not moved on from drag and drop?
Debra: When it came in it was very exciting! It was new and yet very familiar. It came in because it was what we were doing in print. We are still stuck to a certain extent in trying to replicate what we’ve always done with print in the classroom within digital. We need now to think out of that box. Not throw everything away but think outside of that box.
Jo: Went to a talk about adaptive learning recently, the speaker drew attention to the fact that a lot of the stuff we do with learners is within the constraint of a learning interface. In the rest of their life they use technology in very different ways. So maybe we need to think about other ways of user interaction e.g. messaging rather than only drag and drop learning interface type activities; swiping to accept or reject. Edmodo is a user-friendly platform as the interface is similar to Facebook.
Damian: A student trying to write a C.V. for a job might not want to use English in a social media way.
Debra: The disconnect between technology used to learn a language and that used in everyday life is huge. But if we do a Whatsapp activity, do we use Whatsapp language? Do we use those errors and grammatical inconsistencies?
(Audience): We are using Whatsapp etc. successfully in classrooms but it doesn’t go with the publishers.
(Audience): Institutions want glorified homework self-marking teacher-time saving devices.
Question 3: Which tech skills or knowledge would you view as a priority for MaWSIG members to learn to help them with producing digital content?
Kath: A good way to learn about the digital skills is to do a course yourself on a digital platform and see what the experience is like. Every publisher will have its virtual learning environment/authoring tools and they will let you play in a “sand pit” to practice, play around creating things. To anybody who has not worked on one of these, go on something like Moodle, which is free, and see what it’s like, what you have to do to create a drag and drop etc. Don’t wait til you are in the middle of a project to learn! You learn what you need to know to progress to the next level. We need to help each other, form alliances to develop professionally.
Jo: Google docs is incredibly useful but more important than a specific tool is an attitude or approach – that of “Yeah I’ll learn how to do that/use that”.
Damian: Also kind of being able to have some kind of vision of what the end product will look like so you know what kind of things you can put in.
Question 4: How can we cater for the learner whose digital experience is so far removed from the digital language learning experience?
Debra: the learning experience is changing, so there is a growing disconnect. E.g. digital student books. Not like anything they see on their iPads! The reality is very different from what we assume reading the market research reports. The biggest concern for teachers is that coming into the classroom doesn’t attract students because it is so different from what’s going on outside.
Question 5: Kath said ‘It’s not worth arguing with your editor, you won’t win’ What does this imply about Kath’s relationship with her editor? What do other authors feel about this approach?
Kath: If you are working for royalties or a fee, at the end of the day publishers spend a fortune on market research and know why they want things a certain way or not a certain way. It does happen that there are editors that say I will not work with that writer again, and vice versa and that is very sad. We don’t want it to come to that!
Audience: can be a real collaborative job between author and editor to get it right. Sometimes if both writer and editor are freelance are working on an external brief, that gel can be easier.
Audience: did a survey asking a few questions and got some interesting responses from authors about relationship with editors.
Debra: It comes down to that level of communication. I work increasingly with teams at a distance over email, sometimes much better to pick up the phone/skype than the end-of-the-day email, have a virtual cuppa.
Audience: if there is a sound pedagogical argument to disagree, I’ll insert a comment to explain why I’ve done it, to stand up for what I believe to work. Equally, my classroom is not the same as all over the world, so will mostly just get on with it.
Question 6: With so many digital tools at our disposal, how can we hand over control to the students and when?
Damian: I’ve seen some classrooms as a teacher trainer where you’ve got these really young kids with iPads doing amazing things. The teacher saying “Ok, you show me..” and that kind of thing.
Audience: Rather than thinking about all the other stuff as things the publisher should be providing and worrying about it, maybe it should be thought about from the perspective of what teachers are doing in the classroom, at grassroots level, what they are bringing into the classroom. E.g. I’m going to use Whatsapp with my students this term. So maybe that comes more into teacher training and development to encourage that.
Debra: Teachers want ideas for using tools and information about how they fit into language teaching. Teachers need structure and hang onto that structure, to understand how to exploit it so that the students (and parents) also understand why its being used.
Jo: Is there a reluctance to commit to e.g. a double page spread on Whatsapp when everything changes so fast?
Debra: If it is digital it can be easily updated.
Damian: Also keeping it open with the writing. Bring mobiles into it. Rather specifically a lesson on Whatsapp, make it so the students can choose which app.
Audience: materials could be flexible enough so that it’s the teachers notes that need updating.
Audience: the idea of control to the student makes me think of flipped classroom learning, so perhaps good quality flipped materials…
Audience: writing extra ideas into teachers notes so that students don’t know if it has to be skipped for whatever reason
Audience: a lot of schools block some of these apps so can’t necessarily be used.
Question 7: Having worked with publishers was there anything you missed when you self-published? (Damian)
Damian: wanted to self-publish with the book but my biggest fear was thinking this all makes sense, this is great but is it going to turn out like it is in my head at the moment? Penny and Lindsay helped out a lot. E.g. assumed knowledge. The book needed people looking at it who hadn’t worked on the Delta to give it fresh eyes. Also missed deadlines and working with people.
Kath: It’s a joy to write about something you want to write about. The Heart ELT and Parsnips were very refreshing.
Damian: the Heart book is launching at 2.45 on the National Geographic stand.
And that brought us to the end of quite a day! We finished with a reminder of the SIG day on Friday and all the thank you’s. Just as well, much as it has been awesome and I want more, my fingers are knackered! 🙂
Thank you to:
for a great day! 🙂