IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG PCE – Print VS. Digital; is it really a competition? (4)

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:

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for a great day! 🙂

 

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

Damian Williams took over after lunch with his talk A Road Less Travelled: From Digital to Print (and back again).

He is going to talk about the process he went through with self-publishing. The origins were back when he was working on a Distance Delta course. It involved marking 100s of assignments as a local tutor. He found he was writing the same kind of thing in feedback on drafts and so rather than getting assignments in, writing the same comments 100 times and sending them back, it would be better to put the comments on the forum as tips. This became his comments bank – a word document. He could also copy and paste (and tweak) these for the essays he got in. Then he thought why not put it out as a book and decided to self-publish. His big fear was thinking something was brilliant on paper and then getting it out there and it’s not that good. So he went with The Round, where you submit a sample and people can comment it on it with comments and published authors with The Round also have a look and comment on it. Damian launched it just before IATEFL Harrogate and it has sold pretty well. Most of the sales came through Amazon, a few through Smashwords (good for places where Amazon doesn’t sell!) and a few in other places. 300 copies is a benchmark of selling well, his first year he managed 434, second year 338.

Next Damian decided he wanted to turn it into a print book. He wants to talk about going from Digital to Print because usually it is the other way, so this is a bit different. There are a few things to consider in doing this:

Are you going to with print on demand (POD) or traditional offset? The former it only gets printed when someone buys it, the latter means printing and storing a minimum of 1000 copies that then need to be stored. Traditional offset has a lower cost per unit (bulk) and a higher quality production (but most readers can’t tell the difference), you also have books on hand to give to people when you want to. However, POD has low start-up costs if you put the hours in yourself and is instantly available – once the manuscript is set up, someone can order it and get it delivered. There is less risk – minimal costs plus your time. With traditional offset if you get 1000 copies and only sell 30…!

CreateSpace and Ingram Spark are the main Print on Demand services.

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<http://selfpublishingadvice.org&gt;

In a simplified nutshell, CreateSpace is better if you are selling through Amazon/online. Book shops don’t like buying from CreateSpace, they prefer Ingram Spark so that is better if you are selling outside Amazon, something for a wider audience.

With a print edition you need to think about the back of the book and the spine as well as the front. The spine-width depends on how many pages and what type of paper.  Trim size is another element. You also need to decide if you are going for black and white or colour. Colour can be useful for colour coding and illustration. If you use images (photos) they need to be high resolution. Ebooks need a font that plays well on different screens and formats, usually sans serif. Print books tend to be easier if they DO have serif. You could print out a single paragraph in different fonts and read through and see which feels nicest, get others’ opinions on that etc. Finally, do you want to do it all yourself or pay someone to do it for you? You can do it yourself but you need time and willpower! Damian paid someone. D.J. Rogers. djrogersdesign@gmail.com did all the formatting and putting the cover together in a few days for about $100.

Once you have your book – print book or e-book – you need to promote it. The first thing that springs to mind is social media. The thing about social media is that it is a great way to get to lots of people but you need to be a bit clever about it. You need to find the balance between using it to let people know about your book and using it to promote it all the time so that people get fed up with it. Damian set up a CELTA and Delta trainers group because he wanted to promote his book. The key is to find specific groups and market it to specific people. And to respond to people who contact you on social media. With a print book there are photo opportunities! If it is an academic book, get it on a reading list. You can also use promotional material e.g. posters, promise a free paper copy for every ten e-books bought etc, to market to schools. If you have a print book get it up on goodreads. Run competitions too. Get some ideas in and choose a winner.

damian@tmenglish.org

Final speaker for the day (can you tell I’m getting tired – intros are getting brief!) is Sue Kay with Fifty ways to not turn your editor grey! So, another different angle for today, to keep our interest intact! The relationship between editor and author is the final focus (before the panel discussion!).

We will get 20 now and the remaining tips will appear on http://www.ELTTeacher2Writer.co.uk/50-ways. Why is Sue qualified to give this kind of relationship advice? She has been an author for 20 years and has worked with a whole range of editors. Most of them seem to have survived. She has (l)earnt(!) an enormous amount from these editors and is still learning. It is these lessons she wants to learn.

Be familiar with your working environment

The more efficient you are in your work station, the quicker you will work and the more likely you are to meet your deadlines and your editor will love you!

  • Know your keyboard. E.g. taking a screenshot on mac that Kath shared earlier. Ctrl+Z=undo. Ctrl+A=select all. Ctrl+N=New page. Ctrl+G=Go to. Ctrl+K=insert hyperlink. Ctrl+Y (Ctrl + F4 on windows)=repeats the most recent action
  • Know the difference between a hyphen and an en-dash. Hyphen is to hyphenate compound adjectives. En-dash is for ranges of numbers, dates, times. If we don’t use the right one, the editor will have to correct it when they get to it!
  • Know how to create a shortcut! (In Word: “Customise keyboard”) http://www.screencast.com/MjjNSdjXPf
  • Know how to use Jing or similar for making screencasts. Quicker than explaining what the problem is in digital materials, you can screenshot it and highlight the place.
  • Use ‘split screen’ to create an answer key!! (So useful!!!)

Communication

  • Find out how your editor likes to communicate and use that method (email? phone? Skype? face-to-face?) If you are using Skype…
  • Set your webcam at a flattering angle! And be careful what is in frame. Have you brushed your hair?
  • Be honest. If you are struggling with a deadline, tell your editor – don’t make excuses!

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  • Agree a method of file-sharing. Dropbox is easy to use. Publishers use FTP. We Transfer is for big files. Box is like Dropbox, more functionality but you have to pay. Google drive good for collaboration.
  • Choose a good system for file naming. Keep it short, enough info but not too much. Start with a date – year month then day. Use v for version number. Use underscores rather than spaces. At a glance you can see which is the most up to date!

Etiquette

  • Keep your editor in the loop. Don’t bypass the editor and speak directly to design. Don’t send an invoice until you’ve checked with the editor that the final draft has been accepted. Two examples of keeping the editor in the loop.
  • Acknowledge receipt of emails!
  • Respond appropriately to feedback. How? Don’t be defensive – try to get the bottom of the feedback is sending. Avoid binary confrontation. Choose your battles. If the editor likes one picture and you prefer another one, let it go. It’s not that important. Much less important for instance than how many vocabulary exercises you can get into your unit. Not worth the hassle, you won’t win, so let all but the most important battles go.
  • What does the editor want? Same document with track changes or a new document? And know your schedule.
  • Trust your editor. Their job is to make you look better. Don’t question every suggestion the editor makes. They are the objective eye that your material needs.
  • Try not to pester your editor – batch your queries. They have lots of projects not just yours!

Miscellaneous

  • Use minimal formatting: tabs not multiple spaces.
  • Use Evernote to store texts from the internet – you can save as bookmark and have all the info your editor needs. ELT and Evernote=a match made in heaven: ELTJam.
  • Know your idiosyncrasies. Apparently two spaces after a full-stop is wrong – why did no one tell me?
  • Don’t write nasty things about people in emails… Be nice, show respect, spread the love.

IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG PCE – Print VS. Digital; is it really a competition? (2)

Katherine Bilsborough kicked off after the break, and she is talking about Writing for Primary. 2 years ago, she spoke about ‘Becoming a digital writer‘. Since then, she has realised that we are not digital writers, we are materials writers who are writing for a digital age. This is something that came out of the recent MaW SIG conference. As Ceri said, it’s not black or white, it’s grey. Katherine, though, says it’s more like a chess board. Some is black, some is white, you move in different ways and sometimes you win and sometimes…!

If you are talking about primary, you are talking about 6 years of a child’s life. There is a big difference between year 1 and year 6. We need to be aware of their cognitive skills. E.g. they may  not be able to read yet. We need to think about their world view. They are very me me me oriented, so pair work doesn’t always work! If you make something in class, then everybody needs one to take home! With VYL, attention span is 5, 6, maybe 10 minutes max. It is also, or can be, a lot of fun.

5 key areas that Katherine identified for primary writing are:

Primary –

  • content
  • illustration
  • appropriateness
  • rubrics
  • key ingredients

She has picked out these 5 areas but some others may crop up as well.

Primary Content

When you start off writing a primary course book, need to take into account several things.

  • The syllabus (be involved in writing or received from a publisher; might be one level of a 5 level course for e.g.)
  • Young Learner Exams (publishers want to include materials that help to prepare learners for these e.g. Starters, Movers, Flyers)
  • Policy (local or national – e.g. in Spain the education law was in place for many years but has just been voted out so everything is in limbo)
  • Key competences (trying to develop the whole child e.g. citizenship, keeping clean and tidy etc as well)

Katherine finds the Cambridge YLE page useful to refer to as it has lots of wordlists for each level, of what words children of each age group/exam group are expected to know at that level. This is useful if you don’t have the syllabus etc. all worked out in advance. It’s also helpful to look at Key stages on BBC Bitesize site, to see the kind of things that children are learning and doing at different ages, to get an idea of what you can have them do with your materials.

21st Century skills – creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking. These are crucial. Our job, to think of a primary learner activity that encompasses these… Easy. Been doing it since the beginning. Just that now it has a label that needs to go in the book! Now of course there are digital elements that can be brought in to do things in a different way, but the point is it’s NOT new even if it’s the newest buzzword.

Illustration

Vitally important. The first thing that gets looked at. There are a few things to take into account. What should we consider when we decide between photos and artwork? model’s age/characteristics? supportive or decorative?

Publishers think for youngest learners, mostly illustration, as they get older, introduce more photographs. However, photos are coming in younger and younger. Nowadays in the ‘digital world’, younger children have more access to photographs so it makes sense? More and more kids watch stuff like discovery and educational style programmes marketed for kids (be it on youtube or TV) while cartoons/comics are seen as Saturday morning break material. Re model’s age and characteristics, Katherine usually told that they are presented as the same age but look a little bit older. If you are 9 you want to read about 10 year olds not 7 year olds! In terms of physical characteristics, it’s changing – more variety now, becoming more inclusive. Illustrations are usually supportive but can be decorative. In an artwork brief, it should be one picture including all the items of vocabulary rather than a set of different pictures one for each word. Katherine’s no. 1 digital aid for working is: Scanners. As, with primary, you draw everything as it should look on the page (sketches, sometimes quite detailed as very important), that scanned scrap of paper goes off to the publishers and then the illustrator turns it into what you see on the page. We rarely see them at conferences but they are very important! We are all invited to write our favourite tool on the flipchart at some point during the day.

Appropriateness

We all know about PARSNIPS but for primary there are things you might not have considered…

  • An escaped tiger with a happy ending – too traumatic
  • A chant about a witches brew – market including Turkey and Egypt, no witch craft
  • Kate and Joe talking about their homework – can’t have them because they might be sitting in a bedroom, so it had to be Kate and Cloe, much more difficult for listening!
  • Film review of Australian film Red Dog – there are dogs and somebody’s arms on the film picture, which is dirty
  • Anne of Green Gables – no, because boys won’t like it (!!!)
  • A story about a little boy who shrinks after drinking a potion – too druggy!!

If in doubt, leave it out! (Or at least run it by the editor!) It’s not worth it. Having an argument isn’t going to win you any points.

Rubrics

We saw three rubrics for the same activity.

  • Picture of an ear and a scribbling pencil
  • Listen and colour
  • Listen to the dialogue and colour the objects
  • Listen to the dialogue and colour the items that Leo and Fatima mention.

The simpler the better! Applies to all ages!!

Key Ingredients

  • Stories – genre? ongoing/one-off? language? word count? no. of frames? Katherine does this kind of work away from the computer, sits down with language and bits of paper. In the beginning there were print stories of various kinds, then along came audio, then dvds with videos (sometimes pictures moving one to the next), IWB (replicating print, animated visuals), devices (with interactive elements) and finally augmented reality. In Katherine’s last project, she wrote stories for a 12 level BBC English course for children and this included augmented reality for one out of three stories per year. You have to start layering, it’s almost like writing a script for a film. It’s very interactive and brilliant fun, but it takes a lot of writing. You have to write the story and work out how it’s going to appear and then present that to the publisher so that they/the team can understand it! Lots of role-play/gamey/decision-making elements involved. Katherine finds Puzzlemaker and Word Scramble for making puzzles to cut down on time.
  • cross curricular – used to be CLIL but then it wasn’t really CLIL so became cross-curricular. “These lessons give kids the opportunity to do something a bit different and they learn different skills – skills that aren’t normally taught in the English lesson. They’re a nice change for the teacher too.” – a quote from a teacher, Ma Carmen Losa. For the writer, means more research. Just because we are adults doesn’t mean we know everything! Katherine likes Fun Science and Technology website and NASA kids club website, as well as, again, BBC Bitesize. Lots of art gallerys around the world have kids sections. National Geographic also has one. Using websites designed for children means we have the right kind of language to use. Katherine still looking for an online children’s dictionary. It would be useful for obvious reasons!
  • culture – need to make it relateable to children e.g. what do people have for breakfast in different places like Jamaica? What hours do children go to school in New Zealand? Easy to find out on Facebook! Crowd-sourcing on Facebook is a very useful tool as you can get a load of answers/responses.  Time for Kids “Around the World” – a day in the life (hour by hour) of children around the world. Shortcut keys on a Mac are very handy for “I want something that looks like this:”
  • literacy – Vocab kitchen is useful: put in a text and you can see what the CEFR levels are and change the words in red (too hard) until they come out green (easy)! And use the synonym list in Word.
  • rhymes, chants songs – Vocaroo is really useful for recording and sending sound clips as emails.

Writing materials for the Play Station generation

Fiona Mauchline is a teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and blog curator. She is focusing her talk on the people we are writing for in secondary materials writing rather than the materials themselves. 11-19. Born between 1996 and 2005: A significant period in the history of digital entertainment! Nintendos, Wii, Playstation with headphones and kids speaking. Fiona’s son speaks four languages a day, only 2 of which she taught him, picking it up this way. There is a huge generational gap between teacher/writer brains and their brains. This is something that needs to feed into the materials.

‘Umbrella topics’ from typical course books for lower secondary/lower levels. How many can you think of? Recycling, hobbies, clothes, music, food, films, sports, shopping, holidays, town/going out, school.

Beware the Twilight Zone – the shady area that teens don’t like going into. Also, it’s about what they want to talk about with whom! (Or not!) E.g. with parents, siblings, other family members, teachers, pals, closest friends, other classmates, ‘others’… Some topics may be better for writing than speaking as writing to the teacher rather than having to share with people in the room. Some they may not want to talk about with anybody. Anything where you might be judged. In the world of the migrant, ‘family’ and ‘home’ – might be judged. Holidays – not everyone can afford to have holidays. If you live in the Canary Islands, “talk about your holiday” doesn’t work as there is a huge gap between rich (off to New York) and poor (never left the island). So when aiming at teens, think about the sensitive areas.

Fiona got her older teens to make a list of topics they would like to see in course books. They made a long list. Can you identify the 7 no’s?

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3 groups of No:

  • History – e.g. Mandela
  • Music – Madonna, ABBA etc

Boring: old-fashioned, dusty, been done too many times. Not for 15 year olds.

  • Video games
  • Fashion

We do it, we don’t talk about it. Too personal. It is divisive and leads to judgement.

  • YouTubers who do crazy things
  • Travel to far away places, exotic destinations
  • Food we’ll never eat e.g. insects

Irrelevant, remote from their reality and always will be. Travelling to countries near your own, you might do one day. Far off super-exotic places, not so much.

The Stress Factor

Everybody feels different and wanted to be the same, all felt like outsiders in some way. 99% of teenagers think it. All feel inadequate. Learning a foreign language means saying stuff in another language in front of your classmates: not a comfortable/happy thing!

12% of teenagers (Young Minds and Mind) in the UK today between 11 and 15 with diagnosable mental health issues. A huge portion of that is stress-related or stress-triggered. Slightly higher in boys than girls. Keep the stress down!

Screens

The screen generation. Research done in Sweden and Florida.

Mental overload: scrolling, navigating, clicking, eye ‘flicker’, light quality > less ‘mind’ space for processing/comprehension than with text on paper. Not harder to learn, harder to know – tends to stay in shorter term memory rather than long term memory. Difference between remembering something and knowing it. However, kids have developed the capcity to ignore the buzzes, bells etc in life, i.e. dealing with distraction.

For certain things, screen will better, for other things, paper is still better. For example, reading longer texts is more efficient from the learning point of view on paper. The topography of a page – 8 corners (double spread), margins, visual clues that aid memory. Screens don’t really have that. The paper course book shows how far you have got as the year goes by. Big books and little books weigh the same on a kindle. Paper is good for weightier, more serious text work. With Digital, use short texts and exploit the scroll function/other features. E.g. the capacity for predictions – much more effective on screen with scrolling and keeping things hidden.

It doesn’t particularly matter what we think. The bottom line is the attitude and habits of the people who are going to use them. 52% prefer screens, 48% prefer books. Not everywhere allows for screens. Books smell better… (according to the teens Fiona questioned).

Fiona’s email: fhmauchline@gmail.com

 

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.

IMG_1552 IMG_1553

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!

 

Materials Writing SIG Conference Session 5 – Emerging new pedagogies…

Our final session for today (whew…! I am already exhausted!!) is presented by Kirsten Holt and Thom Kiddle, with the title Emerging new pedagogies: should we change the way we design classroom activities?

We started with a pictorial trip through classrooms of the ages and their evolution:

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From rigid and inflexible, through a bit of paper appearing, a bit more paper and flip desks, breaking out of the set format, then in came computers, and tools, but it is all still very teacher led. How much evolution?

We continued with an evolution of tools:

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Cassettes, OHP, electronic pencil sharpener, VHS…. explosion of All The Technology.

We have gone from projection on a screen by teacher, or all students sitting in a lab individually or on a computer at home. The boundaries are all now more blurred. Physical location is much more flexible. Students carry immensely powerful devices with them all the time.

In Japan, for example, you can hover your phone over a page and the characters start talking to you. Blur between print and technology. Augmented reality.

Tension between “no mobile phones in class” and what they could do. What is best practice? Do we know? Or are we swimming wildly in a plethora of potential without really knowing what best practice is nor how to implement it? What do we have to hold on to in terms of principles?

We have principles and pedagogy. John Drury in the early 20th century advocated that student centred learning should be the way forward. He encouraged students to become independent, critical thinkers.

Kirsten suggests it should be learning in a digital world, education in a digital world, teachers in a digital world. Rather than “digital learning” or “digital education” or “digital teachers”.

Online offers potential interaction in a digital space outside the classroom either entirely or in a blend with classroom learning. Boundaries between physical and digital are being removed. There has also been the rise of the flipped classroom. The presentation phase is pushed outside the classroom space, accessed by learners in video or text form as preparation for the in-class follow up. SOLEs have emphasised that the teacher has to add value in the classroom, for it be worth the student coming into class! What does the teacher have to do to add that value to the space?

Thom told us about a project he worked on with teachers working alongside tech guys who said, tell us what you want to do and we will make it happen! It didn’t last. 4 out of 15 things were able to be done. He wanted the teacher trainers to think about what they wanted to do, how it would work in the classroom, and not worry about the tech but what ideally they would like to do, and a few things that came out:

  • Infinite canvas community board: scrolling was a good thing! The screen allows as many comments as necessary. Looks like Padlet. It allows in an online space a snapshot of answers to a particular question. In a flipped space it gives a teacher a snapshot of student opinion on a particular question and know what topics to focus on.  Can also be used to feedback and share group work outcomes with other groups by summarising it on such a screen.
  • Threaded forums based on video content. An initial video is uploaded and then students can reply with microphone or their own video or with text. This was used in a blended programme for students to make short videos of possibilities and limitations of their own teaching contexts.
  • Watching a video that pauses when you comment with a question and it tags the video, and the video continues once you have finished. Your comment then pops up when someone else watches the video and they can respond. This could be used by the teacher to “annotate” a video with questions for the student viewer.

It’s a tool not THE tool. Using technology to embrace learners’ output as input in the classroom.

Kirsten then talked about a model for pedagogy. She compared the usual balance in course books with the experiential model, and wondered if materials give enough opportunity for experimentation:

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Kirsten also mentioned Flipped Classrooms and how out of class work isn’t homework but preparation for maximising learning time and extending what they have done in class:

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She compared it with Task-Based Learning but more extended. And then went on to talk a little bit about how Macmillan English Campus could be used in this kind of Flipped Classroom way, giving as many choices as possible to the students – where students do preparatory activities and then in class the teacher builds on that by facilitating use of the language.

We finished by discussing questions:

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What do YOU think? 🙂

Kirsten also recommended that we have a look at “Tech tools for teachers” on Onestopenglish for tech tools that are not only for fabulous wifi connections!

It was a good session that managed what I thought was impossible: it engaged me enough to make me forget how tired me and my fingers were…

It also brought the MaW SIG conference day to a close. The wrapping up took the form of an open forum discussion, followed by a raffle (I won a book! Happy days!) and then drinks. I scooted off before the drinks because I had to trek back to Sheffield – just as well I did, as it was it was well after 9 by the time I got home!

Thank you to MaW SIG and sponsors Macmillan Education for a great day: am glad I bit the bullet and made the effort to get to London for it!

 

Materials Writing SIG Conference Session 4 – Writing Skills for Effective 21st Century Materials

After the lunch break, we reconvened with Heather and Julie’s talk on Writing Skills for Effective 21st Century writing.

Julie started by giving us a bit of background into their research over the last few years, explaining that the work informing today’s session continues to build on what they have talked about at past conferences e.g. IATEFL last year.

Materials development should be at the interface of theory and practice but actually it isn’t: it takes a long time before theoretical recommendations can become pedagogically recognised. Findings from conversation analysis could help us to write more natural sounding dialogues, research into pragmatics could help us teach politeness, so there is lots of potential but…

“ELT is not a matter of bridging the gap between theory and practice, but closing it” (Widdowoson, ELTons June 2016).

“With Web 2.0 came technologies that afforded online interaction and user created materials and these altered the authorship paradigm, as well as blurring the line between materials and the tools that produce them. (Mishan and Timmis, 2015, p.79)  – We put lots of things online, we see possibility for communicative interaction between students, but what are we going to do with all of that?

The study

When doing this research, for ‘digital materials’ they took a very broad definition – any materials that use technology in some way. Their methodology involved use of focus groups and individual interviews and spoke to 8 writers and 11 editors/publishers.

Research questions:

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These were used as a springboard for discussion with their participants rather than something rigid to be stuck to. The discussions were very interesting and yielded lots of rich data. We discussed some of the statements drawn out of the data:

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The findings fit into 5 main categories:

  1. Technical differences
  2. Pedagogy
  3. Management of process
  4. Possibilities of digital (this category had more positive things)
  5. Commercial considerations (business issues, marketing issues)

Technical Differences

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First of all, a lot of people talked about working within parameters. Writing to a particular template/brief. There are a limited number of activity types within digital – these tend to be closed activities: drag and drop, gap-fill, matching, YES/NO…  This is also because they tend to be self-study materials so need to be accessible to a student not mediated by a teacher. People also talked about mobile/tablet use and repurposing materials. You might not have long texts but three shorter texts, for example, in order to avoid too much scrolling on the smaller screen.

Mobile items can be quite bare and limited:

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Secondly, often print material is being converted to digital materials, rather than people writing directly for digital. Materials can look the same in the course book as on the screen. However, activities designed for use in the classroom need to be changed to work in a digital format. The issue of feedback provision: What will you say when they provide the right answer? “Yay! You got it right!” vs. “Correct.” and what about when it’s wrong? Are you going to tell them why? If yes, it’s going to be very expensive because all the possible answers and reasons together with feedback would need to be input. So feedback needs to be cost effective. Having a variety of different acceptable answers is great but very expensive. To get around these issues, more sophisticated authoring tools are needed and therefore a lot of investment. The level of the product is low, very basic stuff BECAUSE of the limitation to the closed style questions, for the reasons of cost effectiveness already discussed.

Thirdly, you need to think in great detail about how the student or teacher will use it, what will be there on the screen? What will they need to do? What will be on the screen at the same time? You need to be able to visualise it (which requires experience of using it?). Scrolling issues add to the difficulty of reading comprehension and text length.

Lots of scrolling:

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Finally, you need to think about layout issues. E.g. on a tablet when you tap for the keyboard and it takes up half the screen, will important things be obscured? When you offer the choice of answers, will the answer choices hide the question?!

Layout can be tricky:

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Rubrics also need to be extra clear so that students can access them alone. Fonts need to be sans serif Sego to make it informal in ESOL materials. Colour is also important. Standardisation between publishers in template use would be nice!

Pedagogy

Again, we discussed selected statements from the data:

image3-1

Before hearing about the findings:

People were debating the usefulness of digital and what value it adds. Is it just about practice? Receptive skills? But how rich is the input to learners from these materials? Obviously it depends on the particular material but these were some general concerns. It could be useful for lower levels to be able to click on a video and hear instructions again, or hear a recording in shorter chunks as scaffolding. Are the the tasks types and questions too repetitive or do learners like that?

Lesson flow was another issue. Two pages of a coursebook can demonstrate some flow and some understanding of where you are going but if it is divided into 20 screens what happens to that? Feedback is an issue if something is marked wrong but is actually right because there is a stray full-stop, for example. Productive skills can also be problematic, because it is difficult to enable practice speaking or writing through digital materials. Students can record themselves but what do they do with that? What happens to the social aspect of the activity? People learning together and collaborating? Will the cost be increased? There are possibilities such as forums, chat rooms, blogs but the question surrounding all of these activities is that they are quite open activities – is that a problem? Would the learner see it as developmental or be disappointed as not getting a score after spending half an hour in front of their screen? The context of use and how that impacts on pedagogy is important here.

Cognitive load can, it was perceived, make certain listening tasks more difficult. E.g. listen and match/type/tap a box. All the tapping and typing as well focusing on the actual language. Therefore it is important to make the activity cognitively engaging but not the technical aspect of doing the activity!

Tablets and classroom management also came up. If you haven’t taught in a classroom where tablets are being used, then it is difficult to visualise the issues around it. Classroom management is affected – you need to control when the tablets are used and when focus is on teacher. If everyone has a tablet, activities could be differentiated quite easily, according to level or learning style. With listening, will you play it from the front or have students listening individually with headphones. That makes a big difference in how the activity is going to work. There are lots of possibilities to consider – how are they being used but also how COULD they be used?

Student engagement/user experience is important to consider as with some digital materials, there is no teacher to draw students in and engage them. Students might need more changes of focus than in the classroom, where interaction with other students and the teacher helps.

Adaptive learning was also something that came up in the discussions. It needs more thought for it to work properly. Adaptive learning also loses the “flow” mentioned earlier with course-book pages.

Is there too much material? It could be overwhelming but it could be a good thing, differing opinions – also depends on how it is exploited and the quality of the materials. Converting print to digital expands material as you have to build in extra scaffolding. It means that you end up with a huge body of material that can become quite unwieldy to produce and manage. You also have to consider the teacher training element – teachers are not trained to use all tools effectively because they don’t exist everywhere so it can’t be a standard element of ITT.

Finally, how are students actually learning from these products? What are they learning? Is it the most effective way to learn? This needs to considered, both for digital and for print. Why don’t we know? Access to classrooms is difficult for researchers, teachers don’t have time to look at it in detail themselves. End user experience is as important as the content itself. But it also requires longitudinal studies, which have their issues of expense and time and resources.

Some of the criticisms are equally applicable to print materials, if we consider print self-study materials as well. So it’s not just about print vs. digital.

Management of Process

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Time started getting short at this point so we launched directly into hearing about the data:

Delivery – keep it simple, stick to the brief and be aware of the functionality of the software from the outset, as well as the style guidelines. (E.g. 24/7 in print but 24-7 in html). The template developer role is important. In an ideal world, the author would receive a sample unit of examples of activity types so that you could know exactly what you were aiming for and how it would work. It would also help if discussion was possible so you could check if things would work.

The scale of projects is ever more massive. The number of people and volume of material involved is greater than print which was already huge. Yet, schedules are tighter for digital as the student book is produced first but the digital package needs to launch with it on completion (!)

People expect digital to be quicker to produce but it is not so as there is more content required (videos, adaptive learning, assessment criteria). And, of course, the “editorial eye” is just as necessary, even if writers are writing directly into a template. Mistakes can happen and you need someone with an overview to pick up on those, which makes a huge number of screens to check.

In terms of self-publishing, you need to be thinking along the lines of detail required by a publisher’s book proposal form.

Possibilities of Digital

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There are lots of opportunities:

  • Plan Ceibal in Uruguay: Every student has a laptop, and there is the classroom teacher but also a remote teacher. This kind of thing impacts the materials developer role as you need materials for the remote teacher, support for the local teacher, materials that will go on the screens…
  • British Council Nexus Project: Getting lower level learners online. Helping them developing digital literacy, self-confidence and motivation.
  • Gamification – making things into games. Games in the classroom, apps outside the classroom, on laptops… Badges? Levels? Can be motivating.
  • Augmented reality – second life type things, but also writing stories, producing scripts for animation on students’ screens in class (half the class see one thing, half the other).
  • More writing opportunities for freelancers but… the downside is that some of the work is not particularly interesting or challenging, can be quite mechanical and set fees are becoming more common than royalties. Working just for a fee may impact motivation – what is your incentive to go off promoting the product in your time?
  • It can be career enhancing to create online resources. Putting your own things online for people to use can get your name known and lead to other things…

Commercial considerations

<Missed that picture! Going full steam now!>

When publishers talk to customers and do market research, the customer can’t tell them what they want in terms of digital because they don’t really know what’s possible, which makes it difficult for them to articulate what they want and so for publishers to provide. Then there is the issue of predicting the market when technology is always changing, it is difficult to ‘future proof’ digital products. And what if a new game-changer comes out, so your new product suddenly looks dated as it launches? The issues of payment also arose in this category – should authors get royalties? Should the author role be promoted? The community of practice adds value to project, e.g. through the author promoting the product etc.

Conclusions

There is a lot of scope for materials (print and digital) to be more research informed. More research needs to be done into user experience of materials (funnily enough I was reading about this issue a few days ago in the intro to a mats dev book I borrowed from the ELTC library…edit: English Language Teaching Textbooks – Content, Consumption, Production edited by Nigel Harwood and published by Palgrave Macmillan)

A better quality of materials in digital would be good to see, going beyond the ‘workbook feel’, something more satisfying. Perhaps by incorporating different kinds of technology, making use of new possibilities.

Teachers need to be encouraged to research their own classrooms in this area. Training is also needed for how to integrate digital and print in the classroom. It’s really difficult for busy teachers to explore all the digital stuff and work out what would work well together in the classroom in terms of blending the digital and the non-digital.

Heather and Julie recommended How to write for digital media and How to write ESOL materials, both published by ELT Teacher2Writer and finished by showing us their reference list for this talk:

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Another very interesting session with lots of discussion to get our teeth into! During this session I was sitting next to Antonia Clare, so it was really interesting, in the discussion elements, to hear about things from a long-time published author’s perspective.

Materials Writing SIG Session 3 – Looking after number one

Bev Alderson led the third session of the day. She tells us we will learn about the impact of too much sitting and take away tools/techniques to help counter this. Bev used to work in IT Management – 18 years – and learnt firsthand what it’s like to have a high-pressure desk-bound job. She pushed herself to the point of being very unwell and so life made her stop and learn how to work properly and look at wellness in a different way. She starts with the question “What do I want to achieve? What wellness techniques can I implement to help with that?”

Sitting burns 1 calorie where standing burns 3, sitting compresses digestion and breathing, so nutrients don’t travel so well. The average person spends 9.3hrs a day sitting – watching telly, drive, eat, work etc. This has an impact. Mind and body are in the same vessel, mind gets less oxygenated blood when sitting. It takes 90 seconds of standing for muscular and cellular systems to kick back in. They work purely by taking our bodyweight.

So, one thing we can do is interrupt our sitting. Stand up and move. Scientists reckon sitting for 6hrs a day = smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. However, there are three key things we can do to help:

  1. Ergonomics
  2. Preventing/alleviating symptoms of sitting
  3. Wellness plan

Ergonomics

The human body was designed to move not sit. We need to think about that and how our desk and chair work. Our spine was meant to be straight: Sit closer to your desk and you will sit up straighter. This will also line up shoulders and elbows. If people hunch over their desks for too long, the spine will curve permanently. The head weighs 5kgs. Hence the aches in the shoulders and upper back from incorrect carriage. Ideally have a chair that provides lumbar support to support the spine. A rolled up towel or cushion is an option. Don’t hold the mouse when you are not using it. It pulls your shoulder forward. Don’t cross your legs for too long as the alignment of your hips will go out and the spine will adjust to that and then will continue to do so.

*Being busy slows down pain receptors…

Your arm rests should be adjustable so that they support your arms. A wrist support is also useful. And for your eyes, every now and again look off into the distance then come back, to give your eyes a rest.

Preventing and alleviating symptoms

But even with a perfect sitting position, you still need to MOVE!! So interrupting your sitting is good. Bev showed us a series of exercises which it was very pleasant to do on a day that involved such a lot of sitting still! Below:

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These help to alleviate the structural changes that sitting unfortunately pushes.

Wellness Plan

You decide what to do to recover. What are the few doses of wellness you can do on a regular basis to support body and mind so that it works optimally for us?

What will you do every day?

  • You need to look for ways to move more.
  • Need to be active in moving body position throughout the day.
  • Food is fuel or fun? 80% fuel, 20% fun.
  • 10 minute walks
  • Use a water glass. Keep going to refill it (especially when your room is up two flights of steps…). Keep going to empty your bladder!
  • Do you need to be sat down for all your activities? Can you stand instead? Standing all day is also no good but breaking it up is good.
  • Do something fun every day! A dose of daily wellness! (Hobbies, socialising…)
  • Rest: take breaks.
  • Use breathing exercises to reset nervous system