IATEFL 2016 Online: Enhancing writing and speaking outcomes using Google Apps (Joe Dale)

Joe’s session was…fast. In keeping with my approach to blogging about these online sessions, I will just share a few things I learnt together with my comments on them. I recommend that you watch the full recording to find out more!

The first thing to say is that I am already familiar with some Google Apps. However, that that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something from Joe’s session.

Google Docs

I’m guessing you all know what Google Docs is? Most people do, it’s been around a while. Basically it’s a web-based version of Word that enables multiple editors to make changes to a document simultaneously and comment on each others’ changes. This makes it perfect for collaboration. Students can work together to produce a piece of writing, teachers can comment on it, other students can comment on it and everybody can respond to everybody else’s comments on it. (If you want to know more/see it in action, watch Joe’s session!)

A simple yet excellent tip from Joe, that I will use when I next use Google docs with students:

  • If you are having multiple students edit one document at once, insert a table so that the document is divided up into sections. This way, each student, pair or group can take one section and you eliminate the potential issue of students writing on top of each other!

I did a lot of collaborative writing using Google Docs during my two summers teaching on Sheffield University’s pre-sessional programme and this did not occur to me! The students did manage to sort it out themselves (by using enter to find a space further down the shared page to type on) but this would be a much quicker way to do it. Another potential option is to use Google presentations and then each student/group gets a separate slide. However, by using Google Docs in the way Joe suggests, the editable space is unlimited and the Document expands to absorb any extra room needed by the editors.

Chrome Extensions

I didn’t know about these! Hopefully the link should take you to Chrome Store where you can download them for free, otherwise put the name in your Google search bar and it will give you the appropriate link! Once you have installed them, your browser bar will look like this:

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After Diigo and Evernote (the “d” and the elephant respectively), you will see Tab Scissors, Tab Glue and Voice Notes.

  • Tab Scissors: This splits a window containing multiple tabs into two equal screens side-by-side with the split occurring at the tab you are on when you click the scissors. It basically means you can quickly have a look at 2 screens at once, without needing to create multiple windows by extracting the tab you want to see and resizing both new and initial screens. Like the Word keyboard shortcuts I wrote about here, this is  a nifty little time-saver!
  • Tab Glue: This basically undoes what Tab Scissors does! So once you no longer need to see two windows at once, you click on the Tab Glue icon and it puts all your tabs back how they were to start with.
  • Talk and comment: This enables you to make a voice note at any point when you are in a Chrome browser window. Once you have installed it (at which point you will see it in your tool bar as above), you will see a little microphone at the righthand edge of your browser window. Click on this and it pops up a little time counter with a red cross and a green tick beneath it, which is your recording. Speak and then once you have finished, click the green tick. It then generates a link which you can share with others. As far as Google docs is concerned, you can paste it into a comment and the student will see the link in the comment with “Voice note” in brackets after the link. So it’s a little bit like Jing except voice only!

Soundation

This is an app that enables you to make and edit voice recordings. (Much like Audacity, Wavepad or Garage, for those you familiar with any of those) If you google Soundation, and go to the first website that appears, you will see at the top of your browser window “Soundation Studio“, which you need to download and register to use. However, if you scroll down a little, you will see Soundation for Chrome. If you click on this link, then you can use Soundation within your browser window without registering or downloading anything.

In Soundation, you can create multiple audio channels, into which you can directly record yourself and/or others speaking:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.34.33

 

You tell it which audio channel to use by clicking on the one you want it to use, thereby selecting it. If you use Tab Scissors to split your windows, you can look at Google Docs with your Voice Notes comments and Soundation at the same time. You can hit record in Soundation, then play on your Voice Note and Soundation will record your voice note:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.45.39

In this way, you can create a single sound file that knits together a series of comments, making it into a dialogue. So, students could create a dialogue in Google docs using the Voice Notes app and then you could turn it into a complete file and share it, for example using Padlet. You would have to first export it to your desktop as a .wav file (which you can do without registering still – just File -> Export) and then upload it to the platform e.g. Padlet that you are using to share it.

Gotta love technology! This stuff all has tons of potential! I like how simple Soundation is to use. I didn’t manage to follow Joe’s explanation but a minute or two of clicking around and I had the hang of it. I also love the Scissors and Glue thing for viewing two tabs and then putting things back how you had them in the first place in a couple of easy clicks. Time-savers are always a win in my book! I do question, though, with the Talk and Comment, just as with Jing, exactly where all these files that you get links to end up?! You know, you get the link to them so the link links to somewhere out there in the big interweb world, but where? And can I ever delete them? Answers on a postcard! Anyway, again, I recommend watching the recording – it’s literally 24 minutes long. And you get a lot for your minutes!! 

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IATEFL 2016 – Q and A follow-up to David Crystal’s plenary

Thank you British Council/IATEFL Online for enabling me to catch up with the follow up Q and A session for David Crystal’s fantastic opening plenary. Seeing David talk is always a treat.

I am not going to write up the whole session – I recommend that you instead spend half an hour watching it here. You might want to watch the recording of his plenary here first, though, to contextualise the Q and A!

Instead, I am just going to pick out a few things and comment on them:

  • Language play is taking place in all languages not just English – students are aware of that, whatever their age. They know that people play with language. The teacher’s job is to somehow grade their encounters with variety in both spoken and written environments. This enhances the standard learning experience: standard is standard because it is not non-standard and vice versa. The two things are always playfully interacting with each other. A teacher doesn’t teach standard English alone, or non-standard English as a separate subject, but somehow the interplay between the two so that one learns when one is learning a standard feature of the language that there are also non-standard variants.

I love this idea of teaching the interplay between the two! I think it’s important too – teaching standard English alone wouldn’t prepare students for the reality of English as it is used in the world today. 

  • The most popular component of the A-Level English Language course is language change. Both dimensions: language development (in the sense of a child learning to speak) and the deterioration at the other end of the spectrum, but also the change in trends of usage through the centuries and through living memory. The students love it because it gives them a sense of ownership of the language. They can discover for themselves the changes that are taking place. Last week’s cool words are not this week’s cool words. E.g. text messaging, of the “C U L8R” variety. Used to be popular, in 2003/4/5, messages were full of abbreviations. It was fashionable. (David always gets the teacher to get the students to collect text message data in advance of his visits). Last year, there wasn’t a single abbreviation to be seen. Not even an “lol” to be seen. They are not cool anymore. Why? Because adults started doing it! “I stopped doing it when my dad started” David predicts the same thing will happen to emojis. He gives them five years. Language change is happening now, as well as being something that has happened.

I feel old… Also, for anyone who, I was, is unsure about the difference between emoticons and emojis, here is a Guardian article that explains it! I wonder what will come after emojis? Am I old if I still use emoticons rather than emojis unless they auto-convert? For example, in WhatsApp you can select from a menu of emojis but if you put : – ) (without the spaces) then it stays that way rather than auto-converting into the relevant emoji. The only reason I really use emojis is because they have appeared as conversions of my emoticons. I don’t tend to bother selecting them from emoji menus. I must definitely be old!

Anyway, I love the idea of students collecting and analysing their message data!

  • Language doesn’t have an independent existence from society. It is explained by what is going on elsewhere. E.g. in the UK, breaking down of social class system, increase in cultural diversity, things to do with gender, race and stereotyping. We have become a more egalitarian society. You would expect language to reflect those trends. So, once upon a time certain accents were considered subservient because RP developed at the end of the 18th century into upper class English. Then came the middle class, the nouveau riche, build the railways, made textile machines, built roads etc. One day, the Duke invites the industrialist to dinner and suddenly the industrialist realises he does not know how to behave. So books on etiquette and elocution appear, with the elocution movement. Elocutionists became millionaires in those days. The people writing the manuals on pronunciation use words like “horrible” and “vile” to describe other accents. RP developed as a contrast with the regional accents of the time. As soon as the class distinction starts to break down, so attitudes change, the accent changes and people would modify their RP accent to sound ‘less posh’. However, not all regional accents have gone up-market equally. Some accents are considered positively but some inner city accents have got a long way to go before they achieve a complete range of positive responses. But give it time.

Isn’t the history of language/society fascinating?! And accent/attitudes to accent as well. I love non-‘BANA’ country English accents. And regional accents. With regards to my own accent, whenever people delve into the “where are you from?” question with me, they always go something like “aha! I thought you didn’t sound English” (as in England English)! When my sister and I were young and we (as in the family rather than us two personally!) got our first telephone with an inbuilt answering machine (very exciting! It was able to send and receive faxes too!!!), my sister had a great time recording variations of the message that people would get if they rang and we didn’t pick up. Amongst others, she took off to perfection a posh English accent, saying we were back home in the UK and had gone to London Zoo! Which was all the funnier because neither of us thought of the UK as home, of course. For me, Botswana English accents as well as some other African country English accents sound warm and homely, because they remind me of my childhood I suppose. 

  • You can never predict the future when it comes to language. Who, 1000 years ago, would have predicted that no one would know Latin? What will we be speaking in 1000 years? Could be Martian, if they have landed. One of the penalties of success – i.e. if a language becomes a global language – is that the language becomes owned by everybody. Then you get two forces – the need for intelligibility and the need for identity. In many parts of the world, you have standard English taught in schools and a non-standard English spoken on the streets. Language is messy, though, and things start to overlap. Things start to creep from one to the other and vice versa. The important thing is: when you encounter this problem, don’t think of it as a language learning problem, it’s just an issue inherent in a global language. You go backwards and forwards between standard and non-standard English.

I wonder if Martians would use emojis too… Anyway, I love the image of the back-and-forth-ing between standard English and peoples’ own varieties of English the world over, as intelligibility breaks down and is restored and stabilised then breaks down again. But rather than “breaks down” which has negative connotations, I want a more neutral word for it. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in trying to build meaning with different people from different places, as long as everyone is aware that it may occasionally go astray! 

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, I highly recommend that you watch the full recording of both the plenary and this little Q and A session!

IATEFL 2016 Tackling Native Speakerism (Marek Kiczkowiak, Burcu Akyol, Christopher Graham, Josh Round)

After this morning’s plenary, I couldn’t resist coming to this session to see the discussion continue. This time it’s a panel of speakers rather than Silvana holding the fort alone, and I have to say I am surprised that there aren’t more people here!

Marek introduced the session, telling us that there will be about half an hour the panel talking and then the discussion will open to the floor. He of course alluded to this morning’s plenary and what a difficult act it is to follow.

(Edit: It was tricky keeping up with everything, so please use the comments to let me know if you think I’ve made a mistake/missed something!)

The panel are:

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The plan is:

IMG_20160414_172957

We start by looking at a job ad from TEFL.com. As Silvana mentioned, such ads are common. Depending on where you are in the world, between 72 and 88% of ads request native speakers.

What is Native Speakerism? It was coined Adrian Holliday in 2005. Like other isms, it’s a kind of discrimination/prejudice/bias. Teachers are classified on the basis of their mother tongue. Those who fit the native speaker description get a better deal, those who don’t will often struggle. In Japan, Houghton and Rivers pointed out that Holliday’s definition was limited as it also affects Native Speakers there, in that they can only lead conversation classes so development is limited.

It influences professional opportunities, recruitment policies, teacher training, SLA research with its monolingual bias where the native speaker is the ideal model. However, it can be tackled in various ways, which is what this session is going to look at. For example, proactive research that doesn’t separate NS and NNS into two different species and rather than identifying problems offers solution. There will also be reference to examples of bottom-up action, top-down action and how to be involved and committed to this.

Burcu Akyol

She started learning English at Middle School. Her whole learning experience took place in Turkey. She wants to tell us about IATEFL 2009 in Cardiff, her first experience. Her presentation had been rejected by another organisation due to not being a native speaker. Teachers want to listen to native speakers, she was told. After that bitter experience, she expected few people in her session at IATEFL and was then shocked to have around 60 people in her room. This was a big turning point for her, in terms of of her perception of herself as a Turkish English teacher. Things are changing. Turkish presenters may not be turned down but they may have fewer audience members. As Silvana pointed out this morning, over 80% of English teachers are NNS. So we need to talk about this discrimination issue more openly.

In Turkey learning English is considered very important. Policy makers decided to employ a large number of NS teachers to teach alongside NNS teachers. There have been similar attempts in other countries: to import NS teachers to cure ‘the problem’. However, after 2011 there was no more said regarding that policy announcement. Fortunately. Policy makers need to support NNS language development and teaching skills. This will produce more permanent results than employing 40,000 NS.

It’s not about being NS or NNS, it’s about being qualified. Both have strengths and weaknesses, things found easier and more difficult. We need to free ourselves from our prejudices and stereotypes, leave aside prejudices to really talk about education.

Christopher Graham

He is lucky because when he qualified as a teacher, with a British passport as a NS there were lots of opportunities. It was great. Someone said to him, why has he got involved with this TEFL Advocacy movement because he thinks EVERYONE should have these opportunities. His interest comes from reflecting on his own personal luck. The plenary this morning was a significant moment. The issue has now gone mainstream. It has been around for a long time, some of the research is quite old, but now we are talking about it. Trouble is, talking doesn’t get things done, we need to start DOING something.

One thing that Christopher has done is write about it. He found a bunch of people like Marek, offered them some questions to answer and had some incredible viewing figures. He also had nasty hate mail such as “You are betraying your tribe”. (Wow…) However, the point is, we can all write, blog, Facebook, to get the message out there. 96% of the teachers Christopher works with are NNS teachers teaching in their own countries. He asked for a university posters to be taken down, with “Native Speaker” above his picture. Amongst certain communities there is a perception that “Native Speaker” is something special. A lot of bilingual and NNSTs can be their own worst enemies. So Christopher has started bringing this up as a topic. Some people think he is just trying to flatter/win brownie points. But then they also see the possibility of being valued. So he spends time talking about what NNS bring to the party. It is tremendously important to do this. To sow seeds.

He also thinks its important to say he does have sympathy with the small private school owner working somewhere with the 20 year long USP of the Native Speaker. It’s like telling McDonalds to go vegan. Change will be a slow process to go through… He is not pretending that bilingual speakers (and monolingual!) need language support has part of professional development. It is a question of going out there and doing something. If it makes one teacher feel more positive about looking for employment, then that’s already something!

Josh Round

Josh has been a DoS for 10 years, in London. UK-centric context. As a DoS of course he is a recruiter. It’s about having a fair and equal process. The starting point is having an Equals Ops policy and a mission statement. Inclusiveness would be a good word to have in a mission statement – applies to staffing as well as students. If there is an HR department (unusual), they can help, otherwise it comes down to the DoS. Instead of having shortlisting filters that look at L1 and country of origin, look at the competencies needed for your teaching team. Pedagogical skills, language proficiency, behaviours. These become your recruitment criteria. The process has to be quite systematic. Needs a system that minimises bias and has a balance of perspectives.

The next thing is this idea that students only want native speakers. In Josh’s experience that’s not true, as Silvana’s myth-debunking research showed. Students want and value other things i.e. having a great teacher (who could be native or non-native  – and bad and good are present in both categories!). It is important to say that English proficiency has to be talked about. This is the difficult decision area. If you are open about your approach, at some point you need to make a judgement call on level of proficiency. “Native speaker competence required” should be moved away from, instead “competent user of English” – but what does it mean? This can be a difficult area for recruiters. Managers who do recruit NNS say that students will sometimes complain and that the most common complaint is accent and pronunciation. Of course NS teachers have some special accents too.. So what do we mean? And of course English is a world language which students will need to deal with in the real world. So let’s have different varieties on the team to expose students to.

Be ready to deal with complaints. They’ll come along. Have your strategies and deal with them in the same as any other. What do they want? What do they think they need to learn the language effectively? Then educate them. Also important to be transparent, celebrate the strengths of your team and that becomes your selling point. NNEST CAN be best. Be open in your process and if the best candidate is NNEST, then go for it. They can offer a lot, as has been discussed. On a team of teachers, you need diversity to offer different, complementary skill-sets. Recruiters who have positive experiences of this kind of recruitment should share it, get it out there.  It’s about raising awareness.

Question/comment/story time

  • Teacher trainer in Egypt: only NS working with bilingual teachers, gets lots of daft questions from middle management e.g. when should be give the children sandwiches? can you take this class because you are an NS. How to deal with this kind of situation in a positive, proactive way? What to say when put in that situation? Josh: Suggest some kind of meeting or focus group with teachers and managers. Audience 1 (bilingual teacher): Josh’s idea is one, but also dealing with it in a natural way. “Sure I can do that but not because I am a native teacher but because I can handle the sandwiches or whatever.” So it’s not the fact of being born in a particular country that gives you skills, point that out gently. Audience 2: When it comes to the sandwiches, it’s a culture problem. Sandwiches is British therefore… Teacher trainer: wants to offer teachers sessions etc but it’s the middle management that are the real challenge as she has less access to them. Audience 3: If you really don’t think should be the one doing the sandwiches – “I could but I think soandso would be better doing it.”
  • (Audience) Teachers association perspective, South of Germany: a couple of years ago in first year as chair, uncomfortable with the fact that job adverts on the website were being accepted with NS speakers only. Didn’t know what to do about it, wasn’t until she came across Marek’s website that it’s illegal to do this, as goes against the charter of human rights. With this piece of ammunition, she felt she had the courage to say to potential employers that the adverts wouldn’t be accepted as it contravenes international law. The feedback was positive in terms of hadn’t thought of that before and were willing to change it to something acceptable e.g. proficient in English. Encourage your local association to do this, to disallow this kind of advert. Josh: a lot of influence may lie in management associations. Marek: native-like is a bit like a requirement for man-like strength and bravery. It is discriminatory. If you say C1/C2 level at least it is something that a bilingual teacher can attain, unlike “native-like”. A proficiency level is much fairer.
  • Audience: The idea is going against “native” as the norm. To get around it. According to the Fair List, if the two sexes are represented equally among the plenaries, then they get a tick. Would IATEFL 2016 get a tick if such a thing existed for NS-NNS? Marek: No and a half? Audience 2: feels she has been treated as a pseudo-native speaker, which is a whole other level of discrimination. Christopher Graham: It takes time. A lot of people don’t know about the EU law and that is a great stick. Audience 3: We need to move away from a yes-no tick. How can we create more a community and avoid the hate mail discussion. We need to be careful not to antagonise. Christopher: the haters were mostly Johns (re Silvana’s speech) – blokes of his age, mainly Brits living in South East Asia.
  • Teacher trainer in Oxford: Not much to be done about that kind of people but on CELTA courses where she is there are a mixture of NS and NNS, which is an opportunity to get groups to cooperate. I’m a Non-Native Speaker here me roar! Exec Room 7 11am.
  • Audience (bilingual speaker): two years ago at IATEFL giving a talk to an audience of teachers, about teaching unplugged. Live listening was mentioned, using the teacher as a source of listening to the learners. An NNS was angry because she didn’t feel that solved her problem. That mindset is problematic. That NNST do feel less than NS. It is an issue.
  • Audience (bilingual speaker): A key question is teacher development – it’s how we differentiate teachers. Most teachers in Brazil are B1/B2 tops and there is nothing being done to deal with that. When she was doing her CELTA, a key point of development for her was language proficiency, she was advised to do a language certificate. There is a myth that talking about a teacher’s language level is offensive but she doesn’t feel it is. Why don’t we actually talk about a proficiency level for teachers, what IS a good level of proficiency for English teachers in general (NS or NNS!) Marek: Agree, you can’t be a maths teacher without knowing maths and there are different levels of knowing maths. Same in English. However, important to remember that proficient speaker does not necessarily equate to proficient teacher. Of course if you are low-level, you need to improve it. But we need to avoid an obsession
  • Audience (Nepal): Nepal is multilingual, ethnically complex. In his class, the students come from 10 different language backgrounds. Students rejected a teacher because they couldn’t understand what she said. The problem was her accent was a native speaker accent. From his perspective, a level of proficiency is needed but who designs the test? How is he or she judged? If an NS develops a test, an NNS may not get the level but they may still be suited to teaching in a different country. For example, IELTS, a teacher may not get 7 but may be a good teacher in a particular context.

Wrap up (Marek )

There are lots of positives. TESOL International, TESOL France with public statements. Lots of websites are changing the way they are hiring teachers. EU Legislation helps but there is still the issue of “Native level of fluency”. There are also different levels of qualification required depending on language background. (E.g. a native speaker only required to have a Batchelor degree while a non-native speaker is required to have a Masters or a PhD!)

Ours is a strange profession, which accepts discrimination. What makes or breaks a teacher is passport and mother tongue. It is time to change that.

Visit the TEFLEquity website for more information. 

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.

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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!