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:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.15.45

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!! 

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 Online: Self-marketing for English teachers – use your strengths for competitive advantage

Now that IATEFL 2016 is over, I am prolonging the enjoyment and learning by catching up with all the recordings of sessions I missed. I plan to work through the list of recordings in the order they appear, picking out and watching any titles that grab my attention (or that had grabbed my attention while I was at IATEFL!). 

This first one – Self-marketing for English teachers: use your strengths for competitive advantage, by Jenny Giambalvo Rode, intrigued me for several reasons. Firstly, at IATEFL this year, Sandy Millin was giving me tips on “branding” myself better (and given everyone knows who she is, it seemed worth listening to those!), such as slightly altering the name of my blog (did you notice the change?), so this idea of ‘self-marketing’ has been on my radar. Secondly, I recently watched Kirsten Holt (of Macmillan)’s webinar on networking, which I had been meaning to do since she did at the end of March. I’m pretty sure that, prior to this year, I’ve never noticed there being a webinar devoted to networking and similarly a conference session devoted to ELT teacher self-marketing. (I could be wrong though! Anyone care to correct me?!) Of course in itself it’s not a new concept – freelancers have long had to think about how best to, well, get work(!). My perception, though, is that this ‘marketing oneself’ aspect of being an English Language Teacher is becoming more mainstream. Look at this description of Kirsten’s recent webinar:

“This webinar is aimed at ELT teachers and professionals working in all sectors and settings.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 16.21.42

You will notice, too, that the title for Jenny’s talk is “Self-marketing for English teachers” not “freelance teachers” or “freelance online teachers” but ‘English teachers’ – in general. As the job market becomes more competitive, and work is harder to come by, perhaps it IS something that all teachers need to think more about? What do you think? 

Self-marketing for English teachers – use your strengths for competitive advantage

Jenny, the head of department at an adult education centre and a bilingual German and Italian speaker, says as teachers we are a one-person company and our students are consumers. She wants to help us work on our self-marketing strategies.

Of your soft skills and professional skills, what one would you choose as being the one that would make the difference between getting a job or not? Examples are flexibility, networking, connections, empathy, people knowledge, creativity… She asks the audience to keep this in mind as we proceed. Next we have to look at the market – the schools, universities, businesses around you, in your area. Are you living in a small village? A big town? And where would you like to work? Is the institution you want to work at in your location?

This is all part of a SWOT analysis. These are used to make the current situation clear, in terms of you and your market. We’ve looked at strengths but think about what could be the weakness of what you consider to be your strength. E.g. friendly – you can make a connection with the kids, but too friendly and maybe they will just do what they want. With opportunities, you need to think about what you can do. How can you increase your skills? When you think about weaknesses, strengths and opportunities, you have to think about time. Distinguish between short, middle and long-term action. A short-term action for getting a job might be going down to the job market and submitting your CV. A middle-term action would be like Jenny making a year long plan to speak at IATEFL this year, including improving English and submitting a proposal. A long-term action would be thinking about where you want to be in 5 years and then thinking about a plan of how to get there, using your strengths and building on them. You need something to make you stand out from your colleagues in a positive way. Think about yourself as a one person business, with a business profile in your head.

Now think about your target group, i.e. the type of students you would like to teach. Business people? Children? What is your target group? Your business profile should fit with your target group. One of the most important things in marketing is finding your niche. It’s a simple marketing strategy. The smaller the niche is, the greater your opportunity and your advantage because there is less competition. Identify your opportunities, based on your location and your goals. For example, you could become an examiner.

Once you have your profile and your strategies, you need to get them out there. You need to be visible online, for your audience/future bosses etc. For example, you could join the TELC community. In Europe, Twitter and Facebook are good for networking, worldwide there are other platforms and social media that are more important. (I suppose LinkedIn fits in here too!) You make your own business profile and you need to decide if you will have two separate accounts for private and business or only one for both) and use it to connect with different people and places. Networking is what marketing needs and does. Use conferences not only to improve skills but also to network. You never know what it might lead to.

Give yourself deadlines. When you set goals, give yourself a completion date. Jenny concludes by inviting us to a webinar about SWOT analysis that she is planning to deliver in May.

My first reaction is that it all sounds so business-y what with all the SWOT analysis and every teacher is a one-person company and students as consumers etc! (I recommend you watch the session though, and form your own opinions…)

I suppose, though, jargon aside, that it’s always useful to be reminded to think about short, medium and long term career goals. That said, I am in less of a hurry than I used to be career-wise. I think this is possibly because I have already done a lot in a short time: I feel I’m now in a position to build on that more steadily rather than continue to be in the haring hurry that I was in previously. (Hopefully this means I will grow steadily and avoid burn-out!) So, I absolutely still have goals (for example I really want to do a PhD or Ed Doc at some point and I would also like to become a teacher trainer) but they don’t have time-limits attached currently. (Hence, “at some point”) That said, there are plenty of projects in the pipeline now/in the near future (some research I want to do, a book I’m supposed to be co-writing etc) and of course there are the most pressing short-term goals of all which are doing the best job I can in my current job (including learning how to teach EAP better!) and securing work somewhere come September when my current contract finishes!

Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this session! Have you done a swot analysis recently? Do you consider yourself a one-person company? (If yes, are you freelance or do you work for someone else?) What do you do to “market” yourself?

IATEFL 2016: “A hundred thousand things to see!”

The title of this post is a somewhat obscure reference to a ten-minute talk I did last year at IHTOC (IH Teachers Online Conference) in which I used the lyrics of Aladdin to try and persuade my audience of the benefits of attending a conference! It also reflects the reason for this post. The truth is, even though I did manage to see over 20 talks  for every one I saw, there was at least another I also wanted to see and missed! Too many things to see… 🙂

Fortunately, the British Council IATEFL Online 2016 site means I (and many others) can play catch-up! The conference lives on a little while longer. 🙂 Thank you, British Council folk and IATEFL folk involved, for making this possible!

Here are a few of the talks I plan to have a look at:

  • Self-marketing for English Teachers – use your strengths for competitive advantage
  • Q and A session relating to David Crystal’s plenary session
  • Enhancing speaking and writing outcomes using Google Apps
  • Forum on special educational needs – creating positive inclusive learning opportunities
  • The ELTJ debate – “This house believes that teacher training is a waste of time”
  • Forum on encouraging teacher reflection
  • National Geographic Learning Signature Event – What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?
  • Chatting in the academy – exploring spoken English for academic purposes
  • Reviewing qualifications and CPD: helping meet teachers’ training needs
  • ELT Conversation
  •  Visual literacy in creating classroom materials
  • Catering for trainee diversity on CELTA courses

All of these recordings can be found on the Sessions page of the British Council IATEFL Online website. What a valuable resource!

I also want to have a look at some of the interviews that were conducted during the conference, all of which can be found on the Interviews page of the British Council IATEFL Online website. For example:

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 19.40.45 Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 19.41.14 Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 19.41.31 Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 19.43.46

In addition to the sessions collected on the British Council IATEFL Online website, you can also watch sessions done and recorded by Macmillan, which will be available on their page here. The two I most want to catch up with are:

  • Flourish not flounder: using teaching competences for professional development
  • The teacher of tomorrow: professional development through informal learning

Plenty to wade through, then, but that’s ok – I’ve got nearly a whole year to finish before IATEFL rolls round again and this particular list gets topped up again! Similar to my newly made language learning contract, this is a mini CPD contract – the difference is, though, that the language learning one accounts for the sum total of my language learning while this one doesn’t account for the sum total of my CPD!

How about you, which IATEFL online talks and interviews do you want to catch up with?!

 

IATEFL 2016 Plenary Day 4 1966 and all that: a critical history of ELT (Scott Thornbury)

The last day has come all too soon…

Scott starts with a warm up. He gives us some significant dates in his life: 1950, 1975, 1992, 2000. 1950, he was born. 1975, significant career landmark: started teaching! Will revisit that moment shortly. 1992, first IATEFL conference (in Lille, France). 2000, at an IATEFL conference in Dublin he coined the term grammar McNuggets – little bitesized chunks of language that we love teaching, that form the nutrition of our syllabuses, on the assumption that if we deliver enough of them, the students will magically absorb them and language learning will take place. Also likens it to feeding seals – here is the past continuous, catch that! A metaphor he saw in a talk recently.

On the theme of chronology, given it’s the 50th anniversary of IATEFL, it seems appropriate to map the lifeline our profession. The reference in the title:

IMG_20160416_091138

In the introduction to this book, history is not what you think, it’s what you can remember. Today will be the history that Scott can remember. He collects old course books, old grammars, old dictionaries etc.

IMG_20160416_091318

The titles wouldn’t resonate now – “Interesting English”? come on, it would have to be “Awesome English” and what would the follow up to “I’m learning English” be? “I’m still learning English”?!

He shows us a cover:

IMG_20160416_091357

It’s interesting to look at the transcript inside…

IMG_20160416_091427

English for interrogation purposes? In 1965, this was the height of the cold war. Looking at the credits for this book, one of the names, Weiman, is from the department of war…

However, 1966 (50 years ago):

TESOL was founded. And Chomsky said he was skeptical about the significants for the teaching of languages such insights and understandings as have been attained in linguistics and psychology.” Another voice that gave a counter-discourse in linguistics, Dell Hymes. He gave a talk about communicative competence though it wasn’t published till a few years later. But the idea is born that linguistic competence isn’t the be all and end all: communicative competence also includes sociolinguistic and strategic competence. It was an interesting, fresh look at what language competence is. Had a knock-on effect for course design and methodology.

Newmark, L. wrote How not ot interfere with language learning. Incredibly presciently, he said, if we just teach the little bits of language, there are so many of them, by the time we’ve taight them and practiced them, a child will be an adult and an adult will be dead. It’s not the case that language is additive and linear, or no one would ever learn it. “An important test of our success as language teachers…is the ability of our students to choose to say what they want.” The alternative put forward was doing tasks, that language was learning a whole act at a time rather than individual items.

Pit Corder, an applied linguist at the university of Edinburgh, said that language is not knowledge but a set of skills. The teaching of it therefore must be different from the teaching of a content subject like science. In the same year, James Asher was propagating the view of total physical response. Niche methods were trying to fill the void left by the demise of the direct method.

1967

Saw the foundation of IATEFL (the I being added). The first conference was in London. Scott alludes to Richard Smith’s blog tracing the history of IATEFL. The then president said that the much publicised revolution is not a leap forward but a regression into routine and dullness. There were collections of papers that are fascinating from then, there is quite a lot of controversy.

Louis Alexander’s First Things First was published, and it was based on a very structural view of the language. Error was very much frowned upon…

IMG_20160416_092337

H.V. George was also error phobic:

IMG_20160416_092447

In a paper called the significance of learner errors, Pit Corder talks about the ‘built in syllabus’, saying we need to learn more about the way the learner learns and their ‘built in syllabus’.

So on the one hand, no errors, errors are bad, on the other errors are inevitable, deal with it, and they don’t necessarily come from L1 interference.

Then we look at some children’s English books. The language used isn’t very frequent…

IMG_20160416_092711

1969

L.G. Kelly’s (New Zealand scholar and applied linguist)’s 25 Centuries of Language Teaching, he wasn’t looking at methods but methodologies and the ideologies that underpin them. “Methods are of little interest”. One generation’s heresy becomes the orthodoxy of the next. Out with the old, in with the new. This seemed to be about to happen in the late sixties. There was also a major cultural revolution going on in reaction to the cold war and the Vietnam war and that’s captured a progressive moevement in education generally:

IMG_20160416_093033

Times were changing, it was the Zeitgeist of the late 60s.

1971

At a conference in Switzerland, a group of people got together to plan an approach to the teaching of languages in Europe. The Council of Europe in Switzerland aimed to reform and standardise the teaching of languages and devise a framework for adult language learning based on the needs of the learner and things required of them to function in a target language community.

Chris Candlin presented a paper called “Sociolinguistics and communicative language teaching” at IATEFL. The very word communication hadn’t really penetrated into our field until then but suddenly started to take off.

IMG_20160416_093324

1972

At last the first woman in a sequence of white males produced a paper based on her own classroom research “Communicative competence: an experiment in foreign language teaching’. Widdowson’s article on the teaching of English for communication also appeared in ELTJ. There was also the first conference focusing on communicative language teaching and the first ‘morpheme studies’ and diagrams started to appear which attempted to describe the order in which morphemes and inflections are acquired in first and second language, irrespective of the first language.

1975

International House Shaftsbury Avenue is where Scott got his certificate which alludes to “surprising lapses in grammar analysis”. Scott arrived as the major change away from the audio-lingual method was happening. The Threshold syllabus appeared and Strategies. So the syllabus was organised by notions and functions rather than grammar. Language described in terms of the purpose for which it was designed, rather than a series of structures to practice.

IMG_20160416_093737

What’s important is what people want to DO with language. This is where this undercurrent came to the surface in pedagogic materials.

So there were two intertwining but not interconnected discourses.

IMG_20160416_095654

On the one hand, there is the view of learning as being primarily cognitive and the nature of language/units of acquisition as structural and atomistic, the accumulation of entities of language, of accuracy being primary and the goal being NS-like proficiency. The new discourse came from social linguistics. It saw the units of language acquisition as communicative routines, larger acts or tasks, the acquisition of which was holistic not one at a time, and fluency was primary, with communicative competence being the aim. It seemed in 1975 that these two discourses that had been unravelling over the decades had finally been resolved in favour of the communicative approach.

BUT, had they? Of course, they were never resolved. The tension goes on. There was a reaction to it…the grammar syllabus was likened to bamboo, whatever you do to it, it keeps springing back up! Then we look at the introduction in a 1968 course book and a 2016 course book. Grammar is central. In some ways, not a lot has changed:

IMG_20160416_094340

What happened? Well, it’s easier to test grammar McNuggets…

IMG_20160416_094436

With a view to finding out what people think, Scott sent out a survey to try and unravel the mystery of why we can’t shake off the grammatical syllabus.

IMG_20160416_094626

He thought number 5 was interesting: that SLA researchers are wrong. These are probably climate change deniers as well… The earth is flat…

Many of the respondents had been teaching for more than ten years and had taught in a variety of different contexts. A fairly representative sample. In terms of student expectation, are they ever asked? Canagarajah found that since teachers thought that students thought that grammar was important, this is what they gave them.

Scott took some of the statements from the first survey and asked people to rather in terms of whether they agree or not. There is a mismatch between what we teach and what we believe. That for many people learning a language means learning the grammar, but not that grammar is the first and most essential factor in any language.

IMG_20160416_094927

IMG_20160416_094952

We need to free ourselves from being teachers of grammar and remember that we are part of the field of education and rebrand what we do as educational. SLA needs to be anchored in education.

IMG_20160416_095154

This is how he was going to end the talk but then when you stick your head over the parapet and look, you see that all is not well in the field of education either.

IMG_20160416_095244

The iconography in an advert for teaching is very business technology and ppt-heavy. This has penetrated into schools, turning them into service providers. The rhetoric/discourse of neoliberalism penetrates into the discourse of education.

IMG_20160416_095349

What’s associated with this is the proliferation of testing, standardised testing, which seems to have taken over (think of the number of suicidal children in Britain due to pressure of testing). There is something unhealthy about this. The atomisation of knowledge. You can deliver them and test them.

Granular is the new buzzword.

IMG_20160416_095534

It’s a good word for marketing a breakfast cereal but not for language. Even vocabulary is not granular, every word in the lexicon is connected to other words which are connected to other words in both the TL and other languages.

We’ve gone back to the lefthand side of this image:

IMG_20160416_095654

How can we find a way out of this dilemma?

There are three possible routes.

  1. The pragmatic route
  2. The dogmatic route
  3. The dialectic route

There is a view, another view that negates that ideology and then there is a synthesis of the two, which is more than the sum of its parts.

First one: it’s just a subject, it has coursebooks and a syllabus, you have to break it down and test it. Accept it, don’t get het up about it.

In 1930 the Coleman report was published, and they decided to forget fluency and focus on reading, the objective was the ability to read a foreign language. This was a pragmatic approach, not expecting fluency.

Second one: The dogmatic (dogmetic?) route – if we want to get rid of the grammar syllabus, get rid of the coursebook and go back to using the language as it was meant to be used, for whole acts, communicatively and work on emergent language etc. You can go even further and say let’s get rid of the teacher (flavour of Sugata Mitra’s plenary) as well, according to Scott.

Maria Montessori: The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say,”The children are now working as if I did not exist.”

Third one: Is there a way we can combine the traditional on the one hand and the view that language is learnt through use, is holistic etc on the other?

  • http://languagelearninginthewild/com – a wonderful idea, for the learning of Scandinavian/nordic languages, by adults who to go the country, are enrolled in classes but are sent out into the streets and have to do things like buy a croissant. The people who work in the shops have been coached/prepared in how to deal with silly foreigners who can’t speak the language. They take photos, record on their mobile phones, they take it back to the classroom and compare notes. The perfect fusion of experience and classrooms. They can also phone up a volunteer to help them if they get stuck. Uber teachers?!
  •  http://handsupproject.org – for children who cannot get out of the classroom, children from Gaza performed some songs and chants they had learned via Skype, here at IATEFL. We are shown a reverse picture dictation, where they draw something and then try and get Nick Bilborough to draw it, through a question and answer sequence. A fusion of traditional language classroom and real language use.

Ok, where are we going? 2066…

What can we predict? Probably the intertwining discourses will still be with us. The process of learning is not straight-forward. Even when it seems so, some teachers still go against the flow. Scott salutes these teachers.

IATEFL 2016 What is this thing called Academic English Language Proficiency? (Dr Pamela Humphreys)

Pamela works in Australia at a University in Queensland, in the area of in-sessional support. She also has many years of pre-sessional experience.

The number of students studying in English language contexts has increased massively since 1975 (0.8m) – in 2012 it was 4.5m and rising. “All the known world has a second language for advanced education” (Brumfit). English language proficiency is a critical factor for academic performance according to Cho and Bridgeman.

Let’s start with communicative competence, term coined by Hymes in the 60s but it was the work of Canale and Swain in the 80s that gave us this framework. Conceptual frameworks in academic education draw on this framework. In Canale and Swain, grammatical competence is joined by discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence and strategic competence. Since then, the framework has undergone several iterations. Bachman takes strategic competence out, subdivides the competencies into organisational (grammatical and textual) and pragmatic competence (illocutionary and sociolinguistic).

What’s quite interesting is that despite the fact we have 30-40 years of knowledge of these competencies, we don’t know how they interact or the relative weightings, of importance. Pamela also wanted to find out how they interact with academic english proficiency.

Cummins came up with Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS)  and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).

IMG_20160416_111702

He shows that the latter takes longer to develop and that there is little transference between the two. This was talking about children. Pamela wanted something similar for adults in higher education. A conceptual or theoretical model for Academic English Language Proficiency. She couldn’t find anything. Though there is a lot of information relating to academic discourse. We know a lot about it. EAP/ESP/ESAP, genre analysis, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and academic literacies.

“Academic writing is not a single undifferentiated mass but a variety of subject-specific literacies” (Hyland, 2002:352)

She found four models.

IMG_20160416_112009

Murray has a tripartite system. Academic literacy is not just study skills or socialisation but a plural literacies about social practice and making meaning, about identity and power. Professional literacies are what they need once the move into their working environment post-study. English language proficiency is something that can be cashed in to develop these other skills. Is there a threshold that students must surpass before they can develop these other literacies?

This vertical conception of academic literacy was criticised, of course. Harper, Prentice and Wilson include the same notions but with no threshold, they can be developed concurrently, not necessarily equally, but concurrently. They believe there is a core that can be used in all three contexts, everyday, professional and academic.

IMG_20160416_112206

O’Loughlin and Arkoudis (2012) take a different approach, dividing it into entry into higher education, time spent in education and the exit. The student lifecycle option. At entry they need a general academic communicative ability but as they go through their degree they need to develop more specific communicative language ability, specific to the discipline and by the time they graduate they need to have developed the language and skills necessary for their future trajectory.

IMG_20160416_112300

Mahboob in his Language Variation Model is talking about how language varies in different contexts with different uses.

IMG_20160416_112436

So he talks about the uses, the user and the mode. Uses can vary from the everyday to the specialised (including academic). Mode can vary from written to oral. Another dimension not shown is time. This gives rises to 8 different domains. Probably all of the last four apply to academic contexts.

IMG_20160416_112550

In terms of a summary, if we draw on all these frameworks, we know that language requires multiple competences, that there are varying contexts of use and proficiency should/can change over time. Pamela wanted to bring it all together to make one conceptual framework. (The frameworks we have looked at are conceptual not validated.)

She comes up with:

IMG_20160416_112824

She has three competences, three contexts of use (seen quite a lot in the academic frameworks) and they all intersect. She doesn’t think the lines are solid. The third aspect is proficiency, as we hope it will improve in the course of doing a degree.

It can show different levels of development:

IMG_20160416_113000

IMG_20160416_113012

It can show change over time:

IMG_20160416_113036

So that is her conceptual framework. How can we use it? It can be used for key stakeholders in the industry who are not experts, people who don’t understand what language is about but need to. Could also be used with teachers and students. It could be used to help in curriculum development, to track what has been included. What you tick or want to tick will depend on your context e.g. pre-sessional may not include the professional tick. At least it would be a principled decision. With students, you could use it as means of finding out what students feel confident and less confident about.

IMG_20160416_113134

Of course language is very complex, so underlying this 3×3 is the complexity of what we have already see, so we can unpack this. So we as linguistics can unpack the different aspects involved in each square.

IMG_20160416_113303

Here are Pamela’s references:

IMG_20160416_113647

p.humphreys@griffith.edu.au

IATEFL 2016: The LDT Toolkit (Damian Williams)

Damian starts by asking us what LDT stands for. It’s Language Development for Teachers. There are different ways for describing it. He chose this because it’s the same as the name of the specialism for Delta module 3. It also emphasises the developmental aspect.

Teacher development is often split into teacher education for teaching teachers about teaching and teacher training. Teacher training is more about developing skills e.g. CELTA, Delta, Trinity, with a very practical element. Continuing professional development is everything else e.g. webinars, conferences etc. He feels that LDT overlaps between them, as it is learning knowledge but also developing skills.

He wanted to find some figures of what the numbers of NESTs and NNESTs around the world are.

IMG_20160416_122042

Bigger numbers now, of course.

A lot of conference talks are based around the private language sector when in actual fact it’s a very small proportion of the language teaching that goes on in the world today. Damian lived in Brazil for 10 years and one of the things he was doing there was running workshops for teachers, on behalf of publishers. It was a thing they did for their best customers. Most of the teachers came from state schools with very large classes. A lot of the feedback was “this is great, sounds brilliant, but my reality of 30-40 kids, this wouldn’t work”.

There are some key issues involved here.

IMG_20160416_122547

First of all, definitions. We should all just be called teachers regardless of where we are from (rather than NEST and NNEST etc.) Damian asked people to answer some questions via FB groups but it’s complex!

IMG_20160416_122413

Most English spoken in the world today is as a second or foreign language. TEFLEquity are trying to raise awareness of discriminatory practices in recruitment etc.

Language proficiency is the focus of this talk. Why? Firstly, there isn’t much about in terms of published materials that does it already. Here are a few examples that do:

IMG_20160416_122638

Most TT courses focus on methodology and skills, where there is a language component it tends to be language awareness and looking at language as a system as opposed to practical uses. There is a lack of time on these courses, as there is a lot to do and get through. Building a language component into that would take too much time. Cullen (1994) quotes Berrry (1990) quotes lots of Polish teachers saying that their main use of English was in their classroom with their students, so they don’t get to practice English much outside the classroom. The demands of CLT adds even more pressure. Most teachers that Cullen spoke to wanted it. He says this in his article:

IMG_20160416_123207

Initial considerations

IMG_20160416_123233

  • Is this a GE course for general improvement or an ESP course specifically related to teaching? Damian opted for the latter.
  • What proportion of a course should it be? Damian wants to build it into the other components of the course.
  • How to incorporate experience? Damian heard a lot of “this is great but it wouldn’t work in my situation”  – how to deal with that?

Cullen sets out four approaches to LDT.

  1. ‘ignore’ it – do all the other development through the medium of English
  2. include an LDT component (does take a lot of time)
  3. link methodology and language work – using English as a medium of instruction but an add-on where you start to analyse the language used as well.
  4. make LDT central – give language lessons as you would normal but also demonstrate practice.

IMG_20160416_123621

Next, we try some activities within this approach. E.g. look at statements about error correction and agree/disagree with them. Some of the language is highlighted:

IMG_20160416_123909

Focus on the highlighted expressions.

  • Look at the expressions highlighted in yellow. Which have a positive or negative meaning? Which mean a large/small quantity?
  • Look at the expressions highlighted in green. For each one decide Does it have a positive/negative meaning? What other part of the text does it refer to? What do you think it means?

Next, Damian ‘sets up an activity’. Work in pairs. Each pair has a set of pictures that are the same but different. Pairs should describe their pictures to each other and find ten differences. Don’t show your partner your picture. Damian gives the instructions. Then we should answer questions about the demonstration.

IMG_20160416_125017

IMG_20160416_125049

The next activity is mini-bingo. Students write down one-word answers for themselves in the boxes and, comparing their answers in pairs, get a bingo each time theirs is the same as their partners. We are asked to practice eliciting feedback from a student who has done this activity. The first time A is going to be the teacher finding out the answers from B the student. A’s are given an extra instruction with B’s looking away!

IMG_20160416_125122

IMG_20160416_125337

Next, roles are changed and B’s get a different instruction.

IMG_20160416_125431

If we’re doing this in an LDT classroom, there are then some reflective questions.

IMG_20160416_125554

So this is partly an experiential approach, using Kolb’s cycle. We learn by doing and reflecting on what we have done. The CELTA is like a driving test, but says you are safe to be let loose on the classroom, it’s then through the years spent in the classroom that you really learn. Many teachers have many years of classroom experience, what we are doing is feeding into that experience within the circle. Teachers try things out, take them into the classroom and use them, then reflect on them.

IMG_20160416_125640

As Kirsten Holt said in her session yesterday:

IMG_20160416_125802

Other ideas for activities:

  • keeping logs/reflective journals e.g:

IMG_20160416_125852

  • Try out keywords/key phrases in class e.g. I need you to do x rather than Do x
  • Categorising phrases for different aspects of the lesson
  • Technique ‘bingo’ during observations
  • Encourage forums/online discussions helps with the idea of building confidence through sharing experiences
  • Matching phrases used in class to a list of techniques

This is all very kind of initial, Damian’s initial thoughts, but thinks there is a lot of scope for it.