IATEFL 2016 Opening Plenary

After a brilliant PCE day with MaW SIG, it is time for the opening plenary of the 50th anniversary of the IATEFL annual conference in Birmingham. Marjorie Rosenberg welcomes us to this ‘momentous event’ and tells us that Birmingham has more and longer canals than Venice! Who knew… (answer: Sandy knew!) She also told us about the many things going on and reminded us to take home an IATEFL teddy bear keyring, visit the IATEFL tree in the exhibition hall and take photos at the aforementioned tree or at the IATEFL frame, for a souvenir. After a long list of thank you’s and being wished a wonderful conference, it was time for the one and only…

(Professor) David Crystal!

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His talk will cover the changes in the English language since the year 1966 (when IATEFL was established and when the world’s first successful human heart transplant was done, Sweden changed to driving on the right, the first Boeing 747 made its maiden flight, the first issue of the Rolling Stone magazine was published and the most fashionable item of clothing in a woman’s wardrobe was a miniskirt!). He will compare the changes that have taken place in the last 50 years with those that will take place in the next 50.

Who would have thought it? 1966 – 2066.

One of the questions David is most often asked is why he finds language so interesting, why did he become a linguist? A simple answer – two words – language change. Whatever a language was like yesterday, it’s different today and will be different tomorrow. With a global reach of over 2 billion speakers, English is even more so. The language we spend a lifetime learning to teach will not stand still. The only languages that never change are dead ones. If the ‘enemy’ is language change, it will pay us to get to know it better.

Vocabulary

The loss of old words and senses, the arrival of new ones. How much lexical change takes place in English? Oxford’s choice of word of the year this year was emoji, Collins was binge-watch, for watching a box set of a series in one day. Dictionary.com went for identity, reflecting the increased attention being paid to gender and sexuality in the last year. The Australian dictionary went for mansplain – the act of a woman trying to explain something to a woman which she already knows!  What about the words that will be left out in order to make room for the new ones? When Collins got rid of fubsy (fat in a nice kind of way) there was a national save ‘fubsy’ campaign, supported by Stephen Fry no less!

Vocabulary change is always difficult to quantify as we never know what words/phrases will be permanent features and what will be transient. To give a sense of how words go out of use, let’s look at words that were coming into use when IATEFL was born. These have not been heard or used recently!

  • D-Day
  • Beautiful people
  • Flower children
  • peaceniks
  • yippies (politically active hippies)
  • dolly bird (probably wearing winkle pickers!)
  • hully gully (a dance)
  • frug (another dance)

You might be wearing a Mao (hat) and discussing Ostpolitik, Reganism, Powellism, UDI. You might read of the Black Panthers or Rachmanism. Or more mundanely you could see the latest report of the confrontation between the mods and the rockers and pick up your trimphone to tell your friends all about it!

The speed of change suggestions caution when using the internet as a source of up-to-date vocabulary. It is idiosyncratic to the point of eccentricity. Anyone can make up a word and have it included in the Urban Dictionary. The usage might be “liked” by a large number of people, but if you are going to use a source with teenagers, check it regularly or you will find yourself using last year’s word. When IATEFL was born, people were calling each other Daddy-O, calling things groovy and bidding each other farewell with ‘see you later alligator’…

For this year, in terms of neologisms, if you are wearing your kicks you are wearing your trainers. A slashkini is a one piece swimsuit with lots of cut-outs. A manel is an exclusively male panel. A wasband is a former husband. If something is very stylish, you would call it wavy, whereas if something is unattractive, unpleasant and unfashionable it is basic. Calm means good/cool, while digital amnesia is the inability to remember basic things because of over-reliance on devices. Dude food is food that is said to be favoured by men, often including meat. A Skype family relies on Skype to keep contact as a member lives overseas. The grey gapper is a person of retirement age who takes a year out to go travelling. To pocket dial is to call someone by accident when your phone is in your pocket.

Two points should be noted: over half those expressions contain more than one word so when we talk about new words entering usage we are talking about compound words and often they require understanding of the underlying words e.g. wasband. Since the arrival of the internet, it is now possible for anyone who has electronic means to encounter English in its world wide varieties. A decade ago it would have been difficult to do that without going to a place.

The millions of people who actively use the internet encounter an unprecedent range of varieties of English. Different varieties of English become neighbours on the screen, as do different levels. So accommodation becomes common.

Grammatical Change

By its nature far less noticeable at any one point in time. Only by stepping back and looking at large quantities of data over a length of time like a decade can changes become apparent. On the 5th November 1819 John Keats sends an apologetic letter – “Had I known of your illness I should not of written in such fiery phrase in my first Letter” but elsewhere in the letter, he uses “You should not have delayed”. It’s difficult to discover early usage preferences as works have been edited. Other examples can be found in Keats and Austen. I was much disappointed. I have been several ties thinking. He seemed watching her intently. You look very nicely indeed.

The frequency of some modal verbs is declining e.g. shall and must and may. In one big study using the diachronic corpus of spoken English, must reduces by 50%, shall by 40% and may by 37% in all categories studied. They have been replaced by semi-modals like have to.

  • You must be more careful
  • You have to be more careful

The former is more authoritarian.

  • The calculation must be right. (Certain)
  • The calculation has to be right (Less sure)

In each case what we see is a lessening/softening of the strength and certainty.

In the 1960s “I’m loving it” would have been “I love it”. The dynamic use of stative views is grown.

  • I’m wanting a new fridge
  • I’m intending to apply a new job
  • I’m need a new coat
  • It’s concerning me a lot
  • It’s mattering to me greatly
  • I’m knowing the answer

Know seems to have largely resisted the change so far but not worldwide, in India it is common. It seems likely that all stative verbs will develop dynamic uses over the next 50 years.

  • The book that I bought
  • The book which I bought
  • The book I bought

The last one has remained stable (typical in informal spoken English) but the use of which is dramatically decreasing. The change is the direct result of the antagonism towards the use of which in the 20th century grammar (Fowler etc.) David likes which but his copyeditor changes all his which’s to that. The association of which with more formal styles of expression has also contributed to its demise.

Any new word or grammatical construction is going to be encountered sporadically. But all words new and old have to be pronounced. So any change in pronunciation will be frequently perceived. We are sensitive to changes in accent. So how have pronunciation and accent changed?

Pronunciation/Accent

Attitudes towards pronunciation and accent have changed. Some accents have changed their phonetic character significantly. Susan Ray Scots presenter in Dundee was withdrawn when BBC had their RP drive, but today there is institutional recognition to a change in attitudes to regional pronunciation, so within the BBC all are recognised and celebrated/used. Regional radio gained an audience and National radio lost it. The new audiences liked their presenters to speak as they did. But National figures remained strong in series like the Archers and Coronation street where local accents were valued. Non-indigenous accents also began to be heard. RP continues to have a strong presence in broadcasting but its phonetic character has changed. In the 30s it was very plummy, in the 60s and 70s even it sounds dated now. Changes continue to affect RP. Even the queen’s accent has changed, today she uses more open mouthed vowels and centralised vowels.

Estuary English attracted media attention in the 90s. The Estuary is the Thames, the people with accent live on either side of it, chiefly to the North. They use question words at the end like “right?” and “innit?” Phonetically it is a set of accents intermediate between RP and Cockney. Features of Estuary have radiated out through the country. They haven’t replaced the local accents of the areas they have reached but just modified the phonetic character, pulling the vowels and consonants  in different directions. The Estuary heard in Hampshire is very different to that heard in Leicester. In Birmingham there used to be Brum. Now there is Jamaican Brum, Indian Brum, Italian Brum etc. In London this is most noticeable, with over 300 languages spoken there. It’s not that one accent replaces another but more that features combine to create a third. So in the case of RP, we now have modified RP. We have modified everything these days. Accents are a mixture of accents. There are hundreds of variant forms and inconsistencies in speech. In the latest edition of Gimson, the term RP is dropped completely. General English is used instead.

Sociolinguistic research since the 1980s has noticed two noticeable trends: increase in positive attitude to regional accents and an increase in negative views towards RP. This turnaround has happened within 20 years. Regional accents are considered warm and friendly, RP is considered cold and distant. Call centres and TV commercials provide convenient indications of change. During the 90s there was a marked increase in use of local accents. So its probably in Pronunciation that we will see the most significant change as we look forward to the next 50 years. 3/4 of the worlds languages are syllable timed. Stress timing will become less of a priority in the next 50 years, David believes. The future seems to be syllable timed. And it’s a future in which the pace of change is increasing.

Today, a new usage can be around the world in seconds in written and spoken form. The internet is the largest corpus of language there has ever been and presents more variants than have ever been seen before. Not only vocabulary has been affected but spelling too. The internet suggests that a top-down simplification of spelling is not the only way. Spelling might simplify as a result of use and being seen online. On the internet, there are no copy-editors or proofreaders and people can spell however they want. If people spell too idiosyncratically then they won’t be understood but rhubarb – rubarb for example won’t be a problem. The internet may be the force that changes the perception of what is correct.

B.B.C became BBC, Mr. to Mr, 1960’s to 1960s. But most of the orthographic nature of English has remained the same. But online radically different practices are common e.g. in chatrooms, the dropping of all capitalisation, like using i instead of I as the personal pronoun. Once upon a time in Old English there was no punctuation and now the internet is reconnecting us with those old manuscripts!

It is not only the Internet but also broadcasting media and literature that have had an influence over the language. Writers from all over the world write in English and experiment with non-standard styles of expression. Contemporary right has a multi-dialectal nature. The notion of indigenous is no longer clear cut. The lines are becoming blurred within the language and how it is used today. Literature is just the tip of the iceberg of ethic expression.

It’s crucially important to avoid confrontation in all of this. It’s all too easy for pedants to condemn non-standard English on the internet or in new literary sources and call it language deterioration. Conversely it is all to easy for people to revel in the freedom of the internet and disregard the canon that is there heritage. We need to devise an appropriate philosophy that brings about a mutually enlightening relationship between these poles. It’s no easy task given the speed and multidimensional complexity of contemporary language change. The most difficult teaching jobs in the world are language-related jobs. The need to translate and interpret, hugely difficult, the need to teach, hugely difficult.  If David were in charge of the world, all teacher’s salaries would be quadrupled!

 

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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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!