IATEFL 2018: Versioning coursebooks for different contexts: What, how and why? – Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton

Heather and Julie, some of the authors of Navigate, while at OUP came across a room that was full of different versions of Headway and this was quite a revelation to them. They wanted to find out more about it as there is not a lot written about it in the academic literature. Later in the session we will be doing some versioning but first we will hear about data collected based on three questions that were asked.

Versioning is making changes to a course book for particular conditions in a country or region. Can be categorised in three ways – market versioning (make it suitable for different countries/regions), customer versioning (for particular institutions who may request it) and cosmetic versioning (very small changes). Often retains branding and name but in some cases a completely different name. As the world and coursebooks become more globalised, versioning becomes less of an issue.

Task 1 – A double page spread from Headway elementary, to be adapted for the Middle East

  • can’t have women showing any flesh
  • no wine in the pictures
  • family is a safe area? not culturally offensive

…were ideas put forward.

Actual changes:

  • The vocabulary for boyfriend and girlfriend has gone, also the pictures
  • No asking the teacher questions
  • Names and images are different
  • People are all covered up
  • Fewer photographs, page looks simpler, more white space

This is not prescriptive, just an example.

Three research questions:

(H and J would like to add to the data if anyone in the audience/beyond has experience of versioning, via Skype interview.)

What is involved in versioning a coursebook?

It depends! Course content, language content, might be making it more suitable for SEN, the package might change (e.g. combing student book and workbook or adding an extra digital component), design and image might change (fewer photographs, clearer font), rubrics in L1 might be added. Publishing cycle might influence versioning, affecting the extent of the changes that can be made.

What roles do different stakeholders play in the process?

Same stakeholders are involved. It’s like making a mini-product. Local focus groups will have a lot of input. Authors will have different roles – the original authors might decide and implement changes or they might not be involved at all or it might be outsourced to local experts.

How is the original text changed in terms of cultural content, language, methodology and design, and why?

Package

Digital components may be customised, additional support may be added. For secondary versions, additional support is popular e.g. including dyslexia friendly fonts in reading texts. This may be required by the customers. Student book and workbook for Italian secondary schools is common.

Cultural content

Doesn’t only involve taking things out but also involves putting things in. This may be the case with national identity for example. Local festivals, traditions and places might be integrated. There was also a concern to make sure that world cultures are represented in a balanced way, as well as including the familiar. Sensitive topics had to be removed e.g. references to religion or alcohol. Gender representation may have to be looked at. Language content might need to be geared towards particular exams that students have to pass. Content for discussion topics would need to be carefully considered and appropriate.

In Headway Plus there are more photographs of males than of females in the book.

Language

Might include more exam practice. Language doesn’t change that much but the grammar syllabus might change e.g. in American courses book, the present perfect. Levels of formality might be different too – more direct in American versions. Accents needed to change and the audios to represent the right kind of cultures. Bilingual word lists could/should be added for certain markets. Phonemes/sound charts might be different too e.g. American vs British. Minor changes.

Methodology

An area you don’t tamper with so much. You start with the best fit so fewer changes are necessary but an example of a change could be including L1 rubrics, as in a German coursebook they looked at.

Design

Images change e.g. in terms of clothing. If there was foresight of a version becoming available, the photoshoot might be done with two shots for any given image. The covers tend to be recognisable for the brand similar but a little bit different. Where there is a script different, having more white space makes a big difference. In America there is a single column to a page usually while in the UK there are two. Changing accordingly may or may not happen. If multiple images aren’t comissioned at once, stock photos may be used instead. E.g. the example of the kitchen where in Headway + no people rather than with a bottle wine. Seamus McSporran with 13 jobs became the man with 12 jobs to eliminate the one where he delivers beer in a barrel!

Political Concerns

Versioning aims to make materials relatable but it involves representing the world in a particular way which raises political, ethical and commercial concerns. Coursebooks determine the nature of what is presented in the classroom. What about diversity and incidental representation – the question raised is “Could we have a little bit of diversity in the background perhaps? E.g. a wheelchair user in the background of a photo” – Would that be useful?

Comments on this was left for later on…

So where do we go from here?

Hugh told us that in the Belgian market has welcomed lots of traditionally “taboo” topics.  Versioning can enable this.

Another member suggested there is more scope for considering how to include diversity for a conservative market. Also Muslims need language to express I don’t eat/drink pork/alcohol because… However, another said that the Ministry of Education in Dubai would remove it and heads would roll.

I managed to squeeze in my question as the last of the day: Do publishers ever version course books for the UK? The response from the speakers and the audience was not to their knowledge…

And a final request:

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Onestopenglish.com “Author of the Month”

Well, I hadn’t really thought of myself as an “ELT Author” until my editors at Onestopenglish asked me to complete a questionnaire. I feel like it’s still something I’m aspiring towards! Still, working with Onestopenglish has been a lucky start for me.

Rather than any kind of competition, the idea of the Author of the month page is to enable the users of the website to learn a bit more about the authors who write for it:

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I also hadn’t thought of myself as one of an “amazing team of expert authors” (I mean, while I can believe the others are experts, I wouldn’t put myself in the ‘expert’ bracket!), but there we are! I’m honoured to be included on the list as a result of the on-going (but nearly complete) work that I’m doing on Compass with my editors at Onestopenglish as a result of that Macmillan-sponsored ELTon I won a couple of years ago.

I had to answer the following questions:

  • Tell us a little about yourself
  • How would you describe yourself in five words?
  • How did you start your writing career?
  • Where’s the most interesting place you’ve taught?
  • What’s your proudest teaching moment?
  • What’s your most embarrassing teaching moment?
  • What’s your favourite joke?
  • What are your tips for becoming an ELT author?

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To find out my answers to the rest of the questions, you’ll have to visit the page (which you can access by clicking on the photo of it above)!

Thank you, Macmillan/Onestopenglish folk! 🙂

IATEFL 2016 What makes an outstanding ELT coursebook? The publisher’s perspective (Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton)

The final talk I’m attending today is by Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton, who teach at Leeds Beckett University and University of Leicester respectively. They have been involved in materials development for about 20 years, from a theoretical academic perspective for a long time, and more recently worked on the Navigate series, which was a wonderful opportunity to see things from another more practical perspective. They did a talk last year about expertise in writing, where they asked writers and editors what constitutes expertise in course book writing but predominantly responses from writers. At the end, an editor said it was a shame that the sample was so skewed. This talk is to put that right!

Apparently the voices of editors are very rare in the literature.

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Heather and Julie are interested in redressing that so that expertise can be shared. Another reason to do this is because practitioners, teachers and researchers understand a bit more about how course books are produced. Understanding this helps to understand why materials are the way they are and understand the pressures that are faced in producing a multiple level series of course books in a short space of time. They’ve noticed in recent years at IATEFL that that seems to be a goal, for example with SIGs like MaW SIG and groups like ELT Teacher2Writer. They are all trying to help people understand how to write materials and get foot in the door. Heather and Julie hope to contribute to this process.

They have been collecting data since January this year, some of which before the MAWSIG day and have continued since and have x hours of interview data, which is a lot. They have learnt a lot from the process of interviewing people. They’ve interviewed 21 editors and publishers this year, some in focus groups and some in individual interviews. This happened over Skype. They’ve spoken to a variety of different kinds of publishers and editors both in-house and freelance, with various experience, and designers as well. So lots of different perspectives. It’s been interesting to understand more about the process of how course books are developed in this way. They have a lot of rich data even though it’s a small-scale study really. They thank all the respondents as it has been both useful and very enjoyable.

They are going to highlight some of the main themes and give their interpretations and comments on this. Then we are going to be asked for our opinions. As it is a workshop, there will be a few discussions as well. We are will look at the four research questions one by one, discuss them and hear about what Heather and and Julie found out.

Research Questions

  1. Coursebooks are now said to be more publisher-led than author-led. Why is this and what impact does it have on the end product?

  2. What makes an outstanding coursebook? Please give examples.

  3. What is the editor’s role in creating outstanding ELT coursebooks?

  4. If you planned to launch a new global coursebook series, what would you look for in an inital sample from a prospective writer? What skills do writers need to produce outstanding materials and how can these skills be developed?

Deliberately broad, in order to get people talking about it. The main question very broad – what makes an outstanding course book. They also tried to get at this idea of the course book being more publisher-led, in the development and instigation of ideas. They wanted to know why this was and how it affects the product at the end of the day. They were also interested in the editors role and in what publishers are looking for when writers send in a sample, what makes them take on a writer and what makes the reject? And finally what skills are needed, how can the skills be developed?

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These are some snippets from the data as an overview. We need to discuss them. Some are direct quotes and some are paraphrasing.

Following the discussion, we are asked for any comments we have on the quotes. The broadness of the questions allowed Heather and Julie to explore and then drill down into areas of interest.

Next we moved onto individual points.

Here are some of the things that people said in response to question 1:

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An audience member felt there was an element of truth in the digital uncertainty comment – there has been. For example the one laptop per child policy that got dropped.

Julie says a lot of people talked about the impact of technology but also about that course books are more market led than publisher led. A long time ago, teh author was more instrumental in the conceptualisation of the series than now and there are various reasons for that. Firstly, digital makes the projects huge, for example 450 people. Trying to manage that, including getting information about what is wanted by the market, what has to happen in house (Design, production, a range of editors, techie people, marketers etc). There is also huge time pressure to get all the levels out at the same time if possible, so if you have a six-level course that is a huge undertaking, maybe you have to split into two years. You also need to meet consumers’ needs in order for the book to sell. Some publishers draw on massive corpora that they have collected and use them to inform the materials. So it has to be publisher led as the publisher has the information. The impact should be positive in terms of people feeling their needs have been met. A problem might be that it lacks freshness as people asked what they want are unlikely to ask for too much change, they might want something very similar, leading to that “vanilla anodyne effect”. With some courses it might be possible to have the necessary local expertise in terms of authors, producing something for a clear target audience, which might be very positive. It might feel like the author’s role is downgraded as the publisher is trying to take on so many other views.

There is a tension or balancing act to try to innovate within particular constraints.

 

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An audience member suggested it should be user-friendly, easy to use. Another suggested it should be open to adaptation. Two closely related points, as Heather says. The person who said the quote in the orange speech bubble was talking about imposing methodologies on people in different cultures, whereas some people discuss it as including teacher training within the materials. It depends how its done, how its introduced, is it imposed or not. It’s a very complex issue.

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Heather said the first point was no surprise. It’s important to meet all kinds of different needs e.g. SEN. Will the students be able to relate to the materials? Then, the second point, the teacher needs to be able to pick a course book up, walk into class and teach from it, knowing it would be reliable and they wouldn’t have to spend a long time planning. However, teachers may also want to do more with the materials, adapt them, use some bits but not others. The tricky thing is catering for both types of teachers. Of course we also need to know that the course book is accurate, answers all correct. Then there needs to be a sound theoretical basis, which can be a range of things from being based on corpora, to the methodology used etc. The architecture is about the flow and shape of lessons and units, how they are built. People talked about the personality of the course book, based on the type of methodology, the look and design, the author voice, the kind of texts you are using. Some people also talked about it being aspirational for teachers, they may feel they are becoming a more communicative teacher by following those materials, for example.

Some finer points:

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Moving on to the editor’s role:

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Heather and Julie were interested in what the editors bring to the course books and found that some of the points were contradictory as the editor plays a tricky role and has to handle complex situations. They thought it was a nice way to look at it, to think of the editor as a bridge between the people involved in the process.

We are reminded that there are different types of editor, e.g publishing and commissioning, development/content, copy editors for the nitty gritty and there is also the free-lance/in-house editor split.

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As well as coordinating, feeding back information. Also sticking up for the author to the publisher and vice versa, so the critical bridge role. They might do some research post publication and realise that certain things have been omitted and produce pdfs to go online to address that issue. A crucial role is giving feedback on drafts, which involves being quite diplomatic, it is a complex relationship between author and editor. The editor has to represent different teachers to the author as the author can’t have experience of teaching in evert different contexts but the editor can do research into different contexts and feed that back. Often they have been teachers themselves too. They have to be devil’s advocate/critical friend, which is quite a challenging/daunting role (imagine doing it for Michael Swan’s grammar!). Authors are going through all kinds of things in real life – so, knowing when to send a bunch of flowers is important too.

We ran out of time for the remaining question/rest of the slides but are invited to email Heather and Julie to get them.

However, the conclusion is:

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The editor is instrumental in controlling quality in course books and sometimes we forget what a useful process it is. We often talk about how difficult it is to receive feedback but the end product is going to be better for that. Heather and Julie are calling for more transparency and communication about the process.

They agree with Tomlinson on the following and would love to be involved in the process! This sort of research could be really important to feedback into future products.

 

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It was a really interesting talk and it’s a shame we didn’t get on to the final question!

IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG Open Forum

Rachael Roberts starts by welcoming us to this open forum by explaining about MaW SIG. It is for everybody!

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She’ll tell us about what has happened this year and plans for the future, which will be followed by a financial report and a talk by the scholarship winner. This will be followed by the raffle and some nibbles.

The MaW SIG year

2015

Rachael tells us that MaW SIG are very keen to foster links with associates in various countries to set up more meet-ups. There were meet-ups in Oxford and Berlin. There was also an online meet up, the MaW Online Festival.

A sad thing happened in that Hans Mol passed away in November, he was in charge of publications and was a founding member of the SIG.

The committee!

The committee!

The SIG is looking for someone to do the Deputy publications coordinator. They are also looking for a Technology Coordinator and a Deputy Events Coordinator. If you are interested in these roles, you have till the 22nd April to apply.

The SIG is looking for someone to do the Deputy publications coordinator. They are also looking for a Technology Coordinator and a Deputy Events Coordinator. If you are interested in these roles, you have till the 22nd April to apply.

In 2015, MaW SIG also brought out their first e-book, a collection of the blog posts on their website plus two bonus articles not on the blog. There is a new post out on the blog today, written by Kieran Donaghy, giving advice about setting up an ELT materials website.

In February this year, there was the annual face-to-face conference in London, at the Stables of Macmillan. This was organised largely by Kirsten. (Read more about it here!)

Looking ahead

Working in cooperation with BESIG, there will be a conference in Munich from 4-9 November 2016, which is a BESIG conference with a materials writing thread. Proposals don’t have to be only about business material writing, so anything that could be used by Business English writers would be great. So, for example, writing video scripts. Not specifically BE but still useful!

There is also the  website, which has the blog. On Social Media, Karen White does a fantastic job of keeping the Facebook Page, a closed Facebook group for members and LinkedIn as well as Twitter. There will be a suggestions page added to the website, as they are keen to hear from members about what they would like the SIG to be doing/not doing. So please do use this page.

This year they also did their first scholarship in collaboration with OUP, in materials writing. A challenging task was set: writing a piece of material that dealt with the theme of the environment in a fresh and interesting way. Moundir Al Amrani won the scholarship!

He tells us he is very excited happy to be here and to have won the scholarship. He had started to think he wasn’t cut out for this but the scholarship has given him fresh enthusiasm for materials writing. He is from Morocco, a teacher and materials writer. He has won the lesson share competition on Onestopenglish.com twice, back to back. After which, he won the scholarship.

He shows us where Morocco is, its flag and tells us a bit about what he does. EAP, ESP, BE and GE teaching, as well as content courses in the humanities and literature at University. He is also a novice teacher trainer and a materials writer. He writes worksheets, multi-skill lesson plans, vocabulary and grammar activities, course books, teacher notes and a book to meet the specific needs of his students.

Why does he do this? Because it is his passion. He wants to be productive and learn. There is a saying that goes if you love what you do, then you never have to work a day in your life. He loves what he does, his career. He wants to be a better teacher, write better teaching materials, give back to the teaching community and be part of ELT innovation and development. He finishes by thanking MaW SIG and OUP for the scholarship once again.

OUP representative Emma takes the opportunity to say that if you are interested in sending materials for the OUP blog, please do, she also looks after a newsletter about teaching adults that goes out to 28000 teachers globally and they are always looking for people to submit materials/articles/thoughts on any aspects of teaching adults.

Lewis Lansford tells us about the running of his pub in York. There’s always the point where you have to talk about the budget and it’s the low point of the meeting. Now he is going to be that guy, presenting the budget. This is his bid to sugarcoat the process, discharge the obligation and not make us feel “oh no”.

Budget comes from the Latin “Bulga” (pouch or knapsack). It entered English with the French meaning (bag), but by the end of the 16th century included contents as well as bag. 1733 was the first finance connection.

2014-2015 accounts. It took him a while to work out where the money was but in Sept 2014, there was £5,502 profit, earnt not spent. Events and subs produced £8,387, then expenses £5,592. Anyway, the surplus at the end of the year was £2,911. September opening reserve was £8,413, and the closing reserve is £8,731. (Not really sure what it all means!! But it’s there!) And thank you to Macmillan for sponsoring the conference in February as that helped the budget!

 

On that note it was time for the raffle, eating and talking!

 

IATEFL 2016 Here’s one I made earlier – designing effective classroom materials (Katherine Bilsborough and Sue Lyon-Jones)

Well, the room filled up super-quickly for this one!

Sue is a co-founder of esolcourses.com which is an online platform with thousands of resources for teachers and students; Kath is a materials writer who started because she couldn’t afford to buy lots of different books to use with her students.

As English language teachers it can happen that you have to start teaching on a new course and there aren’t any particular materials for it. Depending on teaching experience, it can be a good or a bad thing. You may be thrown in at the deep end! This workshop will look at good practice for creating materials to equip us to deal with such situations.

  1. considering and discussing what akes a good learning activity
  2. looking at free materials that can be sourced from the web and adapted for use in class (Sue is a copyright expert if you have any questions!)
  3. sharing ideas for creating simple activities that are pedagogically sound
  4. look at some ways in which authentic materials can be exploited (fair and legal ways…)

What do we look for in ELT materials?

The audience came up with:

  • relevant to the course aims/class aims
  • thought-provoking
  • adaptable but with a basic core
  • does what it says on the tin
  • work in the given context

Sue and Kath added:

  • engaging and motivating: got to be interesting!
  • provide sufficient challenge: not too easy, not too difficult
  • age appropriate: we don’t want worksheets with teddybears for adults
  • have a target audience: can be very narrow – your learners – if wider, need to think about if they will work outside your classroom
  • have a clear purpose: you might have interesting video/text but need to be clear about what students are going to learn from it
  • underpinned by good pedagogy
  • foster language learning: you can find an interesting article but need to think about what opportunities there will be for learners to use what’s in it

In what three ways you might use a short reading text?

Texts can be a lot of things and you can get a lot of value out of very little:

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The audience came up with the following as examples:

  • dictogloss
  • running dictation

Then we moved on to a task looking at some short texts and discussing how to exploit them. Ideas were very varied due to the diversity of contexts represented in the room!

Text One

Are computers harming academic performance? (a short essay about a study on whether people learn better if they take notes by hand or on computer; came from Voice of America – most content is in the public domain so can be used freely BUT there is some syndicated content e.g. Reuters articles that you can’t use – in this case it will be tagged as such so easy to avoid)

Text Two

A Roald Dahl extract from the Learning English portion of Voice of America, already graded. NB If you want to check the level of a text, paste it into Vocab Kitchen it will tell you what level the words are through colour coding.

Text Three

A Mountain to Climb from Internationalist Easier English Wiki – contains News Articles written for English learners, also includes lesson plans. Creative commons licensed, you need to accredit the author, you shouldn’t use it make money on it and you have to be willing to share it under the same license i.e. not make money on it.

Text Four

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny is from the Project Gutenberg site which contains lots of classic texts that are over 100 years old. You can take anything from there and use it. The language may be dated and above level but you can use Vocab kitchen to catch those and grade them.

Using Images

…to Introduce Topics

There  is a site called Pixabay with public domain images both clip art and photographs. You can use a tool called Picmonkey to make collages. You can do it or you can get learners to do it. You can also find images on ELTpics (where teachers can upload their photos and you can use pictures under creative commons license)

…as writing prompts

A postcard with image prompt and space for a message relating to the picture. Customisable.

…to practise grammar

A picture of a house in the snow: e.g. question forms. Kath started with 5 answers e.g. Bob and Charlie, Winter, Meeting friends etc. = present simple. The students had to produce the questions to go with the answers. With another group, 5 different answers e.g. last summer etc. = past simple.

Devising Listening Materials

  • ELLO – You have the audio, the transcript and in some cases some exercises or quizzes and an indication of what type of English is being used
  • Librivox – free domain audiobooks
  • LearnEnglish Teens – everything on it is very regulated and non-dodgy. Nothing will be upsetting!
  1. Find something your students might be interested in (not necessarily what you are interested in!)
  2. Look at the transcript and make sure it’s appropriate
  3. Listen all the way through
  4. Analyse the language in the transcript (functional language? repetition of grammatical structure? particular vocabulary? etc.)

Learner Generated Materials

When students write things, their work can become templates for future activities with their permission. You can use hot potatoes which is a free software for making such activities.

Finally, the audience suggested Eclipse Crossword, Unsplash and Real English. There was also a handout that I got a picture of, if not the real thing:

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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

 

Materials Writing SIG Conference Session 5 – Emerging new pedagogies…

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

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

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

We continued with an evolution of tools:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We finished by discussing questions:

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What do YOU think? 🙂

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

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

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

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