IATEFL 2015 An Engaged Tone: How ELT might handle the ‘EdTech revolution’ – Nick Robinson and Laurie Harrison

I can’t remember what the abstract for this one was, only that it roused my curiosity and I wanted to be here. In any case, with Nick Robinson (who until yesterday was the MaW SIG coordinator) speaking it’s bound to be good. This is also the last talk I’ll watch before my own which is in a couple of hours time. Gulp…

Laurie and Nick are from ELTJam (yes, *that* blog!). Today they will talk to us about how ELT will handle the EdTech revolution. Since its conception two years ago, the main focus of ELTJam has been looking at two different worlds – ELT and EdTech, which seemed to be something interesting springing up out of the high-tech start-up world. There’s lots of cool interesting stuff happening, and through the emergence of “EdTech”, that world is starting to get very interested in education and ELT. They want to explore how it might play out.

The ‘…’ around EdTech Revolution are deliberate. They don’t subscribe to it. BUT, over the last 15 years, a lot of change has happened and as a result there is and will be a big impact on education. We are not just talking about the fact that there is tech in ELT – that is nothing new – but that it has coalesced into a movement under the banner of EdTech.

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Bill Gates is driven by evangelical¬†zeal to transform the world of education. George Lucas is a leading figure in EdTech did you know that? 21st century learning etc. Sugata Mitra….! Google, Apple, Microsoft all moving into education in a big way. Duolingo. Voxy is also a well-funded EdTech start-up. EdTech is within ELT already, they are interested in it as a movement.

What are the characteristics of this revolution?

  • Money – there’s a lot of money pouring into education right now that wasn’t previously. Big corporations and companies are throwing money at it, specifically digital education. We have venture capitalists into a start-up, who are looking for at least 10 times return.
  • Disruption – education is seen, by a lot of people in the movement, as a sleepy, backward, old-fashioned place that is ripe for disruption.
  • Grassroots entrepreneurship – with the digital technology available now, it is easer than it ever has been before to create a digital education product and get it out into the world. We are seeing more and more teachers in ELT thinking “I can do this” – who think they have identified a need in the market and think they can do something about it.
  • Polarisation and controversy: On the one hand you have “EdTech is an amazingly wonderful thing. It is going to transform education. We are going to equip learners for the 21st Century” on the other, you have “EdTech is a conspiracy to take over the world” (or similar).

What about ELT?

Specifically, is there polarisation and controversy? Enter Sugata Mitra at IATEFL last year! A mixture of standing ovation and people walking out in protest. Standing ovation because he is doing something very interesting, trying to improve access to education etc and the converse, that he is saying teachers are redundant, not needed.

Not all EdTech in ELT is controversial. But some is. And some is more controversial than others. Controversial – Sugata Mitra, adaptive learning etc. Less controversial: there’s lots of cool free stuff out there we can use for learning. Some things will become more acceptable over time.

Let’s take a closer look at the Scale of controversy in ELT about EdTech. This is the SCREECH index!!! ūüėÄ

This is brand new, this is the first announcement of it. It’s early days.

At the top we have zero (uncontroversial) to 5 (most uncontroversial)

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Maybe things will move up the scale as they become less uncontroversial.

Meanwhile, ELT has three response choices: Resist! Surrender! Engage! i.e. refuse it completely, accept it blindly or engage with it and getting involved with it in order to change it for the better and…make it less screechy!

How might that happen?

We will look at publishers, language schools/institutions, teachers and writers

Publishers

Thinking back to the characteristics of the EdTech revolution, one of them was disruption. Our sector is ripe for disruption with new ideas and money. ELT publishing is a good target for this.

So publishers need to engage actively in order to be able to stand up to the massacre or ignore perspective of EdTech. ELT publishing needs to look outside itself: look at its competitors, who is out there in EdTech land? Yes they know to an extent, but not enough. DuoLingo is free and trying to market itself directly to language schools. How will publishers complete? How are they making this free product sustainable? How are these products developed so quickly? Understand how it all works. There is potential mutual benefit. This could be by working with established EdTech companies or interesting new start-ups who need help to get the next level with their really good ideas. Finally, most EdTech companies are terrible when it comes to the methodology behind the products, most ELT publishers are hot on that. Somewhere there is a marriage in heaven waiting to be made!

Within publishers there is stuff that can be done too. E.g. within the publishing company, create start-ups. In-house start-ups.

image7

Doesn’t need to look like this, but needs to be small, self-contained.

E.g. Newsmart: The Wall Street Journal. This was developed as an in-house start-up at News Corp (?). The question was can we create an interesting product using content from the Wall Street Journal? The answer was yes.

“If it isn’t digital, we don’t do it”

This was said by the head of the English programme in a big chain of language schools.

The first thing we are seeing a lot of is expansion beyond the four walls of the school. An illustrative example of the scope of ambition a school can have. EF London has Englishtown, completely online programme that has had 2 million students.

British Council – lots of apps, podcasts etc. They have an app portfolio of these things, they are not just a language school chain anymore. They also have the MOOC. ELT’s first MOOC didn’t come from a publisher but a language school chain. The lines between language school and publisher are more blurred now. Language schools are saying, we can build these courses for ourselves, we don’t need publishers. And now they are selling these to other schools. So customers become competitors.

DuoLingo and Voxy started by selling direct to learners, now want to sell direct to language schools. So language schools have power to influence the product and make it better via feedback. They could do with some improvement, time to feed into that.

Teachers and Writers

We’ve seen teachers starting to solve some real problems in their classrooms. Meanwhile – problem – in EdTech high-up people don’t have active recent classroom experience. In start-up weekends, people get together to come up with ideas for new products. Only 5% came from ELT and only one active teacher showed up. Marie Goodwin. And she won. With a reading device that helps children struggling with reading. Her idea came from the classroom.

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We are starting to see teachers talking to learners about EdTech. #ELTyak is a hashtag for learners and teachers to address.

Why do it? You get insights, you get your assumptions challenged.

Teachers or writers – 3 things you might want to learn to engage with EdTech:

  • Read “The Lean Start-Up” by Eric Ries.
  • Figure out how to get some cash
  • Look at Easy Tweets – you need to learn coding (you can do it in 3 months)

Don’t let EdTech just happen to you. As whoever we are, we can get involved and do cool stuff!

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Contact details

 

Another really interesting talk! ūüôā

 

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IATEFL 2015: Pre-conference Event Day ‚Äď MaW SIG ‚Äď Part 2

Following the first break, we were treated to two more fantastic talks:

A technological toolkit for Writers РNick 

Nick starts with a whistle-stop tour of technological history, also sharing the story of a very large internet-related phone bill with us. Apparently his parents weren’t so impressed…

The three key areas of focus are:

  • Useful hardware
  • Timesaving software
  • Avoiding internet-related distraction

 Useful hardware 

Computer – PC or Mac or… what suits you

Operating system ‚Äď OSX, Windows, Linux or… what suits you

Word-processing software ‚Äď Word, Open Office.. what suits you

Browser ‚Äď Don‚Äôt use IE‚Ķtry something else‚Ķplease…

Screen-size ‚Äď as big as you can; multiple monitors (less switching between applications e.g. What you‚Äôre writing and your source‚Ķ.avoid work and email or what you‚Äôre not writing and your distractor!) And use desktop arrangement/Fences ‚Äď you ¬†can draw a box on your desktop, give it a label and put your files in it.

¬†Keyboard and mouse ‚Äď touching them all the time, make sure they are comfortable. Mechanical keyboard ‚Äď clickety clackety; these days mainly used for gamers.

Timesaving software

60 seconds...starting now! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

Time, precious time! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

 Basic criteria:

  • ¬†Must solve a problem: if I‚Äôm only doing it once a month, probably don‚Äôt need a fix‚Ķ
  • Simplicity!
  • Integration ‚Äď should talk to all devices, if relevant
  • Cost ‚Äď should be reasonable

Nick’s ELT courses include:

  • Vocabulary presentations
  • Texts
  • Practice exercises

(grossly oversimplified)

 So how can technology help?

1. Images ‚Äď these sometimes generate a long url (that you need to paste into the document). Fix: Use browser extensions (these¬†extend functionality of your browser): URL shortener. One touch to shrink the URL. As a rule of thumb: If you do anything with your browser that requires 2 or more clicks, someone has designed something that will enable you to do it in one‚Ķ

  • Taking a partial screenshot (easy on a mac! yay!)
  • Online dictionaries: CALD space word ‚Äď searches Cambridge dictionaries online. Go to search field in the dictionary, go to add as search engine, change the keyword to something quick to remember, and bingo! ¬†(I really have to set these up!)

2.¬†Texts ‚Äď Archiving for future reference. We have moved on from filing cabinets and from endless folders of unsearchable pdfs to…

 Evernote!! 

http://www.evernote.com – it’s brilliant. (At some point I should write a guide to using it…)

Screenshot of Evernote-s homepage: They clearly got this dude off Shutterstock or similar! ;-)

Screenshot of Evernote-s homepage: They clearly got this dude off Shutterstock or similar! ūüėČ

 3. Practice exercises (grammar or vocab)

Use macros: automate a set of actions that you can repeat ad infinitum.

  • Teacher‚Äôs Pet: a massive collection of macros that you install and it creates a custom tool bar, which does all the boring jobs for you. Fabulous!

Distractions ‚Äď Tough love techniques

  • Stayfocused: A toolbar extension limits time per day on certain sites ‚Äď you define which sites distract you and how much time you can spend on them today. When you look at the website, it starts counting down.
  • Strict Workflow: ‚Äď Page blocked until a break timer starts. Back to work!
  • Rescue time: A weekly report on how you use your time‚Ķ

Your mileage may vary… you may get more out of this than others do.

¬†Tiny.cc/mawsig_techtools ‚Äď link to a google doc for adding info to

Nick’s email:¬†mail@nicholastims.info

 My thoughts:

What an incredibly useful half an hour! It flew by, was full of humour and we got to learn lots of great techie shortcuts to doing stuff that materials writers do. What more could you want?

 Session 4: Writing ELT audio and video scripts. From basic principles to creating drama

 With the improvement in technology, going out into the street and recording is becoming more possible. You discover all sorts of interesting bits of language that you don’t discover if you script it all yourself cold.

 Need to consider:

  • Is there too much target language shoe-horned in?
  • Is the context clear? (Stated in rubric? A picture? Sound effects?)
  • Is there enough turn-taking? Breaking it down makes it easier for students to handle the language load, particularly at lower levels.
  • Is there a suitable number of speakers? More than 3 or 4 is too many. E.g. 4 people in a meeting is quite hard for the student to know who is speaking each time. Variety of names, genders and accents can help with this. (Must be stated in the script for the actors to be aware of‚Ķ)
  • What about the lack of authenticity? How can we introduce more feelings of authentic speech into the writing and make it less stilted?

We had a go at considering:

image1

Our turn!

 

Features of authentic speech:

  • (Diverse) Pronunciation and accent
  • False starts and repetition
  • Error
  • Fillers and filled pauses
  • Contract and full forms
  • Idiom, slang, jargon, idiolect

Which of these should we be putting into our scripts? Depends on who is using the materials. Maybe not errors! The grammar of spoken English… Are they errors? Or are they just spoken English? And what will the editor remove? Ums and errs and I think are more likely to be kept? False starts often removed. It is important to start thinking about how to add some of these things in…

 Adding drama

You need a central character who wants something. Then you add some kind of conflict situation that makes things more difficult for them! ‚ÄúTry it 3 times‚ÄĚ ‚Äď the main character tries and fails twice and then third time lucky, within the script. 5 or 6 times, becomes more like Fawlty Towers‚Ķ

Video producers say that ELT writers coming from an audio background tend to state the bloody obvious. Show don-t tell. Slightly in conflict with language teaching but… we need to come up with ways to make it more visual yet control the language.

John’s website, where these slides will appear…

My thoughts:

Well, by the end of talk no. 4, it’s easy to see why people say MaW SIG’s PCE is the one to come to! So far, the diversity in the topics has made me think just how diverse Materials Writing is, there are so many different elements that meet in this discipline. It’s really rather fascinating! Also, I’m really enjoying the opportunity of doing all the little tasks that the various presenters have conjured up, working alongside people who know their stuff – a great learning experience!¬†

Phew! After an action-packed morning, it’s time for lunch!¬†

‘Richmond Skills Boost’: my materials!

Richmond Skills Boost‘ is a series of multi-level stand-alone reading and listening materials, which enable learners to work on their receptive skills independently of any course book they may be using. Teachers and students can both access this series of worksheets, via the¬†Richmond ELT Site¬†(requires institutional registration). Once you have registered, in the teacher’s area you will see ‘Skills Boost’, and this is where you will find all the worksheets.

Rather than having one person write all the worksheets, Richmond ELT used a range of different people, so you will see a lot of different ‘writer’s voices’ coming through. Reading worksheets 7, 8 and 9, aimed at A1 level, were written by yours truly! I’m very¬†pleased with how the worksheets turned out, the designers have made them look really lovely. I found it very challenging writing materials for such a low level, but thanks to support from the Richmond team, I got there in the end:

Mine!

Mine!

These are my first published, paid materials and the whole process was a very interesting experience. Not least because the revisions coincided with my first pre-sessional at Sheffield University, a summer in which I also presented at the TOBELTA online conference and wrote a book chapter for an edited book due out this year, as well as teaching myself Italian: if you want something doing, ask a busy person!

I’d definitely like to do more materials writing in the future, so if you are interested in working with me on a project, please let me know! (Also happy to do proof-reading and piloting, if wanted…)

Thank you, Richmond ELT, for having me as part of this project! ūüôā

MATSDA 2014 – What about the other 165 hours a week?

Today I was lucky enough to do a 45 minute presentation at the MATSDA conference in Liverpool. This was held at Liverpool University and the usual lovely crowd of people attended. Thank you to all who attended my talk – one of four that took place at 12.0o.

My presentation focused on ways of helping learners increase their exposure to English, and their use of it, outside of class time. I feel this is essential for learning and acquisition to take place, as the limited quantity of time available in class is insufficient, and beset with course-book related issues.

I discussed obstacles to acquisition and then looked at the various projects I’ve been working¬†on with learners,¬† for the last 8 or 9 months: my reading project, my experimentation with English project, my use of collaborative tools project (which is linked with the aforementioned experimentation project), my efforts to help my learners become language researchers. I also briefly discussed the materials I made for my dissertation project, whose goal was also to help learners make use of the language in the out-of-class environment.

For further information about these projects and to access all the references made during the talk and that I’ve used during the course of all the projects, please visit my learner autonomy page and look in the section entitled Learner autonomy-related projects. For information about my dissertation materials, scroll down further on the same page and see the third link in the Presentations section.

Finally, here are the slides I used during the presentation.

Thank you to MATSDA, and especially Brian and Hitome, for allowing me to speak and making me feel very welcome.

How do we help out learners to bridge that gap... Copyright: Lizzie Pinard 2014 (between Palermo and Cefalu, Sicily)

How do we help out learners to bridge that gap… Copyright: Lizzie Pinard 2014 (between Palermo and Cefalu, Sicily)

My top ten materials development resources

For the next post in my “Top 10” series, I’m focusing on an aspect of ELT¬†that has seen a significant¬†growth¬†in popularity in the last few¬†years. This surge in popularity has led to the development of dedicated websites, a new IATEFL SIG and a lot of interest in ensuring “best practice” both among established authors and teacher-writers, as well as everybody in between, whether their goal is to be published or simply create materials for use in their classroom. Yes, you’ve guessed it! (Oh alright, you saw the post-title!) The focus of this “Top 10” post is Materials Development.

In this top 10 list, you will find a mixture of freely available articles, not-so-freely available but surely worthwhile books, ground-breaking websites and dedicated associations. Click on the picture to be taken to the corresponding site.¬†NB: I am not on commission for any of these resources, sadly… ūüėČ

Without any further ado…

ARTICLES

 

1. Materials Development for Language learning and Teaching by Brian Tomlinson

Screenshot of the article header, taken from the Cambridge University Press link.

Screenshot of the article header, taken from the Cambridge University Press link.

One of the great State-of-the-Art Article series, Materials Development for Language Learning and Teaching is by Brian Tomlinson, published by Cambridge University Press, in their Language Teaching Journal, and reviews all the literature related to the topic of developing learning materials. Interestingly, since it was published in 2012, a lot of growth has occurred in this field. Nevertheless, it provides a good starting point if you want to find out more about the development of the field and the associated literature. This article is currently freely available from Cambridge, by clicking on the above link, from which you can download it as a .pdf file. (Please let me know if this stops being the case!)

(Another good article, but which isn’t freely available so cannot be given its own entry in this list, is another in this State-of-the-art series, dealing with the prickly issue of authenticity in language learning.¬†Authentic¬†materials and¬†authenticity¬†in foreign¬†language learning¬†¬†[the link will take you to the article abstract] is by¬†Alex Gilmore, published by Cambridge University Press in their Language Teaching Journal.)

BOOKS

 

2. Materials Development in Language Teaching by  Brian Tomlinson

The red-and-blue book!

Screenshot from Amazon: the red-and-blue book!

Known affectionately among our cohort in the Materials Development module at Leeds Met as “the red and blue Tomlinson book”, this edited book is another Cambridge University Press gem. It is divided into 5 sections: A: Data collection and materials development; B: The process of materials writing; C: The process of materials evaluation; D: The electronic delivery of materials; E: Ideas for materials development. For an example chapter from this book, you can see Andrew Littlejohn’s chapter, “The analysis of language teaching materials: inside the trojan horse” which is available on his website as a downloadable .pdf file.

 3. (a) Developing Materials for Language Teaching by Brian Tomlinson

The purple book! Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon: the purple book! 

(Don’t worry, not all the resources on this list will have Tomlinson’s name attached!) The purple book, or Developing materials for language teaching, is another edited volume, with a lot of practical as well as theoretical value. (I found it really useful when developing materials for my module assessment…) It has now, however, been updated and is no longer the purple book but a book with a cover whose colours are difficult to use as a brief name-tag! Unlike the red-and-blue CUP book, this one isn’t yet available in e-book format, but give it time…

Screenshot from Amazon: the updated purple book!

Screenshot from Amazon: the updated purple book!

…or if you insist on another that¬†is¬†available as an e-book (cos e-books are cheaper!):

3. (b) Applied Linguistics and Materials Development

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 07.46.46

Screenshot from Amazon – the blue book!

The blue book is another edited volume, bringing together applied linguistics theory and materials development practice. It is divided into four sections: Part 1 РLearning and teaching languages; Part 2 РAspects of language use; Part 3 РLanguage Skills; Part 4 РCurriculum development.

Ok, ok! Enough Tomlinson!! (Though he makes a reappearance as president of MATSDA – see below…)

4. Materials and methods in ELT by Jo McDonaugh and Christopher Shaw

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

This book, as you can see, is also available as e-book, though you don’t save so much on the paperback price – at least you wouldn’t have issues of storage, I suppose! It is broken down into three¬†sections, each section having several sub-sections: Part 1 – Topics in the design of materials and methods; Part 2 – Teaching Language Skills; Part 3 – Aspects of Classroom Methods. For a complete break-down of all the different sections and a sneak preview of the content, why not visit Amazon and have a “look inside”!¬†This is what the book sets out to do:

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

I think it succeeds pretty well: it is a very accessible book in terms of readability and contains lots of examples which are thoroughly discussed/analysed.

ONLINE RESOURCES/ASSOCIATIONS

 

5. MaW SIG

Screenshot of the MaW SIG Facebook page

Screenshot of the MaW SIG Facebook page

MaW SIG, or the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group, to give it it’s full name, came into being as a SIG only just over a year ago. Though young, it has achieved a huge amount in this time. It has produced the first issue of its newsletter, a pre-conference event, a stand-alone one-day event and a month of webinars known as “MaW SIG May”. An active SIG with a grand number of achievements already featuring in its young life, together with ambitions and plans for the future, this would be an association that is well worth joining, if you have an interest in materials development. As you can see from the screenshot, they aim to support materials writers of any level of experience/expertise, with any materials writing goals. I have had first-hand experience of this support¬†so can attest¬†that these aren’t just empty words.

6. ELT Teacher-2-Writer

Screenshot: ELT Teacher2Writer website

Screenshot: ELT Teacher2Writer website

This website is a very interesting resource for would-be and established materials writers. It gives you the opportunity to join a database of materials writers that publishers look at when looking for new writers to work on their projects, and access to resources such as a writers toolkit of a style-sheet, a template and a permissions sheet ¬†(free) and their “How to…” training modules series (available as e-books, at a modest price), which deal with different aspects of materials writing and publishing, so that you can learn how to write materials more effectively, for a range of purposes. (I’ve got my eye on the EAP module, written by Julie Moore currently – looking forward to learning from it!) The brains behind the outfit have spoken at IATEFL twice now, as well as giving webinars. For more information about ELT Teacher-2-Writer and what they offer, why not read ELT Teacher-2-Writer: training teachers to be writers –¬†my summary of their IATEFL presentationfrom Harrogate¬†this year.

7. ELT-Resourceful

 

Screenshot: ELT-Resourceful site

Screenshot: ELT-Resourceful blog site

Rachael Roberts’s blog is a haven for anybody with an interest in writing materials, because, as the tagline says, it is FULL of tips and ideas. And all are simply expressed so that it is possible for any teacher to have a look and find something to take away and play with. Rachael is a professional materials writer, who has also presented at numerous conferences and delivered webinars. In her “spare time”, she also volunteers on the MaW SIG committee (see above)¬†and is part of Free and Fair ELT (see below). Ever wondered about how to write activities using concordances? Activities for helping learners deal with connected speech when they listen? Find out about this and more on this gem of a site.

8. Free and Fair ELT

Screenshot: Free and Fair ELT

Screenshot: Free and Fair ELT

This Facebook page is the new kid on the block. And you know what happens when the new kid arrives? People talk. Well, Free and Fair ELT is no exception. Launched on the 2nd June, this page already has nearly 1500 “likes”! Their goal is to keep materials creation and sharing fair, to ensure copyright is respected. Obviously at 4 days old, it is early days, so who knows where this new kid is headed, but one thing’s for sure: it has taken the ELT materials writing world by storm thus far… Watch this space! Or, otherwise put, “like” the page and see what ¬†happens next!

9. MATSDA

Screenshot: MATSDA's website

Screenshot: MATSDA’s website

MATSDA is the Materials Development Association. Headed by Brian Tomlinson, whose name is all over the materials development literature, they run conferences (the next one is on the 28th and 29th of June this year! Don’t miss out!), produce a newsletter (Folio) and have a website. The conferences are a great opportunity to connect with others who have a keen interest in materials development, as well as great social occasions!

10. ELT Materials Writer

Screenshot: ELT Materials Writer

Screenshot: ELT Materials Writer

This blog site maintained by John Hughes is another little gem for all you materials writers out there, containing a wealth of tips and resources. Topics are wide-ranging, from rubrics to videos to digital skills and much more. Well worth checking out if you haven’t done so already!

As ever, if you have a burning desire to see a site included on this list that isn’t already there, please do comment and share the link for others to have a look at!¬†

(One book I’d like to add, but won’t because it only exists in hardback at the prohibitive price of ¬£52.50, is John Gray’s The Construction of English: culture, consumerism and promotion in the ELT Global course book¬†published by Palgrave Macmillan. It’s a fascinating read, if you can get hold of it!)¬†

At the British Council ELTons, 2014!

At the risk of sounding unbearably smug and like I’m blowing my own trumpet at full volume etc. (which, let’s face it, would be most un-British!), I’m going to allow myself one more post about the ELTons 2014 and my very unexpected win. Why? After all, yesterdays news, today’s fish and chip papers and all that…

Well, I’ve been given permission to upload my “winner’s interview” (recorded after the awards ceremony, when I was still completely stunned!) onto my blog – and being as realistically I’m never going to win an ELTon again, and, even if blue moons were to happen, will definitely never win the Macmillan New Talent in Writing award again (for obvious reasons…) So I’ve decided to go ahead and have my interview on my blog – it’s the first time I’ve ever been interviewed, and probably the last, so why not!

Here it is:

As I said in the interview, you can’t get hold of the materials yet – they are still just my dissertation project, so there is only one printed copy (first edition!) gathering dust in my tutor’s basement somewhere and a .pdf or two on my hard drive – but here is some information about them if you are interested!

And here are a smattering of the wonderful tweets I received following my win:

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 14.40.38Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 14.50.16Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 14.50.21Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 14.50.29Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 14.50.37Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 14.50.52

And, yes, yes I did “favourite” them all! ūüôā I also attempted to respond:

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 14.59.41

Thank you, again, to all who sent me such lovely messages. I couldn’t put them all on here, or this post would be endless! But it was very enjoyable to receive them all, they were much appreciated. ūüôā

I will be very interested to see how it all unfolds – when I will hear from Macmillan, what they will say… I haven’t heard anything from them yet, however, which I’m actually quite surprised about:¬†I suppose I had expected some kind of¬†acknowledgement from them, that I have won their award this year! But then, these are not circles in which I’m accustomed to moving, so I can’t say I¬†have anything solid on which to base my expectations! The good news is that the B.C. ELTons team are taking care of the prize money aspect and arrangements regarding this are under way. Yay!

Interesting times, especially having read this post by Nicola Prentis. All I can say is, watch this space! Meanwhile, there is no shortage of “things to do” on my never-ending list! ūüôā

ELT Teacher 2 Writer: Training teachers to be writers

Excited to be at this talk as I missed the ELT Teacher 2 Writer talk at Liverpool last year… More materials writing-related larks! ūüôā And it’s clearly going to be a good one – we have exciting task handouts on our chairs and key-rings being given¬†out!¬†

Training teachers to be writers

Sue and Karen are going to talk to us about how ELT Teacher 2 Writer can help teacher materials writers.

  • the database: established writers and people interested in writing can all be in the database

Publishers can search the database when they are looking for new writers but also when they are looking for people to pilot materials/write users reports/answer questions for market research. There are a mixture of publishers national, international and independent.

  • the training modules: developed by ELT Teacher 2 Writer

Where does materials writing feature in a teacher’s professional development?

Within the British Council Framework puts it at stage six (specialist) but teachers do it from day 1, with their own learners.

ELT Teacher 2 Writer did some research into existent writing courses and tried to learn lessons from these. (All non-ELT related) e.g. journalism, creative writing… They discovered that the only common ground that all of these course had was a module that urged users to know their market/know a little bit at the industry. So they had a look at ELT materials writing to see what was involved in writing materials.

They broke it into 3 main categories:

  • core skills
  • market-specific (e.g. ESP materials)
  • component-specific (e.g. writing a teacher’s book/grammar summary/worksheets

There are now 30 titles on the website. All written by experienced authors and they share the lessons they learnt in their own process of being published. All available for download on Amazon/Smashwords (special IATEFL discount ends tomorrow!) These are relevant for people writing for developers, teachers writing for their own classrooms and teachers wanting to self-publish.

Task 1: How ELT publishing works ¬†–¬†time to do a task! (T/F statements about publishing)

  • True:¬†publishers DO decide things well in advance. They have 5 year plans, which they check at intervals to make sure they still make sense. They use market research to inform this.
  • False: the best way to get published is NOT to send a complete manuscript to a publisher!
  • False:¬†you don’t need an M.A. or a Delta to write materials. Relevant teaching experience is essential. Delta/M.A. can be positive but publishers may fear an overly academic manuscript.
  • True:¬†lots of investment goes into publishing, it is expensive, so publishers DO want to make sure everything works and DO do a lot of market research to¬†this end.
  • False:¬†You *do* have to meet deadlines! In publishing, there are many people writing to the same schedule. If you don’t meet it, there is a huge negative knock-on effect.

Task 2: What makes a good rubric? (or direction line in Am. E!) i.e. instruction to the students within a piece of materials.

This is an important skill to learn and is thus included in several ELT Teacher 2 Writer modules.

Rubric checklist

  • Rubric language should be less complex than the language point being addressed.
  • Use small sets of words
  • Use the same rubric for all similar activity types
  • Be careful with staging – sometimes better to break things down into two activities rather than one.

We had to apply these criteria to some sample rubrics. We saw one that was too long and in which it wasn’t clear what was required. We saw one where the language used was too complex for the learner level aimed at – here it would be necessary to simplify the language and helpful to include examples. The third was too complex and needed breaking down. The fourth was rambling and dense, requiring major surgery to sort it out!

Task 3: How to write a graded reader?

Graded readers are great to write – they combine fiction and education! The answer to the task question? Can be found in Sue Leather’s module.

Sue (presenter) read from Sue (writer)’s module to comment on this. Here are couple of quotes:

“An idea is the story’s essence”

” It should include a vital issue that needs to be resolved one way or another”

Skills are needed for the following:

  • language and story
  • drama and premise
  • high stakes
  • conflict and choice
  • action
  • character
  • dialogue

We applied this to three story ideas, deciding that two had wheels and one was dull – the two with wheels are in fact in print! The other, not so much…

Task 4: Writing a critical thinking activity 

What is a CTA? What does a good one look like? Equally importantly, and what may shed some light on this is, what is it not?

  • It is NOT a pure comprehension question.
  • It is NOT a do you agree/disagree discussion.
  • It is NOT a T/F statements activity
  • It is not a question about the literal meaning of vocabulary in a text

In a general comprehension activity you find:

  • identify ideas
  • vocabulary meaning-related activities
  • agree/disagree discussions

In a critical thinking activity you find:

  • Why does the author present the ideas like this?
  • Why are these vocabulary items chosen?
  • Does the author support the ideas? How? What evidence is there?
photo (3)

Some critical thinking activity types

We looked at some sample activities and decided whether they were CT activities or general activities.

Finally, we learnt some more about the ELT Teacher to Writer website:

As well as the database, it includes a resource section for writers.

The Writer’s Toolkit

  • style sheet: publishers have in-house ones of these – if you are working independently, this ¬†will help you to be more consistent.
  • template:¬†example template for styles for rubrics/body text etc. and layout/order/structure
  • permission grid:¬†a grid that lays out the information that is needed in order for an editor to apply for permissions to the copyright holder. It is very important to get all the permissions needed e.g. for different platforms etc.

You can find out more about ELT Teacher 2 Writer by:

Liking their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ELTT2W

Following them on Twitter: @ELT_T2W

My last talk for the day and like all the others I’ve attended: super-interesting and worthwhile! ūüôā