A few useful things I have learnt about using Microsoft Word for materials writing and academic writing

You know when you learn something and you wish you had known it sooner? Microsoft Word has made me feel that way on more than one occasion. Here are a couple of things I wish I had known well before I actually wound up learning them:

1. ‘Split screen’ function

In first place by a long way, I give you the ‘Split screen‘ function. ‘Split screen‘ really is nothing short of magical. I (like to) forget how much time I have spent scrolling up and down between various parts of a document to add things in, to make changes to things before I discovered it was possible with the mere click or two of a button to split the document and half so that I could keep one bit still and move the other bit!

How?

In Word for Apple, you click on “Window” in the tool bar and select “Split” – simple as that! In the version for Windows, you will find “Split” nestled in the “View” tab.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 12.54.14

Mac

When you click it, the magic happens:

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 12.54.52

You can drag the bar up and down to make one or the other portions bigger, as you need to.

splitscreen

Windows sufferers

When?

I’ve found it useful (read: a Godsend!) in the following situations:

  • Materials writing: when editing a document containing both teachers notes and a student hand-out. It is much easier to make sure that teachers’ notes and student hand-outs correspond correctly if you can see both at once. You also save a lot of time by not scrolling up and down the document between the two!
  • Materials writing: when editing a document containing both student activities/tasks and answer keys. You can add the answers as you go, again with no scrolling required, and actually SEE the tasks as you write the answers rather than try to memorise/go back and check/repeat.
  • Academic writing: adding references as you go is much easier if you can have the reference section right there to add to as you use new references in the main body of the document. Again, no tedious scrolling required! (This becomes increasingly beneficial, the longer your document grows!)

Right-click shortcuts

How

When you right-click anywhere on your document, a list of options appear:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 13.08.32

Hopefully you won’t need the Cut/Copy/Paste options as you will be using ctrl/cmd + X/C/V respectively, but if you prefer using the mouse, then there they are to use – just do your right-click over the portion of text you have just highlighted to move around (rather than moving your mouse All The Way to Edit!)

The Font/Paragraph/Bullets and Numbering options I think are a bit redundant given they are right there in the Home tab above the document (in both Apple and Windows versions).

The hyperlink option, however, is quite useful for inserting links quickly. (Alternatively you have to go to Insert and then scroll down to the bottom of a long list to “hyperlink”)

I like the synonyms option – if you highlight a word in your text, and right-click then select synonyms, Word will, funnily enough, show you some synonyms of that word. Could be useful for those times when you are lacking in inspiration…

There is also a dictionary option and a translator option that you can use if you can’t be bothered to open a web browser and go to a web-based tool!

When

When you want to do things more quickly!

Keyboard shortcuts 

How

So, remember I explained at great length how to find the “Split” option? Well, rather than go clicking around to do it, you could also use a keyboard shortcut. The default one on the Mac version is cmd+alt+s

How do you know what all the keyboard shortcuts are? (Other than cut/copy/paste which everyone knows!) Well, in the Apple version, quite a few of them are helpfully listed alongside their function within the menu bar drop-down menus:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 13.29.33

If you take against one of the shortcuts assigned, or you want to add a shortcut for something else, you can change it by going to Tools -> Customise Keyboard:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 13.36.01

All the potential commands are listed by category, and where there is a shortcut you will be told what it is in the Current keys. In the above example, for Insert Symbol there isn’t a shortcut so I am assigning one by making the shortcut while the cursor is in the Press new keyboard shortcut box. Once I click Assign, it will move into the Current keys box. Now when I press Command+Option+Shift+S, I will be able to insert a symbol! Don’t worry, if the shortcut you choose is already assigned to something else, you will be told next to where it says “Currently assigned to”. As you can see, my new shortcut is as yet unused. (I had to try a couple of options before I found this one!)

Shortcut keys are your friend – learn the shortcuts for the things you do most often, and if there isn’t a shortcut key, add one! (This link tells you how to do it for Windows versions)

When

The sooner the better! Make Word work for you, rather than the other way round.

What’s your favourite Word time-saving trick?

Materials Writing SIG Conference Session 4 – Writing Skills for Effective 21st Century Materials

After the lunch break, we reconvened with Heather and Julie’s talk on Writing Skills for Effective 21st Century writing.

Julie started by giving us a bit of background into their research over the last few years, explaining that the work informing today’s session continues to build on what they have talked about at past conferences e.g. IATEFL last year.

Materials development should be at the interface of theory and practice but actually it isn’t: it takes a long time before theoretical recommendations can become pedagogically recognised. Findings from conversation analysis could help us to write more natural sounding dialogues, research into pragmatics could help us teach politeness, so there is lots of potential but…

“ELT is not a matter of bridging the gap between theory and practice, but closing it” (Widdowoson, ELTons June 2016).

“With Web 2.0 came technologies that afforded online interaction and user created materials and these altered the authorship paradigm, as well as blurring the line between materials and the tools that produce them. (Mishan and Timmis, 2015, p.79)  – We put lots of things online, we see possibility for communicative interaction between students, but what are we going to do with all of that?

The study

When doing this research, for ‘digital materials’ they took a very broad definition – any materials that use technology in some way. Their methodology involved use of focus groups and individual interviews and spoke to 8 writers and 11 editors/publishers.

Research questions:

image4

These were used as a springboard for discussion with their participants rather than something rigid to be stuck to. The discussions were very interesting and yielded lots of rich data. We discussed some of the statements drawn out of the data:

image6

The findings fit into 5 main categories:

  1. Technical differences
  2. Pedagogy
  3. Management of process
  4. Possibilities of digital (this category had more positive things)
  5. Commercial considerations (business issues, marketing issues)

Technical Differences

image7

First of all, a lot of people talked about working within parameters. Writing to a particular template/brief. There are a limited number of activity types within digital – these tend to be closed activities: drag and drop, gap-fill, matching, YES/NO…  This is also because they tend to be self-study materials so need to be accessible to a student not mediated by a teacher. People also talked about mobile/tablet use and repurposing materials. You might not have long texts but three shorter texts, for example, in order to avoid too much scrolling on the smaller screen.

Mobile items can be quite bare and limited:

image8

Secondly, often print material is being converted to digital materials, rather than people writing directly for digital. Materials can look the same in the course book as on the screen. However, activities designed for use in the classroom need to be changed to work in a digital format. The issue of feedback provision: What will you say when they provide the right answer? “Yay! You got it right!” vs. “Correct.” and what about when it’s wrong? Are you going to tell them why? If yes, it’s going to be very expensive because all the possible answers and reasons together with feedback would need to be input. So feedback needs to be cost effective. Having a variety of different acceptable answers is great but very expensive. To get around these issues, more sophisticated authoring tools are needed and therefore a lot of investment. The level of the product is low, very basic stuff BECAUSE of the limitation to the closed style questions, for the reasons of cost effectiveness already discussed.

Thirdly, you need to think in great detail about how the student or teacher will use it, what will be there on the screen? What will they need to do? What will be on the screen at the same time? You need to be able to visualise it (which requires experience of using it?). Scrolling issues add to the difficulty of reading comprehension and text length.

Lots of scrolling:

image1-1

Finally, you need to think about layout issues. E.g. on a tablet when you tap for the keyboard and it takes up half the screen, will important things be obscured? When you offer the choice of answers, will the answer choices hide the question?!

Layout can be tricky:

image2-1

Rubrics also need to be extra clear so that students can access them alone. Fonts need to be sans serif Sego to make it informal in ESOL materials. Colour is also important. Standardisation between publishers in template use would be nice!

Pedagogy

Again, we discussed selected statements from the data:

image3-1

Before hearing about the findings:

People were debating the usefulness of digital and what value it adds. Is it just about practice? Receptive skills? But how rich is the input to learners from these materials? Obviously it depends on the particular material but these were some general concerns. It could be useful for lower levels to be able to click on a video and hear instructions again, or hear a recording in shorter chunks as scaffolding. Are the the tasks types and questions too repetitive or do learners like that?

Lesson flow was another issue. Two pages of a coursebook can demonstrate some flow and some understanding of where you are going but if it is divided into 20 screens what happens to that? Feedback is an issue if something is marked wrong but is actually right because there is a stray full-stop, for example. Productive skills can also be problematic, because it is difficult to enable practice speaking or writing through digital materials. Students can record themselves but what do they do with that? What happens to the social aspect of the activity? People learning together and collaborating? Will the cost be increased? There are possibilities such as forums, chat rooms, blogs but the question surrounding all of these activities is that they are quite open activities – is that a problem? Would the learner see it as developmental or be disappointed as not getting a score after spending half an hour in front of their screen? The context of use and how that impacts on pedagogy is important here.

Cognitive load can, it was perceived, make certain listening tasks more difficult. E.g. listen and match/type/tap a box. All the tapping and typing as well focusing on the actual language. Therefore it is important to make the activity cognitively engaging but not the technical aspect of doing the activity!

Tablets and classroom management also came up. If you haven’t taught in a classroom where tablets are being used, then it is difficult to visualise the issues around it. Classroom management is affected – you need to control when the tablets are used and when focus is on teacher. If everyone has a tablet, activities could be differentiated quite easily, according to level or learning style. With listening, will you play it from the front or have students listening individually with headphones. That makes a big difference in how the activity is going to work. There are lots of possibilities to consider – how are they being used but also how COULD they be used?

Student engagement/user experience is important to consider as with some digital materials, there is no teacher to draw students in and engage them. Students might need more changes of focus than in the classroom, where interaction with other students and the teacher helps.

Adaptive learning was also something that came up in the discussions. It needs more thought for it to work properly. Adaptive learning also loses the “flow” mentioned earlier with course-book pages.

Is there too much material? It could be overwhelming but it could be a good thing, differing opinions – also depends on how it is exploited and the quality of the materials. Converting print to digital expands material as you have to build in extra scaffolding. It means that you end up with a huge body of material that can become quite unwieldy to produce and manage. You also have to consider the teacher training element – teachers are not trained to use all tools effectively because they don’t exist everywhere so it can’t be a standard element of ITT.

Finally, how are students actually learning from these products? What are they learning? Is it the most effective way to learn? This needs to considered, both for digital and for print. Why don’t we know? Access to classrooms is difficult for researchers, teachers don’t have time to look at it in detail themselves. End user experience is as important as the content itself. But it also requires longitudinal studies, which have their issues of expense and time and resources.

Some of the criticisms are equally applicable to print materials, if we consider print self-study materials as well. So it’s not just about print vs. digital.

Management of Process

image4-1

Time started getting short at this point so we launched directly into hearing about the data:

Delivery – keep it simple, stick to the brief and be aware of the functionality of the software from the outset, as well as the style guidelines. (E.g. 24/7 in print but 24-7 in html). The template developer role is important. In an ideal world, the author would receive a sample unit of examples of activity types so that you could know exactly what you were aiming for and how it would work. It would also help if discussion was possible so you could check if things would work.

The scale of projects is ever more massive. The number of people and volume of material involved is greater than print which was already huge. Yet, schedules are tighter for digital as the student book is produced first but the digital package needs to launch with it on completion (!)

People expect digital to be quicker to produce but it is not so as there is more content required (videos, adaptive learning, assessment criteria). And, of course, the “editorial eye” is just as necessary, even if writers are writing directly into a template. Mistakes can happen and you need someone with an overview to pick up on those, which makes a huge number of screens to check.

In terms of self-publishing, you need to be thinking along the lines of detail required by a publisher’s book proposal form.

Possibilities of Digital

image5-1

There are lots of opportunities:

  • Plan Ceibal in Uruguay: Every student has a laptop, and there is the classroom teacher but also a remote teacher. This kind of thing impacts the materials developer role as you need materials for the remote teacher, support for the local teacher, materials that will go on the screens…
  • British Council Nexus Project: Getting lower level learners online. Helping them developing digital literacy, self-confidence and motivation.
  • Gamification – making things into games. Games in the classroom, apps outside the classroom, on laptops… Badges? Levels? Can be motivating.
  • Augmented reality – second life type things, but also writing stories, producing scripts for animation on students’ screens in class (half the class see one thing, half the other).
  • More writing opportunities for freelancers but… the downside is that some of the work is not particularly interesting or challenging, can be quite mechanical and set fees are becoming more common than royalties. Working just for a fee may impact motivation – what is your incentive to go off promoting the product in your time?
  • It can be career enhancing to create online resources. Putting your own things online for people to use can get your name known and lead to other things…

Commercial considerations

<Missed that picture! Going full steam now!>

When publishers talk to customers and do market research, the customer can’t tell them what they want in terms of digital because they don’t really know what’s possible, which makes it difficult for them to articulate what they want and so for publishers to provide. Then there is the issue of predicting the market when technology is always changing, it is difficult to ‘future proof’ digital products. And what if a new game-changer comes out, so your new product suddenly looks dated as it launches? The issues of payment also arose in this category – should authors get royalties? Should the author role be promoted? The community of practice adds value to project, e.g. through the author promoting the product etc.

Conclusions

There is a lot of scope for materials (print and digital) to be more research informed. More research needs to be done into user experience of materials (funnily enough I was reading about this issue a few days ago in the intro to a mats dev book I borrowed from the ELTC library…edit: English Language Teaching Textbooks – Content, Consumption, Production edited by Nigel Harwood and published by Palgrave Macmillan)

A better quality of materials in digital would be good to see, going beyond the ‘workbook feel’, something more satisfying. Perhaps by incorporating different kinds of technology, making use of new possibilities.

Teachers need to be encouraged to research their own classrooms in this area. Training is also needed for how to integrate digital and print in the classroom. It’s really difficult for busy teachers to explore all the digital stuff and work out what would work well together in the classroom in terms of blending the digital and the non-digital.

Heather and Julie recommended How to write for digital media and How to write ESOL materials, both published by ELT Teacher2Writer and finished by showing us their reference list for this talk:

image6-1

Another very interesting session with lots of discussion to get our teeth into! During this session I was sitting next to Antonia Clare, so it was really interesting, in the discussion elements, to hear about things from a long-time published author’s perspective.

My ELTon-winning materials have gone live on Onestopenglish.com!*

*well, some of them have anyway! The rest will hopefully follow suit in due course…

Some of you might remember that I rather unexpectedly (so much so, that I found myself writing the speech I didn’t make after the event!) found myself standing on the stage at the ELTons award ceremony in May 2014.

Macmillan winner 3

In the interview (which you can see here if you click on the The Macmillan Education Award for New Talent in Writing tab on the right-hand side of the video screen), I explained that the materials were as yet only available on my hard drive.

Fast forward a year and a bit, to September 2015, and I can, with great pleasure, announce the appearance of my ELTon materials, the fruits of my dissertation project labour of love in 2013, at Leeds what was Metropolitan now Beckett University, on Macmillan’s Onestopenglish website! I have been working with Sarah Milligan from Macmillan to prepare my materials for publication on this website, which has been a great learning opportunity for me.

You can find the materials by clicking on either of the photos below:

Compass!

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 19.26.42

– I hope you enjoy using them – let me know how it goes if you do! (And yes, I know, yet again my name has been misspelt: good job I’m all too used to it! 😉 Correction hopefully to follow!)

MaW SIG May: Cleve Miller – ‘New Publishing’ : a summary/write-up

Cleve compares the old internet to a pipe. We would passively consume content that was very much top-down, expert-created, static. It was a continuation of how publishing had worked for the last 500 years. Since 2002 we got what we call the new web, though it’s not new anymore. This is an open platform where we contribute, collaborate and create content. This is where need to locate ourselves as content creators, as materials designers.

Screen shot of slide

Screen shot of slide

The content continuum – the fundamental driving force behind the way materials design is going. On the one extreme, we have traditional publishing (the old web, the “pipe”) and on the other extreme we have a bottom-up self-publishing model. To allow this bottom-up stuff is the advent of web and web-technology. With a blog, we can publish to thousands of people, for free, in a very short space of time.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The top-down model is expert-created and high quality, but it is also a generic, one size fits all. 5 year publishing plans are normal. And it runs into a barrier. The bottom-up model is faster, up-to-date and isn’t restricted to a 5 year plan. It can be specific to language culture and student need. It is the difference between generic content and specific content, along a continuum. There are times when the top-down model is appropriate, and the one-size fits all is fine, this isn’t to knock publisher content. But there are also opportunities on the other end of the continuum, which Clive wants to look at with us.

The power of open platforms. 

E.g. Encylopaedias: on the top-down side, we have Encyclopaedia Britannica, on the other end we have Wikipedia. Wikipedia contains multilingual, user-generated information, meaning that for example things that don’t have much coverage in the traditional encylopaedia can in Wikipedia. It is much more localised.

screen shot of slide

screen shot of slide

ELT also has a general to specific continuum. From General English to English for Chemical Engineers or any other ESP or more specific e.g. English only for Brazilian students. Most specific would be materials designed for an individual student to meet their needs.

Screenshot of slide - Clive's ELT self-publishing matrix

Screenshot of slide – Clive’s ELT self-publishing matrix

From a self-publishing perspective, let’s imagine you are going to design, on your own, some materials. How do you focus what you are looking at? If you are looking at low tech, general English, that is the difficult to succeed area because that is what publishers know how to do really well and they have lots of money to put into it. If you try and make an app for General English, then it’s still difficult because you are competing against the publishers, with all their money. There are platforms you can use, but it is tough and expensive. If you move towards the more specific end of the spectrum, then making an app is still ambitious but you at least will not be competing with the publishers when you are aiming towards something more esoteric, so it is ambitious in  terms of technology rather than competition. In the middle of both spectrums is the sweet spot (not too hot, not too cold), if you get more specific, then the market is much smaller e.g. English for chemical engineers, but it is needed.

There are of course exceptions to all the above. E.g. the case study that we will look at. Which is by Vicki Hollett. She started with the difficult to succeed, scary area. She already has content published in traditional models but she is doing this anyway. And her content is multi-modal. Online teaching, you tube channel, website. Her revenue model for You Tube is the advertising.

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

What are the success principles for Vicki Hollett?

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

The next case study is English Success Academy by Jaime Miller. It’s one exam. Nothing but TOEFL prep. She is engaging, has lots of videos, a well-designed website, she does one-one teaching her content is multi-modal. Her revenue model is premium price e-books.

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

What are her success principles?

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

The third case study is Deborah Capras. She wrote a book and is delivering it on Amazon. Very specific topic. Business, politics, small talk. Her revenue model is print book sales. And the mainstream publishers then took notice of her.

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

What are her success principles?

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

The final is Claire Hart. Blended English for Engineering. She used English 360 platform. There is an online component but then there are also face-face lesson plans and all the handouts you need, for the university department customers. Importantly, she copyrighted it. She can sell it by way of other channels. Claire can take the content and repurpose it into a print book on Amazon, or put it through YouTube as videos, she can use it in any way.

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

Her revenue model is revenue share between Claire and the platform who takes 40%. If you use a platform with a good user base, the marketing is there for you.

What are her success principles?

screenshot of slide

screenshot of slide

“Self-publishing”

  • Rather than thinking of self-publishing, you are thinking of developing a new product. So you are an entrepreneur. You need to think like a business person. You need to think about “sales-y things”. The hardest part is the marketing. How many videos are there on youtube? How many books are there on Amazon?
  • You need to get an editor. Very important, indispensable, in order to maintain a good level of quality. Clive thinks that peer editing could be an interesting possibility. So that there is a network of self-publishers that support each other.
  • You need a niche. Be the very best at one specific thing. That is the most powerful way to move forward. E.g. Ros with regards to English for Medicine. There’s a lot of ways to get specific. Combine your teaching with it. Niches are much easier to market to. Go to professional associations, look on LinkedIn. If you market to a niche, it’s not expensive, if you narrow your focus it’s not and you can do it.
  • Pull everything together on a website or blog.
  • Think outside the box for customers. For example, can you add value to a Business?

To summarise, the future of materials design is bottom up. That doesn’t mean top-down will disappear, but bottom up is the way forward because it can be more specific than any top-down model can be. Britannica doesn’t have the resources to produce 17 pages on Salina, Wikipedia enables that.

In the Q and A time, Sue Lyon-Jones reminds us:

“Keeping your copyright doesn’t always mean you can publish your work elsewhere. Some contracts may grant publishers exclusive rights to publish in specific formats or for a set period of time, for example. Make sure you read and understand the small print, folks!”

When you use a platform (e.g. Instagram, YouTube), lots of times you give up control. So be aware.

To contact Cleve for more information about any of this: cleve@english360.com

 

 

IATEFL 2015: Pre-conference Event Day – MaW SIG – Part 4

By now it’s been a long day and, truth be told, I’m getting tired! I did however manage to jot down a few things for each of the remaining talks, so for what they are worth (my notes, that is, clearly the talks are worth plenty!) here they are:

Tailor-making materials from an ESP author perspective – Evan Frendo

How are tailor-made materials in a corporate context different?

  • Very specific. PARSNIPS aren’t an issue e.g. PIG in industry usage.
  • Corporate culture – e.g. a training culture
  • Needs – corporation needs as well as the individual.
  • Learning centred not learner centred.
  • Training rather than education.

It’s all about finding the gap – the training gap – between where they are now and where they need to be. Very specific, focused on aspects of the job that needs to be done. You can use corpora to do this (very specific texts and wordsmith tools).

 However:

  • Vocabulary profilers don’t apply e.g. hose package is an “A1 word” if you work in the relevant trade.
  • Record a phonecall, discuss with participant. What does it tell me? Need to analyse…
Analysis

Analysis

  •  Company insider definition of good presentation may differ from ours but is according to their context and needs. We need to learn what those are.
  •  Materials need to be based on evidence not intuition.
  • Not “English for Engineers” – Engineers speak to other people too! Priorities and issues may not be obvious to whoever wrote English for Engineers.
  • Check your insights with other stakeholders.
  • Use experts to tell you what counts as “successful” communication. It can be wrong in one context but right in another i.e. if they get the contract, get the product delivered etc.
ELF

ELF

 

(Mis) Adventures in Self-Publishing – Christien Lee

 What should I self-publish?

An important question. Big sales, not much competition, in your comfort zone.

 Why should I self-publish? 

Traditional publishers give more cachet and better production values, no upfront costs, you get a commission or an advance.

But…no guarantee that a traditional ELT publisher will accept it, especially for niche market books; takes a long time before publication. (Self-publishing is quicker.) Less money and delayed payment from publishers.

 Benefits of self-publishing:

  • Guaranteed publication
  • short time to publication
  • potential return of up to 70%.
  • Regular and timely income

But:

  •  No guarantee of making money
  • Potential to lose time and money. Costs – e.g. paying freelance audio creators; setting up website; more work before publication (Editing, layout, formatting etc)
  • More work after publication – marketing, social media etc.

How should I handle editing, book layout, audio and so on?

  • DIY
  • Use crowdsourcing/freelancers
  • Friendsourcing

For audio there is for example Voice Bunny – post a project and people audition for it…

 Where should I publish it?

  •  Print on demand with CreateSpace (Amazon)
  • Book distribution service e.g. Draft2Digital or Smashwords
  • Wayzgoose Press – a cross between self-publishing and ELT publishers; 40% on print and 50% on e-books.
  • The Round – teacher development books

Ensuring quality content

 For test preparation materials, match for length, genre, register, difficulty, complexity, topic/subject, testing point, distractor patterns

 Tools to ensure material is at the right level:

  • Cambridge Vocabulary Profile (Profile a text and then use that as a template)
  • Academic Word List Highlighter
  • Lexile Analyzer – gives you a lexile score which is a number e.g. 1200 for a reading text. Put in the text and it’s 1300, then you need to simplify it to make it closer.

 Developing the online content 

  • Use a platform like WordPress with premium plugins e.g. shopping cart
  • Paying for a custom-designed site
  • DIY

Interactive service – Articulate Storyline, like powerpoint on steroids, can be used online and include quizzes etc.

Crclee+iatefl@gmail.com

My thoughts:

What a day! So much quality content, so much take away. And only my poor little brain to process it all, oh dear…! Thank you MaW SIG for a brilliant day. And to all presenters for their fantastic talks and best efforts to keep to time so that we actually stayed exactly on schedule all day – must be a first for any SIG?! 😉

IATEFL 2015: Pre-conference Event Day – MaW SIG – Part 3

Duly refreshed, it’s time for the afternoon sessions…

How to write ELT activities for authentic film and video – Kieran and Anna

Kieran and Anna also produced: “How to write film and video activities” – from the Teacher2writer training modules. (Yep, another module! Seems to be a trend today, for presenters to plug their Teacher2Writer module! 😀 )

 In today’s talk, they intend to consider:

  1. Role of video and film (more and more important)
  2. Sourcing video and film
  3. Exploiting video and film

Changing from video as an add-on (think glorified listening activities) to something more integral. Capturing and editing moving images has become much more accessible. This can be exploited in language learning. Kieran thinks there will be an increasing demands for writers of this type of activity.

 You need to think about:

  • Syllabus fit – a strict publisher’s brief fit or just integrating it into what you are teaching?
  • Music/soundtrack needs not to be overwhelming, so that voices can be heard. Language level is affected by this and other things such as accents, number of speakers etc. Keep a checklist of these handy.
  • Length – 2-5minute clips are optimal for attention/engagement. The shorter the clip, the more repeat viewings you can have, with different activities. This helps with comprehension too.
  • Relevance – of topic and content vs students’ context, background etc.
  • Task potential – visual is important. Less effective if activities are relying too heavily on the non-visual i.e. the audio.

 Established approach to writing for video

  • Pre-viewing tasks
  • While-viewing tasks
  • Post-viewing tasks

Publishers will break it down like this and include things like vocabulary lists for you to use too.

 Pre-viewing activities:

For language-based goals – matching, summary completion (pre-teaching vocabulary), stills from the video and a summary (for more challenging material)

For communicative goals – prediction, discussion. Take a still from the film or video, accompany it with some questions. Connecting this task with the viewing is of course to check their predictions.

 While viewing activities:

  •  Don’t overload: Activities and instructions should be concise.
  • We can use reading/listening type questions but shouldn’t rely too heavily on these.
  • Need to be activities that don’t demand too much attention so that ss can still focus on the film.

For more information: www.visualmanifesto.com

 My thoughts: 

Maybe lunch affected my brain adversely – clearly my notes from this talk don’t do it justice! The presenters ran out of time for getting beyond ‘While viewing’ but the slides are going to be available later, so keep an eye on MaW SIG channels for further information on this!

Does a corpus have the answer? Corpus tools for ELT writers by Julie Moore

I was looking forward to this talk! I really enjoyed Julie’s talk at last year’s IATEFL and I love corpora! 

 Focus:

  • What is a corpus, what are corpus tools?
  • How to use them to help you write materials – with examples
  • What a corpus isn-t very good for
  • Ways of accessing corpora
  • A few other nifty vocab tools

Corpus, corpora – a collection of texts, used to investigate language and how it works. We use corpus tools do this, software which allows this investigation.

When you look at a corpus, you get something called a concordance. That is, examples of language taken from the stored texts, with the searched word appearing down the middle, aka a key word in context (KWIC) search. You can then click on a sentence to get a little more context.

We can ask a corpus many things…

Questions!

Questions!

With a corpus we can:

  • search for authentic examples.

This can lead you to identify a nice context for a given language point. E.g. a film competition guideline set for “must”.

It is quite rare to find something ready for use straight away: you are more likely to adapt and abridge entries so that all language is level-appropriate.

You can also use it as a template to create your own example. It helps you to create something more natural-sounding.

  • do collocation searches

E.g. keep your temper, do frequency searches. Look at the example lines. Then you see it does exist but not on it’s own but rather for e.g. keep your temper under control/in check etc.

  • search for phrases and chunks

Sketch Engine: search “bush” to find more possibilities than “beat around the bush” So start with a wide search. Then search for the frequency of the collocate e.g. around/about. Then you can search for English type. Smaller difference between around and about for British English.

 What isn’t a corpus good at?

Corpus are good at vocabulary –oriented queries. If you don’t have a specific lexical item to search for, it is more difficult and requires a lot more time. E.g. present continuous for future plans. Even if you come up with a search of present continuous examples, you would have to manually identify the future plans ones.

They are also not so good for longer examples or complete texts: this is because of copyright and permissions rules. You can’t borrow enough sentences to illustrate ‘on the other hand’ for example.

 Important points to consider:

  • spoken vs written
  • genre mix
  • AmE vs BrE
  • Expert vs student

Otherwise put, it is important to know your corpus and what it contains.

For example, the British Academic Written Corpus (student writing, native and non native) so you aren’t going to search it to find out about general spoken English…

Don’t follow blindly:

You need to question the results if they are surprising e.g. with keep and temper.

You only get what you search for. Just because you find something doesn-t mean you have answered your question. Sometimes answers aren-t clear cut. Remember your audience and aims.

 How to access a corpus

  • Major publishers have their own corpus. E.g. Oxford. Ask if you can use it.
  • Free corpora: COCA SkELL (great data, limited search tools), BAWE/BASE
  • Subscription corpora: Sketch Engine, Collins Corpus (coming soon…)

A few other nifty tools      

  •  Textcheckers – input a text and compare it to a particular wordlist e.g. AWL, English Vocab Profile, Oxford 3000

E.g. VocabKitchen

Depends how good you think the lists are as to how much you rely on the tool.

  •  Usage trends

E.g. Cobuild online, Ngram – show a line graph of usage trends.

  •  Dictionaries

 Thesaurus facility, advanced searches – Macmillan Online is good for this.

More useful stuff!

More useful stuff!

Don’t worry – Julie is planning to write a blog post explaining a bit about these tools and what they do. Watch out for it on her blog.

My thoughts:

Another great session with lots to take away! And my note-taking brain appears to have woken up again too… 🙂 Corpora are great, as long as you are using them for what they are great at and not falling into the traps highlighted by Julie. 

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

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

A technological toolkit for Writers – Nick 

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 – OSX, Windows, Linux or… what suits you

Word-processing software – Word, Open Office.. what suits you

Browser – Don’t use IE…try something else…please…

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

 Keyboard and mouse – touching them all the time, make sure they are comfortable. Mechanical keyboard – 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’m only doing it once a month, probably don’t need a fix…
  • Simplicity!
  • Integration – should talk to all devices, if relevant
  • Cost – should be reasonable

Nick’s ELT courses include:

  • Vocabulary presentations
  • Texts
  • Practice exercises

(grossly oversimplified)

 So how can technology help?

1. Images – 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…

  • Taking a partial screenshot (easy on a mac! yay!)
  • Online dictionaries: CALD space word – 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 – 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! 😉

 3. Practice exercises (grammar or vocab)

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

  • Teacher’s 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 – Tough love techniques

  • Stayfocused: A toolbar extension limits time per day on certain sites – 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: – Page blocked until a break timer starts. Back to work!
  • Rescue time: A weekly report on how you use your time…

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

 Tiny.cc/mawsig_techtools – 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…)
  • 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! “Try it 3 times” – the main character tries and fails twice and then third time lucky, within the script. 5 or 6 times, becomes more like Fawlty Towers…

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!