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!

 

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IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG PCE – Print VS. Digital; is it really a competition? (1)

Having got up at 05.15, got a train at 07.18, negotiated Birmimgham New Street station (I’m going to walk – I’m already lost – right, where are the taxis?!), registered, been rescued by Sandy Millin (as ever!) I am now ready for MaWSIG PCE part 1. For those who don’t know about MaW SIG:

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Rachael Roberts explains that the speakers are going to be look at creating both print and digital and the interface between the two and that the day will culminate with a panel discussion. We are asked to write questions for the panel on the post-its floating around the room. She then goes on to the flight attendant thing (safety announcements) in record time and reminds us of the SIG day which is on Friday  and includes the Open Forum at 12.30 followed by a ‘MaWSIG Meet-up’

Ceri Jones – Same but different

Ceri started teaching in Italy in the 1990s and enjoyed creating materials from the beginning, and soon also for publication! Since then she has published just about everything you can think of!

Ceri opens with a question based on her experience over the last few years – are print and digital so different? Is it print VS digital, so black and white? She asks us to decide if we think they are the same or different. Humans learn by finding similarities or differences, and what we find depends on our mood also. She showed us a book called the Pointless Book, written by a ‘YouTube couple’. The book is blank pages throughout, lots of tasks, a blindfold drawing challenge. The App for the book shows Alfie (of the couple) doing the tasks, so bringing it to life. Then she shows us something called ‘Google Cardboard’ – $10 and comes in an Amazon flatpack, and you blend it with an App…

Ceri will look at a very specific learning outcome and look at different manifestations through material to ‘get at’ that outcome. Print only, blended, digital only scenarios, all working with the same very small learning outcome. We were asked to identify with one of a list of scenarios. I picked ‘blended 2 – ftf coursebook plus platform‘ for my current context. We are going to look at various scenarios along the cline.

“Describe a Memorable day in the past”

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First we imagine an elementary group – keen to talk, missing some language, this linguistic need is identified. Ceri tells us about what happened with her students in class. She chose a video from Vimeo and shared it with the class: https://vimeo.com/15304152  Goes from day time to night time, a load of activities patched together in the video. We were asked how we would scaffold that f2f.

  • brainstorm ingredients of a perfect day
  • categorise them under places, activities, people
  • prediction re video
  • view and check
  • discuss how the video measures up with their idea of a perfect day

How do you take what works for you in class initially and put it on paper as materials? Does it translate? What about limitations: print only (no video link-up); budget allows for 3 or 4 stock images; half to two thirds of a page max; need to engage with topic and introduce a vocabulary set plus the brief (see pic above).

  • stock images
  • vocabulary box
  • gap-fill exercise
  • personalised discussion

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What about the learning experience? Moving to a new scenario: how does this become a digital lesson? How do we convert the print product into digital?

  • video file
  • interactive activities (i.e. on the screen, with the computer!)
  • multiple screens
  • engage in topic
  • intro vocabulary set

Budget? Way beyond any project currently in existence!

How would the digital material be used? Very important question – is it just the student + screen? Something to use in class? In a virtual classroom? The answer is yes to all these things. To work, it has to be as free as possible, blending all situations.

Next Ceri shows us some printed grammar material. Dialogue, noticing questions, extra practice. What happens if we do this digitally? Ceri shows us an example and asks us to look for the similarities and the differences. There are limitations on both sides. She suggested the sample might suit slower students at home. What is the best way to handle something like this? E.g. student working on their own might need more structure added e.g. a table to complete through drag and drop.

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Finally, we look at the communicative task. How would it be structured in the various scenarios? What would be the differences? What would be the advantages for ftf and digital?

Ceri says she reckons she has posed a lot of questions and given no answers but we will be thinking about this kind of thing all day so it’s ok. We’ve seen some examples from both sides of the fence and seen limitations/disadvantages of each but also the advantages which exist for both.

She suggests that if the digital is moderated then the potential is very exciting! But…very often it isn’t!

Ceri’s blog: http://cerij.wordpress.com

Genevieve White – Adapting  ELT Materials: how to digitise a print course

Genevieve is based in Shetland, thinks she may be the only one! She tells us this will be quite a practical session with loads to pack in. Looking at the skills needed, the challenges faced and a hands-on adaptation task. There will be a prize!

A quick introduction to her own writing experience: a mixture of the concrete process of adapting materials but a personal process of adapting mentally in terms of beliefs about how languages are learned. She wrote a bunch of lessons on Word and then had to put them onto a platform when it was ready. It didn’t really work and she had to do a lot of adapting. She has also adapted student print books into digital format. More recently she has been adapting workbooks to go online. Different projects make different demands on your skills. Sometimes demands are technical, sometimes they are demands on your creativity, it all depends.

Are the skills needed any different from those needed for print. What skills do ELT writers need? Time management, reliability, ability to stick to a brief, awareness of market, creativity. For digital?

Skills

Creativity within tight constraints. Important for all types but particularly important with adapting print to digital. E.g. a small pool of words (beginners book) to create multiple screens of engaging activities.

Good communication skills. For all, but v important for print-digital because you receive huge amounts of information – student book, teacher book, answer keys, link to platform, audio and sound files – so much information, more than usual, so good communication skills essential. You need to be able to look at all that is sent, be in touch with the project manager and organise your questions (there will be lots!). A good project manager will be delighted to help, even over Skype etc.

Up-to-date tech knowledge. Obviously. But…a lot of projects that Genevieve has worked on involved fiddly platforms to navigate. To save time, it is a good idea to spend a bit of time familiarising yourself with things you are expected to know about BEFORE you are in the middle of a project. E.g. dropbox, being able to edit a pdf, being familiar with tracking changes and responding to comments.

An awareness of how digital material is experienced by learners. If you haven’t tried to learn a language online, have a shot. E.g. Memrise.com (check!), Livemocha.com, fsi-languages.yojik.eu, http://www.busuu.com/enc (need to visit the latter 3!)

Challenges

Need to think very carefully about the support and interaction. For digital learners who are using the materials for self-study purposes, need to think about what is missing i.e. the teacher and replicate that role. When we adapt a print page to a digital format, need to think about the teacher’s role and include certain lesson routines within a digital sequence. Need to think about how the lesson will flow – warmers, intros, practice, feedback etc. A good teacher can make a dull lesson come alive, how can digital replicate that? I.e. engage learners. Could be pictures, questions, short video clips with gist questions. You can use a clip for a warmer and then the same clip for a language activity later on.

A successful print lesson has a nice flow, how can this be carried over into digital? Put yourself into the shoes of a learner and sequence the activities so that the learner can do them step by step with opportunities for reflection, repetition, practice and revision. We need to think about how to build into complexity into tasks vis a vis print material. With online materials, the complexity needs to be built in more gradually. As, with print material there is the teacher who is aware of all the students needs and can tailor things if students aren’t getting things as quickly as they should etc. Need to balance cognitive complexity, linguistic complexity and task complexity. Digital material can provide support via hints, useful language boxes and global tools e.g. a dictionary. Scaffolding and sequencing activities properly ensures that students can take control.

Sensitivity to cultural differences needs to be ensured. Publishers will have a list of things to avoid! Genevieve tells us about a prepositions of place unit with items of furniture in a bedroom. Students had to record their voices describing where items were in their room. She had a limited list of items and prepositions. She was getting bored and so did an artists brief with a messy room and things all over the place. It got sent back because in some cultures messy rooms are a no-no! In one brief she put dvds on the bed. Thumbs down. Apparently putting dvds on the bed is dodgy….! Being aware of these issues can save time.

A checklist from Scott Thornbury all about how SLA research can inform edtech.

  • Adaptivity
  • Complexity
  • Input
  • Focus on form
  • FB
  • Interaction
  • Chunks
  • Personalisation
  • Investment
  • Output

Works as a checklist for adapting materials to digital. See Scott’s blog post for detailed explanation. E.g. input should be rich and engaging. Need chunks not just single words. Personalisation is hugely important to bring into digital materials. She says it is not prevalent enough in digital materials.

Task time! Outcomes Pre-Int Unit 2 ‘Shops’ p16-17

We have 8 minutes to look at the activities, identify lang focus, theme etc, and say how we would adapt this digitally for self-study. We need to create a sample which we will be pitching to the rest of the audience. No publishing contract but a prize to be won! It was fun discussing it and then hearing others’ ideas, and it brought us right up to the end of a very interesting session, as well as the first tea break!

 

Materials Writing SIG Conference Session 2 – Working in a digital space

The second session of the morning is by Antonia Clare, co-author of Speak Out. (Also Total English, ELT Writers Connected and Free and Fair ELT – I picked Speak Out  as that is what comes to mind first when I see her name…) She says she has been writing materials for a scarily long time – when she started, the internet existed but she didn’t have access to it. She would go to the library with a notebook in hunt of texts. She wrote with J.J. Wilson – he would provide lunch, she would travel there and supply the computer. They would submit drafts, then they would wait three months, do life stuff, and then receive the drafts back with red pen all over them. Every now and again, a writer would come to her school but other than that or the odd publishing event, no day-to-day conversation with other writers.

The first question is what has changed since YOU started writing? (My answer is quite short given I have only just started… 😉 )

For Antonia, the existence of the collaborative coffee shop – even in Norfolk! She doesn’t need to lug heavy reference works and dictionaries around. She can be in touch with co-writers over the world. She also notes the following changes with the move to digital:

  • less paper, a lot more screen time
  • in the last few years, more online collaboration than face to face
  • content and skills have changed – more multimedia content, and the skill set needed therefore has also changed: need awareness of different tools and apps
  • expectations (deadlines – no more three months between drafts! weekly deadlines not uncommon, small chunks of material rather than whole drafts of books; payment – no more royalties mostly; the role of writer has also changed – more to come on this)

According to the title of a Times Higher Ed article, “Everyone’s a winner in this digital space”. This title struck Antonia as this is the narrative we often hear in relation to digital – it’s better, smarter etc than old ways. In education, in publishing, in business, in government. Need to take a step back and look at that critically. Are we being snake-charmed? Or can we really add value to what we are doing, if so, how?

Online collaboration

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What struck Antonia – average office worker checks emails 36times an hr. 9hrs a week is used searching for information. More than a billion people using Facebook so we are all accustomed to new streams and other such tools, so such elements appear in online collaborative tools. The tools that production companies use for online collaboration will also generally integrate with well-known tools like Google drive.

Antonia gets up, does her work, reaches the point of no more for today, sends it to J.J. in New Mexico who is just getting up, and goes to get her kids from school etc, while he has a look and sends it back with his thoughts ready for the next day.

She reckons that it offers us opportunities and makes us keep learning, which is motivating.

A couple of projects that have grown from coffee house conversations that Antonia has worked on

Some others she is aware of:

  • The MaW SIG e-book
  • ELT teacher2writer – database for writers and publishers; series of e-books with tips on writing materials in its different aspects
  • iTDi.pro – online teacher training, for teachers by teachers
  • The Round – founded by Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings
  • TEFL Commute – podcasts for English Language Teachers
  • PARSNIPS – some ss want to address taboo issues, so a group of teachers came together and wrote a set of lesson plans dealing with each of these issues.

So, lots of exciting, innovative projects going on as a result of talking – online, at conferences, in coffee shops real and virtual.

Collaboration tools

  • Dropbox
  • Google Docs/Drive (for sharing and editing docs)
  • Skype (useful for regular talks with co-authors)
  • Slack (you can set up channels for different projects, discussion and file sharing; cuts down on emails!)
  • Google Hangouts (For a Skype-like conversation with too many people for Skype)
  • Trello (for keeping tags on how a project is developing)

These can be useful for the sort of projects referred to above.

Publisher Content Management Systems (CMS)

These are huge spaces for documents relevant to a given project to be shared. Useful, tricky when the system goes down, difficult to access from a beach (if you need to work while you are on holiday – those weekly deadlines). Antonia doesn’t want to give the lesson plan to Pearson/the system before it has been back and forth between her and J.J. so she arranged to download it, do the back-and-forth then upload it at the end of that in time for the deadline.

Antonia’s Concerns

  1. virtual distance
  2. content control
  3. screen time

1. Technological interaction is replacing face to face interaction. And there is a lack of ‘depth perception’. Collaboration is more than passing data backwards and forwards. It is achieved through ongoing, meaningful discussions. Relationships. Antonia thinks online collaboration should be supplementary to face to face interaction, not a replacement.

2.Antonia thinks content should be an important driver of how the material is delivered, rather than the how dominating. The process is all separated out into components – needs to come together more. She thinks the future is being part of a collaborative learning community.

3. We spend too much time in front of our screens. We needs to find ways to get up and do something different. Stretch, shake, move, walk, play the piano, 10 minute burst of housework, weed the garden, eat goji berries, swim, shift device/medium, meditate for a minute, go and get a drink and don’t take it back to the computer, do something else while you drink it, take an hour for lunch… (How lovely – Antonia had us doing the twist like we did last summer! 🙂 )

We need to be savvy, careful and not lose sight of the content, then there is the opportunity for all to win.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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What are the success principles for Vicki Hollett?

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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.

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What are her success principles?

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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.

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What are her success principles?

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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.

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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?

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“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