One Picture – Six activities!

19 Jun

My latest blog post for the British Council Teaching English website is now live – click the link to find out more about “A house of mystery and secrets

It was a really fun challenge to try – all the bloggers were asked to choose one of four pictures from the #ELTpics Flickr stream and to base their post around the image.

The image I chose was this one by @adhockley:


Image supplied by ELTPics. (Some rights reserved)

And to try and exploit this image to it’s maximum potential, I’ve come up with six different activities – each one aimed at a different level of ability, though I think with a little bit of adaptation most of them could be done at other levels.

As I said at the start, this was the challenge for all the bloggers on the BC Teaching English site this month – there’s loads of great ideas from (at the time of writing): Larry Ferlazzo, Steve Muir, Rachel Boyce, Raquel Gonzaga and Katherine Bilsborough.

Check them – and all the other great posts – out here:

Video Lesson Framework – short animations

12 Jun

It’s getting close to the end of the year, when it starts getting difficult for our students to maintain their motivation for English and when teachers are busier with testing and reports and the like.  My students have been clamouring for a video lesson for weeks now, but I always feel as though I would be short changing them with a feature length film – so my concession to their desperate desire is the cartoon.

I have in the past used this lesson framework with Tom & Jerry  cartoons – they tend to be around the ten minute mark and as there’s no dialogue they work well for lower level classes and especially well with young learner classes.  That said, some of the content is quite dated and is what you might call “a product of it’s time” – in short you might want to review them to make sure they fit your context before using them in class.

shaun-charactersMore recently I prefer using Shaun the Sheep episodes – it helps that I have a wide range of these DVDs at home!  But you can also find them on You Tube (as below).

The framework is quite simple and doesn’t involve much in the way of language input, the focus here is more on giving learners a springboard for language production instead – and engagement and fun!

(1) Show learners pictures of the principal characters and ask if they recognise them.  Give learners a copy of the images (or given them one character image per pair).  Learners write a brief biography of each character – either based on knowledge or imagination.  This could include where they live, what they like eating, what they like to do etc.  (@10 minutes)

(2) Play the first two (or three) minutes of the episode, but with SOUND ONLY.  Learners then write down what they think happened.  You can feed in additional language as required, and reformulate their ideas into a mind map / spidergram on the board. (@5 minutes)

(3)  Play the first two (or three) minutes again, this time with video and audio.  Ask for content feedback on what they saw, whose ideas (from stage 2) was it closest to?  Have they seen the episode before?  What do they think happens next?

Now clean the board and divide it into three sections – divide the class into three groups and allocate each group a section.  This can be done as two groups if you have a small class or four groups if you have a large one!  Each group has to come up with a list of actions they think will occur in the second half of the video.  With stronger groups, you can make the list longer (e.g. 10 items), with weaker groups it can be shorter.  (@10 minutes)

(4)  Watch the remainder of the video as a board race – whenever a group sees something they wrote on the board, they shout “STOP” and run up to the board to tick it off, sit down again and shout “PLAY!”  This does make this section very stop-start, so I’d recommend watching it again afterwards without interruption, which can also let the groups check for anything they missed.

Feedback on the ideas. (@15 minutes)

(5) Scripting.  Split the class into group A and group B.  Allocate group A to the first half of the episode and group B to the second half.  Tell the groups they’re going to write dialogue for the characters and they’ll act it out (i.e. do a voiceover).  Let them watch the episode again to take notes (these can be in their own language for lower levels).

The groups then script some dialogue for their half of the video.  Supply necessary language as appropriate.  (@20 minutes)

Play the animation again, but with the sound off – the groups perform their dialogues.  Feedback on performances.  (@10 minutes)

The timings are approximate, but I think this is probably between 60 and 75 minutes, depending on the level and size of the class.

Have fun!

Dear Student, You’re going to fail.

2 Jun

Dear Student,

You probably know why I’m writing this letter.  You probably know, deep down, what I’m about to tell you.  But I’m going to tell you anyway and that’s why I’m writing.

You are going to fail your exam.  Sorry.

I mean I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that on the day, the gods of language learning smile upon you and every word you need arrives at the front of your brain with the minimum of effort.  Or that the invigilator accidentally gives you a PET paper instead of and FCE paper and nobody notices.  Or that you have a great day and all that preparation and training pays off.  Or that a falling star dips past your window the night before the exam and that you make the right wish.

But in all honesty?  I can’t see any other way that you are going to pass.

And this is a huge shame.  I’ve taught a lot of people preparing for language exams over the years and most of them have been fairly average at best, with a few super talented individuals who just annoyingly learn languages just by being in the same room as a teacher.  If any of these had put half the time and effort into learning English that you have, they would have all got A grades.  In Proficiency.

I really can’t fault you for effort.  You have been sending me extra homework for the last four months and doing all the extra exercises in the book that we don’t have time for in class.  You have been writing down everything that goes on the board, everything that I say, that your classmates say.  You have not only taken in all of the strategies, structures, hints, tips and frameworks that we’ve looked at – you’ve taken them away, processed them and you are using them where you can.  The report you wrote for homework the other week was a masterpiece of organisation and genre features.  In our speaking exam practice, you extend appropriately and invite discussion with the best of them.

But you are still going to fail.

And the reason is simple.  Your English just isn’t good enough.  There’s no other way to put it.

But let’s think about what that means.  As I said, from an exam perspective, you’re doing all the right things.  Your micro-skills and strategies are well developed.  The problem, as far as I can tell, is wholly situated in your knowledge of the language system.

Now, I’m not sure why this might be.  I estimate that you’ve probably had about 450 hours of tuition in the last 4 years, which should have been more than enough (according to Common European Framework guidelines) to help you across the intermediate plateau and to start you up the climb into the foothills of the advanced range.  I don’t expect that all of those 450 hours were completely focused on language input, and nor should they have been, but I wonder how many words, phrases and chunks did you write down over the years?  How many language input stages did you sit through?  I really, really want to know what it is you did – or didn’t do – to cause so little impact for so much effort.

Here are my theories, or rather my questions:

  • Do you view the language atomistically, rather than holistically?  Do you look at it as though it’s isolated grammar points to be learnt, rather than components of a whole?
  • Do you think of language knowledge in the same way as language ability?  Are you now finding that bringing it all together to do something with the language is more difficult than basic manipulation exercises?
  • Is it all too much?  Are you trying desperately to remember too many different things, like when to use the present perfect and not the past simple, whether “addiction” is the same thing as “addition”, or which of the possibilities is the correct dependent preposition to use?  Is all this cluttering your mind when you try to produce language that you just give up on it all and go with the simplest thing you can remember, in the hope that you’ve got a better chance of getting it right?


Look, I predicted at the start of this letter that you were going to fail your exam.  To be fair, we did tell you that you weren’t ready for it yet and three months ago I said I thought you probably needed another year’s worth of learning (not lessons necessarily, just learning), though I’m not sure if anyone actually said that to you in those words.  I stand by my prediction, though I really, really, really hope I’m wrong.  I’m just not sure what we can do to help anymore.  I want there to be a simple switch we can flick, a quick fix to solve the problem, I want you to be in class this week and have one of those light-bulb moments where everything comes together for you.  And we’ll keep working in the hope that it happens.

All the best,

Your teacher.

A lesson on Reported Speech

31 May

This is a lesson that I did with my intermediate level students this week.  I particularly like the freer practice task, which is a “Find Someone Who” type task, where the students have to communicate via an intermediary (hence the need to use reported speech).

The language input stage owes a huge debt to the excellent grammar teaching resource book “Teaching Grammar Creatively” by Günter Gerngross, Herbert Puchta and Scott Thornbury.  The structure of my input stage is borrowed from page 224, though in my plan below, the materials are my own version for obvious copyright reasons!  This is one of those books I think should be on the shelves of every teachers’ room!

So the lesson is essentially a simple dialogue build to lead in, a conversation sequencing task, followed by guided input converting direct to indirect speech, a controlled practice task and then a flexistage where learners can put their initial dialogues into reported speech, or you can move straight onto the communicative practice task.

To download a full plan and materials in pdf form, click the link here: teflgeek – A lesson on Reported Speech




Cambridge Advanced writing – learning to answer the question

28 May

Keeping writing relevant to the question is something that learners often have difficulty with.  Sometimes this is because they mis-identify the key content points, sometimes it’s because they write their answer for the wrong purpose.

This is the outline of a lesson I did with my CAE class the other day – I used tasks from the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English 1 practice test book – but this would be adaptable to other levels and your own materials.

The aims are:

  • to familiarize learners with the language and style of exam writing questions
  • to provide learners with a strategy to access key question content


Lead in:

A quick discussion among the learners – which writing tasks they like, which ones they don’t and why.


Give the learners a sample Writing Part 2 question (either question 2, 3 or 4) and ask them to work in pairs to identify (a) what they have to write about; (b) why they are writing.

Feedback & input:  draw a line down the middle of the board and either nominate people to come up and write their ideas in the right side of the board, or ask them to tell you and write their ideas up yourself.

On the left side of the board, write the acronym:

  • T
  • I
  • P

Ask the learners what the acronym stands for:  tell them it represents:

  • Theme (or Topic)
  • Idea(s)
  • Purpose

The TIP is a tool to help them analyse the question and make sure they are including the relevant information in their answers.

Using the sample question you gave them earlier, lead them through an analysis.  As an example, see the question below, which is reproduced here without official permission from Cambridge ESOL and which comes from the 2008 version of the handbook:

CAE writing sample task

Here I would suggest that the Topic  is “a famous scientist”, the Ideas are “their achievements” and the Purpose is “to convince someone to make a TV programme about them”.

The TIP tool also functions as a way of determining the organisation of the text, in the above case, the introduction of the competition entry relates to the topic, while the main body would contain a description of the ideas and the conclusion would be the essential justification to include the chosen scientist, in other words, fulfilling purpose.


Ask the learners to form three groups (group A, group B, group C) and give them additional part two questions to work with.  Ask them to identify the TIP for each question.

Regroup the learners so that they are working in groups of three, with each group comprising one student from the former groups A, B & C.  The learners can then share and compare their analyses and you as the teacher can monitor and clarify any concerns.

Further Practice & Production:

In their groups of three from the previous stage, ask the learners to write their own “CAE Writing Part 2 question”.  Monitor this stage and if necessary feedback on whether the questions are too broad (e.g. write a proposal for world peace), too specific or requiring specialist knowledge (e.g. what are the advantages and disadvantages of Samsung as compared to Apple) or too personal (e.g. write a letter introducing your partner to your parents) – none of which candidates need to write about in a Cambridge exam!

When they’ve drafted suitable questions, they swap their questions with a different group, who must (a) identify the TIP for the question they’ve just been given; (b) draft a suitable plan for an answer and (c) write a strong introduction for their answer.  (this last one can be dropped if time is an issue).

These can then go back to the group that wrote the question for feedback, or the groups can come together to compare outcomes.

The End.

Except of course, for homework, you may want to ask them to complete a Part 2 writing task….

This lesson (post)  is also available as a downloadable pdf here: teflgeek – Accessing Exam Writing Questions


Six themes from #IATEFL 2014

13 May

Last week I did a ten minute spot at the 6th International House Teachers’ Online Conference  (#IHTOC6) on themes I’d picked up on from the IATEFL conference.

My talk, which predictably over-ran and was therefore a bit rushed towards the end as I tried to cram far too much into far too little time, looked at six main themes that I took away from the conference, but which I think are also prevalent in ELT at the moment:

  • Technology is terrific
  • Technology is terrifying
  • Evidence is essential
  • Experience is evidence?
  • Stereotypical Schoolrooms
  • Desirable development

The slides from the talk are below – most of the images are hyperlinked, so to find out more about the relevant issues or background, just click and they should take you straight through.

Here, however is the You Tube video for your entertainment and enjoyment:



All the talks and all of the slides have been uploaded to the conference blog, which you can find here:

The Future of Language Teaching – a reply to my critics

30 Apr

divided brain

About a week ago, I wrote a piece on “The Future of Language Teaching” for the Teaching English blog.  It seems to have been slightly controversial.

In it, I tried to paint a picture of what language learning might look like in twenty years’ time, drawing largely on themes and ideas I had come across in various talks and presentations at the IATEFL conference, as well as my own experiences as a teacher and learner.  In short, I argued that students of the future won’t need to learn languages at a language school as they’ll be able to do it all online.

You can read the full piece here: “The Future of Language Teaching – a case study from 2034

It was a deliberatively provocative piece which I wrote with the intention of opening up a debate on where we think language teaching should be going, rather than prescribing its demise.  Nonetheless, some of the comments and criticisms made, suggest in some cases a misunderstanding of my original post, or in others possibly the positing of a point of view without actually having read the subject matter at hand…

At the other end of that spectrum is the informed and ever eloquent Lizzie Pinard, who questions the role of the social side of language learning, and the lack of it as described in my post.  And she’s right.  I don’t mention it in my post, but that isn’t because I don’t think it’s important, it’s mostly because the picture of how my mythical student, Monica, was learning, was largely in my head and I just didn’t express it clearly enough.

Lizzie mentions three things that I’d like to pick up on:  (1) the social and communicative nature of language, (2) Young learners and the state school system (3) creating a classroom culture (after Holliday).  These are also things that arose in the different comments and discussions that arose on the Teaching English Facebook page after Lizzie and my posts were featured there.

So – point by point then:

(1)    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that language is anything but social or used for anything other than a communicative purpose.  I don’t see, though, how this belief mitigates against learning in an online environment.  People do, after all, communicate quite effectively online.  We are doing so now.  The conversations, discussions and chats that occur through social media sites like facebook and twitter are a testament to how technology, far from destroying the communicative imperative, has in fact enabled people to communicate with like-minded individuals around the world.  I didn’t describe this kind of scenario in my original post, but I don’t think it is beyond the realms of possibility for my fictitious employer, Camsonford ELT, to create forums and chat rooms for their students to socialise in.  I have a number of friends on facebook and twitter that I have yet to meet in person and I communicate with them well enough.


(2)    Young Learners and the state school system – fun in the classroom.  Like Lizzie, I work for a school that prides itself on the combination of fun and learning that we provide to our young learners and I think we broadly succeed in our goals.  And I agree that there are additional benefits to young learners learning in a classroom than purely developing their language skills.  And, like Lizzie, very few of our students are “remedial” – most are incredibly bright, switched on kids who aren’t in our classes because they are behind, but because they are ahead of the game.


But I don’t think this suggests a flaw in my premise, just a shift in the current dynamic.  Lizzie is right to point out that much of the business in young learner teaching is in making up the shortfall (perceived or otherwise) between what the state school system provides and what the private sector promises.  But the state sector is reaching across that gap and this is in part driven by better access to better teaching materials which are being pushed into the state sector by companies like my imaginary Camsonford ELT Ltd.  How many state schools still teach using grammar translation based materials?  I’m sure that in some countries, some teachers are still required to use such materials, but this is changing, and as the quality of state provision of language teaching increases, there must be a corresponding drop in demand for private sector services.


(3)    Creating the classroom culture.  Again, I don’t disagree with the point being made, but I don’t see why this can’t also happen online.  One of my more recent learning experiences was doing an online course and I felt it was actually one of the best collaborative learning experiences I’ve had.  All of us came together for a shared purpose and I felt that the way in which we helped each other to forge an understanding of the material was the first real demonstration of how the “Communities of Practice” principle actually works in the real world.  Now obviously, this is only one experience amongst many, but it demonstrates to me, at least, that it is possible to develop a shared communal culture in an online environment.


Other Points that arose in the various comments – both on Lizzie’s blog and in various places around Facebook – and my somewhat cursory responses:

  • Technology replacing teachers:  I don’t think teachers will be replaced, but I think the role of the teacher in 20 years will be quite different to that of today.  Also, I don’t think there will be many teachers left working in language schools
  • They said that back in the (insert decade here) about (insert technological innovation here).  And I’m sure they’ll say it again about something else!!!  Just because a technological innovation doesn’t bring the changes that were predicted doesn’t mean change did not occur.  Think about the ways in which we interact with other today and ask whether we did that ten years ago…
  •  Schools will never die.  Probably not, governments need to keep the kids off the streets somehow otherwise they might start thinking.  Language schools on the other hand? 
  •  Students gain confidence from talking to each other.  True.  And they can do this online quite happily, possibly even more effectively as they don’t have the embarrassment of making mistakes in front of people they know.
  •  Babies learning sounds from real humans, not the TV.  Child directed language is how babies gather their first language, this is true.  And as the commenter pointed out we’re talking about adult learning of L2, not infant acquisition of L1.  I don’t mean to suggest that computers will replace the role of caregivers in L1 acquisition, but I think it is a viable mode for L2 learning.
  •  You can’t get speaking from an online course:  Are you sure about that? Vocaroo is an online voice recorder, but live video and audio chat functions are also now a large part of social media trends, for example Google Hangouts, Skype etc.
  •  Focusing on students’ needs.  In many respects, an online course where the learner can choose exactly which parts of the syllabus is most relevant to them and interact with like-minded people from all over the world, as opposed to being forced into a compromise with imposed materials and content, focuses more accurately on learner needs than a school based class ever can.
  •  Being part of a neo-libertarian agenda.  I don’t know what that means, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and I’m not sure that isn’t the definition of every language school ever?  But in terms of promoting a free-market / laissez-faire capitalist ethic, I fail to see how my post gets anywhere near that.  Perhaps the commenter could clarify.
  •  Learners need guidance and direction.  And why should an online course not provide that?  Being online does not mitigate human contact, it just changes the parameters of how you define human contact.  Equally, anyone who’s used a course book will know that very frequently the materials provide a certain amount of guidance and direction, but online courses which involve mediators (or teachers) should also be in a position to provide such help as the learner needs.


But to come back to the problem of the baby and the bathwater,  I think any parent knows what the real procedure is:  you take the baby out of the bath, dry her off, blow raspberries on her tummy, fit a clean nappy and dress her back up – and you do all of this before you go anywhere near the bathwater.

The baby is the most important thing in the bath.  It’s what you love and hold dear to yourself, it’s what you choose to protect above all else.  What goes down the plughole is all of the stuff you don’t need.  Perhaps as we all negotiate our way into an uncertain educational future, what we need to do more than anything else is decide what it is that we wish to hold close and what we’re prepared to let drain away.

Update notes:  Updated 30/04/2014 to fix broken links, correct a comment on “babies learning L1″ and add content to “You can’t do speaking online”.

Write and Improve: An Online writing helper

22 Apr

Writing is probably the most difficult area for learners to improve on by themselves.  Writing demands an audience and if you have no-one to tell you how successful your efforts are – or not – then you are doomed to repeat your failures into eternity.

Cambridge English have, however, just released a beta version of an online, browser based writing helper.  Currently free to use and requiring only a facebook login (or email registration), the service allows learners to input their answers to one of the five questions provided (or submit a piece of writing of their own choice) and to get feedback on their efforts.

write and improve 01

In the screenshot above, the highlighted text at the bottom of the image is the submitted text.  The colour coding represents the program’s opinion of the learner level the different sections of the text represent.  The deeper the green, the closer to B2 level (or above) the text is – the more furious the reds, the closer to B1 level (or below).

You’ll also notice the “tabs” under the heading Detailed Feedback  these are meant to provide a closer look at what errors the writer has made and give suggestions for improving them:

write and improve 02

It’s worth remembering that this is still in the stages of testing and ironing out initial problems – and there are quite a few things that I think need improving!

As it stands, the feedback it gives is primarily linguistic and syntactical.  In other words it looks at the grammar of the sentences and makes suggestions.  And it doesn’t currently catch everything – as in the third sentence above; “I the town you can…” or the fourth sentence “You can go to the shopping”.

The text itself was an answer to a question from a Cambridge English Preliminary paper from a student studying at Intermediate level.  There is a lot of repetition in the text and very limited grammatical range.  The student has also some word choice issues – again there is a lot of repetition (a lot of which is repeated from the input) and some vocabulary inappropriacy.  The task was also a letter (replying to a penfriend) and there are a couple of genre features missing, though in fairness to the system – it didn’t know that as this was submitted to the free writing section.  Overall though, this is a piece of writing which I think is close to B1 level, but which is nowhere nearly sophisticated enough to achieve B2 level, as the system suggests.

I had some fun writing an error strewn letter of application for a summer camp job, just to test whether it does pick up on these things.  It doesn’t.

So who should use this tool?  It’s unfair to judge it too harshly at this stage of development but I don’t think the target audience of B1- B2 are actually the people who should be using it.  Students hoping to achieve a B2 certificate need to consider a much wider range of things to improve on and if this tool is to be useful for them, then it needs to more accurately reflect the things they’re being assessed on.  However, I think students who are at B1 level or below may well find it useful, as they will get to see the improvements they make to their texts improve their scores – as long as they don’t mind seeing their work highlighted in quite a lot of red to start with!

I have yet to try it with a class and I’m curious to see how useful students think it is, so that’s the next obvious test!  But in the meantime, why not check it out and see what you think:

write and improve04



#IATEFL 2014: The Sugata Mitra Debate

8 Apr

Well.  This one was controversial.  In some respects what Sugata Mitra said in his plenary on Saturday morning doesn’t even matter anymore, such was the debate it sparked and which still continues via facebook and twitter.

Mitra, it is clear, has his devotees and his detractors.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone receive a standing ovation in a talk that people actually walked out of half way through.  Do a Twitter Search for Sugata Mitra, and you’ll see what I mean.

So what did he actually say?  Well, if you know anything about him or his work, you’ll find that it actually wasn’t anything new – it was just a restatement of the research he’s done into self-directed online learning.  In a nutshell what he said was:

Kids in crap places don’t get good scores and this is because no-one likes to live in crap places, so the only teachers who stay in crap places are the ones who aren’t good enough to get jobs in good places.  Kids aren’t scared of computers and don’t worry very much about breaking other people’s stuff and if you leave a kid next to a computer for long enough they learn how to do things.  If you give them a challenge, they rise to it.  Therefore, do kids need teachers or can we just give them all computers?

I’m paraphrasing here obviously.  You might also begin to see why this provoked some strong reactions to an audience of educators.

I bumped into Mitra at Harrogate train station while we were both on our way home and I sat down and asked him about it.  This was not a formal interview, but he was nice enough to take the time and talk to me and answer a few questions:

I asked him why people had such extreme reactions to what he was proposing.  He said he thought it was because people saw it as the end of the teacher and that people thought he was saying there was no more need for them, and that they feared this outcome.  So in order to clarify this I asked him what he thought the role of the teacher would be and he said that this was what his research was focusing on now – where do the teachers take these new ideas.  He is experimenting, as he mentioned in the plenary, with a number of schools in the north east of England and some of the teachers are incorporating what he calls SOLES (Self Organised Learning Environment) into their curricular work, while others are using it extra-curricular.  It occurred to me at that point that it was better suited to content classes (e.g. physics / history) than language classes, but he said that language was the first thing to develop, even in native speakers who showed the same incremental increase as non-native speakers.

What I didn’t ask him, and should have done, was how that incremental increase was measured – was it only vocabulary or grammatical resource?  And I got the distinct impression that he sees no need for specialized language instruction.  I repeat that this is my interpretation, but in all his experiments the language development has been largely incidental and where language development was the focus (pronunciation) in one experiment, the kids performed well – but is this perhaps because pronunciation is not a creative aspect of language?  It is largely a question of the mechanics of speech and doesn’t require language, only mimicry.

It also, sounds terribly similar to Prabhu’s “Bangalore Project”, or the Procedural Syllabus, which Prabhu published in his 1987 book “Second Language Pedagogy” and which formed the basis of Task Based Learning.  I put this to Mitra who thought it might have some similarities but that he preferred to think of it a research based learning.

Or as Gavin Dudeney pointed out on facebook – webquests.

Watch it and decide for yourself – here’s the link to Sugata Mitra’s IATEFL Plenary video:


Further Thoughts and reading on this:

The Donald Clark Plan B blog has some fairly harsh criticisms of Mitra’s methodology, research design and on the state of things now:

Wiktor Kostrzewski presents a more balanced view of the positives that both students and teachers can take out of Mitra’s ideas here:

And here’s Mitra’s TED talk here:

Finally, Graham Stanley has an extensive overview of the debate, and has managed to gather together a lot of differing viewpoints from various social media platforms – you should definitely read his take on it all:

Update:  more voices added to the mix:

When Graham Stanley wrote the piece listed above, he hadn’t actually watched the plenary, he was more collating, analysing and assessing the different viewpoints other people expressed.  He has now watched it and gives us his take on what Sugata Mitra said here:

Phillip Kerr looks at who’s doing what in Ed Tech and draws some interesting and unsettling links between some of the big players – including Sugata Mitra .  here:

If you know of any others – please post them in the comments section!


#IATEFL 2014: Together in Electric Dreams – Pondering the Future of EdTech

5 Apr

Gavin Dudeney’s talk took a quick look at the possible future of technology in ELT – pulling out a number of technologies and trends and asking the audience to think of them in terms of whether they represented a Strength, a Weakness, an Opportunity or a Threat.  Towards the end of the talk we then compared our ideas before he opened things up to the floor.

He mentioned the following areas:

  • Self study
  • Personal publishing
  • Disruption
  • Learning Analytics
  • The Digital Divide
  • Resusable Learning Objects
  • Teacher Collectives
  • PLNs, Connectivism and crowdsourcing
  • Digital Skills teaching
  • The Flipped Classroom
  • Wearable Technology
  • Multi-Sensory Computing
  • Internet Freedom
  • SOLES (Self Organised Learning Environments)

All of which are quite complex ideas, concepts and technologies that require a lot more time and exploration than was available in the talk – so Gavin ended up giving us quite a brief overview of what each one entailed.   If you want a bit more detail on what he said, be sure to check out the recording of his talk:

I was interested in his off the cuff claim that the Interactive whiteboard has already had it’s day – on reflection I think he’s probably right.  The IWB seems to be mostly used as a display function and really has only limited interactivity.  Why, when students can bring their own devices to the classroom and everyone can interact synchronously, do you even need an IWB?

I also appreciated the SWOT analysis approach that he took to the talk, because it did give us a framework for our discussion, and for some contexts it is possible to see these things strictly within this sort of framework.  But.  Imposing a framework like this is quite limiting in some respects and it would have been nice to be able to think about these things in more detail.  Not that there was much time for him to fit everything in.

Threat and Opportunity are, in this sort of context at least, two sides of the same coin.  Mostly I think that what all of this new technology represents is a threat to the established order – this is a natural evolutionary process and also represents an opportunity for the new way of things to get a foothold and become the established order for the next generation.  The key skills here for the individuals and organisations affected by these changes are flexibility, adaptability and agility.

Gavin Dudeney’s slides for this presentation are available to download via this link – they also contain clickable links which take you to further reading and additional websites with a broader overview of the topic areas discussed:


You can watch his talk here:

If there are any problems with the video, just follow this link:




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