On and Off (line) materials

blender2Part of my job as a materials developer and consultant involves thinking through the role, purpose and process of combining online and offline learning. How do you link what physically happens in the class with what is possible online? Where are the borders? How to facilitate the transition and support of these two media?

It’s a big topic and today by way of illustration, just want to provide an example.

I’m really convinced that online websites and applications need to “bridge”. By that I mean that they need to facilitate access and use of their own tools / functionality by way of traditional media. In most cases, that means using a book to “translate” what they do. My course book We Teach | We Learn is an example but let me be clearer. Here’s what I mean. Your opinion of this, much appreciated.

I’ve written 3 books recently, real physical books you can either print out or order as a physical book. Teachers can use them in class. They have a minimum of complexity and detail on purpose. Each lesson rolls out the same. They are meant to transition and “bridge” the classroom and EnglishCentral, the online English language learning platform.

I think this approach allows teachers and learners to have a “core”, a very traditional and understood core around which to enter into “technology”. All learning needs a “place” and the online experience has challenges providing this. Further, people are still in an old “paradigm” and until that changes, we need to communicate in traditional forms, the power of the new forms.

Below, is the EnglishCentral video – that students can watch and “speak”. Also, do online video quizzes with. Also, the matching lesson from the book (Commercials for Learning English). The book lessons are designed with 3 principles in mind.

1. Can be used by a teacher in class or an independent learner.

2. The transcript can be used for both listening purposes AND personalization of the content by substitution of words/language.

3. The book has a pdf version and access to the online material (video/quiz) can be got immediately.

Let me know what you think about this approach (and it isn’t that radical, it is just a more “tight” version of what a lot of teachers and materials developers are doing presently). The books (Level 1, Famous Speeches, Commercials) are in beta and and available to EFL Classroom supporters or individual purchase.

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ddeubel

Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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4 Responses

  1. Hi David,
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I really loved this post because I’m struggling with very similar questions myself (as no doubt are many materials developers.)
    Here are my thoughts on the materials (which are quite possibly only suitable for wrapping fish):
    1. I really like the video you’ve chosen and I think having interesting and motivating texts like this is really important. I know getting permission from copyright holders to use their content can require a lot of effort and persistence that often comes to naught. Hats off to you for working that out.
    2. Re the exploitation, what the students need to do has to be very transparent when there’s no teacher around to help. Sadly most online materials contain few surprises, and the need for transparency could be one of the reasons why. I’m not sure what player you’re using here but I thought its interface clear. The speech bubble pop ups could be dropped on later videos when the students know the ropes, but I think here they were used judiciously for first time users like me and worked well. I wondered if students might dislike the video repeatedly stopping and starting when they came to record their voice or speak. But maybe not because it’s not a long video and the content is engaging.

    Re the meat of your post, as teachers we could ask is this a creative exploitation, such as we might employ in class? Well no, but this is a different circumstance. Could it be more creative without sacrificing transparency? It’s hard to see how. You’ve probably thought about keeping the ending secret for a while, letting students watch it without sound first and guessing what it’s about, or having them guess what people will say before they hear it etc. But increasing task variety would reduce transparency which I sense from your post, you don’t want to do. This exploitation has the merit of simplicity.

    Over at Café Mocha, students would record their responses and then post them for other community members to rate and comment on. It seems to be motivating there so I’m wondering if you are planning to do something similar.

    Like I said, I’ve been playing around with similar video issues myself and I’m still a long way from solving them. I think the real test will come when we get a bunch of different students from our target markets, sit them down in front of the materials, and observe, listen, and assess. Oh to have the resources of a video games company, eh?

  2. ddeubel says:

    Vicki,

    thanks for outlining so much and noting that this is far from as simple as we might think!

    There is a lot to wrestle with and I think more and more, teachers, even classroom teachers and not just curriculum / materials developers will have to think about these things. We will all have to blend materials and if we want to do a good job, blend by customizing to our own students through our own editing.

    To clarify a few things.

    1. Simplicity. Yes, I think it is important because my objective is a) to have independent learners also use the text. b) to not “tell” the teacher exactly what to do with delivery. My intention was to allow teachers freedom to deliver the content in any of the ways you mention. they can use a traditional cloze, they can pause, do prediction etc…..

    2. Permission. Yes, not an easy one. I’m working with EnglishCentral and we are making progress with partnerships but the issues of permission get wider when you start producing textual materials for distribution. I’ve been careful not to encroach on anything that isn’t fully covered.

    3. The player will soon have an auto record feature so students can record the whole video in one go (not all videos will have this ability due to the length of the video and some other complexities). This will come with our next set of changes. Along with the ability to save selected recordings (so teachers could listen to their students recordings). Right now, playback is only synchronous.

    4. Well we do have some resources but not like those huge companies! I wish. However, I am begining more and more teacher outreach and hopefully teachers can give us the feedback we need vis a vis student experience. Part of that too will be signing up more classes to use EnglishCentral pro bono with the motivation of giving us solid feedback of student response and use…

    Rome wasn’t built in a day!

    But this issues are huge given the power of video these days and the need for teachers to “bridge” it to the set curriculum most have to use.

    David

  3. Many thanks for this. I just re-read a sentence I wrote and saw to my horror that it could be interpreted as the materials are only suitable for wrapping fish. Argh! Please read further everyone and you’ll realise that I was referring to my thoughts and definitely not the materials!
    I also should have said oh to have the resources of BIG video game companies.
    And yes, I’m right with you that despite all its challenges, video is way too powerful for us not to work at it.
    Look forward to seeing your future projects.

  4. Ann says:

    Hi David,

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check for comments.

    Best,

    Ann

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