EFL 2.0 Teacher Talk

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Archives for Prof. Development

The #1 …… article about teacher development

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.

                          The Making Of An Expert


I’ve been involved in teacher training and professional development for a long time. A lot of the time, I’m trying to keep up the good fight against so many preconceived notions about what makes a better teacher. Right now, we are having an energetic conversation HERE about the issue of whether certification/degrees make a better teacher. Despite my own career, I’m convinced that certification actually hurts teachers and detrains them – especially language teachers. There is nothing but a lot of perpetuated misinformation about what makes good teaching.

I am not going to outline them all here but rather want to point those interested to a stellar article that I’ve often returned to and digested for thought – What Makes An Expert. Though not directly related to teaching, it focuses on what makes someone rise to the top of their profession/interest. So many valuable lessons for teachers all revolving around the notion that “teachers are made, not born” (another big myth we have out there). Please read at your leisure and comments welcomed.

To end, here is my own list of the myths that exist about – “A Better Teacher”. I’ll refrain from commenting on them and leave this for another post.

1. Teachers are of a certain character type/personality.
2. Professional development always is beneficial and teachers never “get worse”.
3. There is a relationship between increased subject knowledge and increased teaching effectiveness.
4. Teacher pay has no bearing on how effective they will teach.
5. Teaching is an academic subject and there is a set body of knowledge all teachers should know.
6. What a teacher thinks about their student’s abilities does not influence their teaching or educational outcomes.
7. A degree represents a better teacher than one without, all other things equal.

If you liked this post, you’ll be interested in this one: The #1 teaching factor effecting student success.


Gus the Bus (Driver)

GUS the BUS (Driver) full screen
I want to thank those readers who’ve written asking me about when I’ll be blogging again. Honored.

I haven’t been blogging for several reasons; marking students’  work (Philosophies of Education), my work with EnglishCentral (stay tuned for major developments) and  just needing a break. But mostly haven’t been writing because of the loss of the greatest teacher I’ve ever known – bar none. Doug “Gus The Bus” Worth.

It’s been a tough year – lost my coach/teacher/mentor Mr. Z. and that threw me a curve ball. Very unexpected. But the loss of Mr. Worth was more than just a personal loss or a loss for my family (who were close to him), it was a hole blown into our whole community. At his funeral, you could feel that emptiness.

Doug’s greatness as a teacher was of many parts. Let me list them, they are a model all us teachers should follow:

1. Praise.  He knew how to praise well. Always made you feel special.I wrote about him several years ago in this regard.

2. The Art of the Personal. He listened to you. You knew he cared. He’d send notes, stop you on the street, give you photos and clippings of your achievements.

3. Memory.He knew everyone, called all students by name and never forgot a thing. He’d pull up details about you that even you had forgotten.

4. Success. Doug taught all students but made sure the lowest of us mastered the basics. His legendary “hints” about tests got us all prepared and learning. He fostered success, never tried to put up barriers to achievement or use tests as a “trick”.

5. Being Human. Doug was never afraid to be himself or not be himself, whatever it took to get the students motivated. His jokes and stories beginning lessons are legendary. So too his funny walk, his chalk antics, his now iconic expressions. The video above shows Doug at his finest – a 1983 assembly at our high school, New Liskeard Secondary School. He plays the role of “Gus the Bus (Driver)” . If you watch, you’ll get to know why he touched the lives of so many.

6. Community and Service. This is the most important and what I want to highlight for all teachers. We are part of a wider community, it is here where what we do in the classroom begins to grow. Doug was so active in the community, a light, a beacon. He leaves us with a calling, a calling to create community through our day to day acts. To not be a 9-5 teacher but a teacher in heart, wherever, whenever.  That our small town is left with such a big hole now, speaks volumes of how Doug made “education” something beyond the 4 walls of school.

I’m glad I got to visit Doug just before his passing. He still had that twinkle in his eye, a saintliness. I’ll remember it always and pay homage to him by doing more to foster community and take my own teaching out of the confines of the institution and into life.

I haven’t been on skis for years. I’m heading out for a little ski in memory of Doug – he loved “the boards” and being out there in the wild.

Marking. Is it all about going through the motions?


Marking is something teachers kind of dread.  It takes hours and usually there is little pay off.  However, on the other end are students who wait with anticipation for any feedback or comment.  How to reconcile these two opposing forces?

This dilema and “round peg into a square hole” dichotomy became clear to me when I recently showed my students the clip below.  It’s from a new TV series – Mr. D (and yes, I was a Mr. D. in a school just like this guy!) premiering in Canada.

I teach a core course in the Bachelor of Ed program – Education and Schooling. A broad overview course dealing with topics like “Becoming a Teacher”,  “History of Education”,  “The law and schooling”, “Philosophy of Education”,  “Social Perspectives” and “Critical Issues in Education”.  I enjoy it and I beyond the specific curriculum objectives, have the overall objective of lighting a fire inside my students and getting them to think critically about every day issues in education. Thus, the Mr. D. clip.

I asked my students ” Based on this tv series clip, what do you think it says about how society views teachers?”  I was surprised when many said that it shows teachers as “Realists”.  Watch and decide for yourself.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0
My students also talked about how they feel when they put a lot of work into something and the professor/teacher doesn’t spend any time actually reading it and giving feedback. This comment hit home. I just got a load of assignments to mark – a pile of them! I’ll be spending the next week wading through them (but happily for the most part!).

What all this really says to me is that we have to stop giving “useless” assignments. Really and truly. Assignments that mean for students “just get it done” and for teachers, “just get the marking done”.

What does this video say to you? What issues does it raise for you? I’ll be interested to see if this new series develops in a way to portrait teachers as lazy blockheads or in a vein of showing the “realistic” side of our profession.

* need some reading on assessment? See my page on all things to do with assessment.


In Memory Of Josef Skvorecky

I’ve spent a good part of my life studying Czech writers and the incredible literature that has come from this tiny country. I studied Czech, drank beer with her writers and failed at translating the untranslatable.

I had the esteemed pleasure to visit Josef and Zdena Skvorecky who lived just a few blocks from me in Toronto. Shared conversation and great Czech hospitality. I grew as a writer but more importantly as a human being, through my reading of Josef Skvorecky. He’s in my pantheon and now he’s gone. Gone and all I’ve got is this poem I dug up from a box full of notebooks. Based on a glorious day I went to visit him. I walked down Parliament St. and watched him – slunk in to a coffee shop to write this…..

Dekuju vam.

A Writer’s Place

“The swan sings on the lake of the mind”
– the Silver Swan, Kenneth Rexroth

Seeing a man
in the distance
I knew
it must be you, only you
that Whitmanesque
so rarely seen on these
senseless streets.

You walked with a rhythm,
a side to side waddle of
a man smoothed – no soothed
by years of mindful contemplation,
waves rubbing, rolling, refinding rock.

You, with the blue jeans –
the scream of the common
and safari hat
cocked on one side
so you, the hunter
melding meaning and moments
could hear the hammering
hearts of your everyday prey
so often seen
on these sacredless streets.

So many buzzed around you
in busyness
lost in thoughts of
hot dogs, hard ons, haftos
unaware of you
someone who has achieved
the unwritten writer’s aim –
absorption into the word
heard but healthily unheralded.

What if
you were Hulk Hogan
I thought?
How the street would hum for days
after your handsomeness
had passed, this way (away?)
Yet, I see you
caught in that
circuitous virtuouso
that only we know about
yet, unable to shout –
we walk the streets
with our masks metted on.

Seeing you
walking so sure
among us,
who suffer surely
yet so sillily (and willingly),
I saw you
measuring our merriment
in song
meters of mediocrity
pulling you along
into our midst
so obscurely (and surely).

I thought to ask you
about this or that,
let your smooth finish
shine upon me –
but thought better
as I watched you
assuredly deposit a letter
into the mouth of a mailbox.

You have other things in mind.

A cold pivo perhaps
(or an old love lapsed)?
To run home and
like a person who
having seen a U.F.O.
tries to live with it
the knowledge of another world
more important than our own
while the bread and circuses
keep things going around
keep lifting up the frowns
as some as yet unknown gladiator
eats crumbling, unleavened bread
and awaits his death
in the dark caverns
below the merry meant.

(P.S.) Didn’t Kurtz say (or sing)
“Exterminate the brutes”?
I think of all this
upon seeing you.

To The Unknown Teacher

These few meager, to the bone words, go out to all the teachers who are “unacknowledged”, under the radar in their magnificence.

I’m sure we can all name many of them. They support us, encourage us. They don’t make a big splash, aren’t particularly memorable but they “get the job done” – the job being to nurture the diamond in all students, to polish it, to make it believe in itself and make it shine.

I just came back from a hospital visit to a former “unknown teacher”, Mr. Worth. I’ve written about him previously in the post, “In praise of praise“. Mr. Worth, just understatedly went about doing his miracles. He wasn’t ever in the limelight. He never sought it. Instead, he was about the students, helping, going that extra mile and was a teacher 24/7, 8 days a week.

It wasn’t easy seeing him on his last legs, frail, fighting cancer and near death (but still transcending this monster). We always think of “our” teachers as strong, confident, in control. Yet life/death has its way with us all – even great teachers, teachers who are “unknown” and keep the lights on and hope alive.

Mr. Worth, Doug, my thoughts are with you and your family. You’ve done what only most teachers could ever dream – you’ve touched eternity in a thousand ways and made this world a much better place than if you hadn’t been.

Gems of EFL 2.0 – Classroom Management

Classroom management related questions are the top email item I get. I get them often from both new and experienced teachers alike. It is a skill that needs a teacher’s constant attention. The ground is always moving underneath us.

In response to this, I created a Classroom Management directory page. Loads of videos, quizzes and go to references to help all teachers. I’ve been updating it recently and hope it helps out some teachers in need.

Find other “gems” in this series.

EFL 2.0 Gems – Our Podcast Library

I’m a major “junk” collector and when I first started using Huffduffer, just couldn’t resist collecting all the best education/teaching related podcasts on the web. And I think I’ve achieved that, bar none.

You’ll enjoy searching with handy tags and you’ll be sure to find some “gems”. My favorite podcast has to be this one Aldous Huxley – On Language – but I’m sure you’ll have your own.

Follow the whole “gems” series HERE. If you like podcasts, you might also enjoy our Linguistics series on EFL Classroom 2.0.

Gems of EFL 2.0: Top Content

There is so much on EFL Classroom 2.0, the biggest challenge is finding it! I’m trying my best to help teachers and learners in this discovery process and work hard at making the main page search, tag search, tag clouds work. Posts like this “gem” series help too.

However, they is even a better way to find out what’s great on the community – Top Content. It’s a page full of what members think is “hot”. I recommend using it and finding lots of great content. Also, click the red sidebar tab. There, you can find a whole list of pages that members are on at the moment. People like to be where other people are! (you can even see all the data for the site there; visits, page views etc…. no secrets here).

The best way YOU can help others find great stuff? Just tweet, facebook, like it! Others will have a better chance of visiting it and knowing about it. You can now even comment right to facebook on all our pages.

Gems of EFL 2.0: ebooks!

There has been some talk in  ELT circles about “The Round”, a new endeavor in the ELT self publishing field.  I wish them all the best.

I’m all for this and have written extensively how others may make/design/market/sell their own book. Still, it seems like a lot of talk and I’m waiting for the beef.

I’m all for getting things real (espousing the 37 Signals philosophy) and my ebooks are representative of this. Lots of them, hard cover too. And what’s even better about this is that they are available for free!

So here’s my list of what I’ve produced to help teachers. By no means complete, I’m sure I’m leaving some out. Click on the links and you’ll get additional links for ordering a hard copy or for additional resources.

True gems and most are in pdf with photos/links you can click to go right to the source.  More gems here.

Happy reading!

EFL Classroom 2.0 ebooks – the perfect X-mas gift.

The #1 in ELT - all the best ideas/things for teaching English

The Unbearable Lightness of Being A Teacher: Selected Writings about education, teaching and language.

Teach | Learn: A Student Created Content Coursebook. Printables, worksheets, Full lessons, mulitmedia materials. Even ppts, a community and files you can edit. Way ahead of its time and free.

Zen And The Art Of Teaching:  a reflective journal for practicing and pre service teachers

Youtube In The Classroom.  All the best videos and commercials on youtube for teaching English.

Basic Dialogue Karaoke Coursebook:  Dialogues, videos, karaoke files for learning basic conversational English.

Flashcards 4 Teaching English:  A complete directory and library of both printable and online flashcards.

Co-teaching General Guidelines: a workshop booklet with resources and approaches for setting up success in the cotaught classroom.

All The EnglishCentral techbooks + get 1 month Premium access free!


For EFL Classroom Lifetime Supporters: (download after a lifetime supporters donation)

EnglishCentral Commercials: the workbook to help teach with videos students can speak.

EnglishCentral  Basic Workbook: for beginning students

EnglishCentral Famous Speeches: 20 famous speeches for listening and speaking with vocab. development.

Listening: A 4 Skills coursebook. 

Funny Stories for Teaching:  A collection of the best stories for retelling and listening activities. With audio and text.

The Power of Public Speaking:  A 20 hour, 4 module, multimedia  course on the skill of public speaking

Lessons In A Can: hundreds of lessons, downloadables, printables and ideas, fully described. Use online or with the ebook.


Electric Chair for the Sun: Selected Poetry 1990 – 2010 (also see my poetry blog if interested)

The Idiot’s Dictionary – a book that tests your knowledge (and challenges it) of words and their etiology.


If you liked this post, you might like ” The Future of The Textbook

June 27, 2007 12:44 am – my first EFL Classroom 2.0 post

[ I’m highlighting the “gems” of EFL Classroom 2.0 this month.  So, thought it appropriate to post up the first of over 1,500 blog posts in that time.  The start. ]

Educational Bliss

I really truly, madly deeply, believe in the power of education. Not as a way to knowledge but wisdom — as a way of forming a proper relationship between yourself and that “outside”. Tat tvam asi” , the brahman might say, “That art thou”.

Not to wax philosophically but I do think that as educators we should always carry this higher purpose within us and let it coat all the practicalities of teaching. I endeavour to do that and try, each day, to touch something infinite.

So I hope in the coming weeks, months, years , to turn here and “shut off the machine” and write what my mind meanders. About education and the larger purpose of things. Also about the small things. I don’t know who wrote the book but I read it in teacher’s college and was enlightened, “The Reflective Teacher”. Let this space be my mirror.

I also want to speak here about the role of technology. So much change but so much potential! Lots I hope to experiment with, try, tweak, throw away in my language teaching future.

I’ve come a long way from my steelworking days! Keep tuning in and turning off your own machine!


The #1 …. (teaching factor affecting student success)

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.

        The teacher’s own expectation of the students.

Yep, that’s right. Teachers who think their students are smart will have smart students (all things equal). It is the factor that is most important regarding student achievement.

I asked my teachers about what they thought was the most important teaching factor affecting student achievement. Most mentioned motivation, some classroom management factors, a few curriculum/materials. Many rightly suggested school culture. However not one (and I have 160 students) got it right nor had heard about the seminal research of Rosenthal and Jacobsen.Teachers’ Expectancies: Determinants of Pupil’s IQ.pdf

Their research raised more questions than it answered. Stimulating reading and subsequently tested and validated. They  set up a simple experiment where teacher’s were (wrongly) told their students in “x” classes (18 of them) were smart and high achievers. They were actually quite average and chosen at random. They controlled other factors. The result?  Students in the classes where the teacher “believed” they were top students suddenly became top students! All simply because the teacher thought they were teaching the cream of the crop.

They concluded that this happens most often with younger students. Also, there are a lot of other possible influencing factors. Yet, time and again, this experiment proves itself. Read more about expectancy effects.

I put the word “believe” in quotes because it isn’t as simple as just believing in your students. Most teachers believe in their students. What really counts is not just belief but what you really think/feel/know in your gut about these students. It isn’t hope but faith, Meister Echart might have written (for it is the same distinction – hope really means we know one thing but hope for another by chance. Faith means we really believe and that belief effects the outcome).

I really believe that what Rosenthal and Jacobsen illuminated was something Goethe suggested decades ago – commitment. Teachers who are committed to the possibility and achievement of their students will do very well. True commitment is what counts. Are you a committed teacher? I’ll leave you with two of his quotes that elaborate what I’ve talked about here.
If you enjoyed this post – you might enjoy: High Expectations


Thank You lesson

It’s Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S. which in Canada is also US). So I thought I’d share a lesson I really love. It is great for the end of the year, session and really is a great way to show that all students contribute to the class – that they all indeed, count.

1. On the board prior to class write on one side of the board.

Thank you for …………ing ………..

On the other side, possible replies.

You’re welcome. | No problem | Just being myself | Oh, don’t mention it | My pleasure etc….

2. Simply start by thanking some students in the class. “Thank you “student’s name” for ……….ing ……………”

Possible reasons: coming on time / always smiling / being so helpful / helping others / finishing your work / never complaining etc…

Students reply using the prompts on the board.

3. Give out the handout . thank you handout. Or this handout – ThankYouGame
This comes from my now public “techbook” Teach | Learn.
Tell students to fill out the first part, for each student in the class (or most).

4. Students get up and go around the class thanking all their classmates and responding to the “thank you”.

5. End by sharing as a whole class, some of the “thank you ” messages the students wrote. You might even make a Wallwisher where students can post public thank you messages to everyone!

Here’s a nice video I subtitled ages ago. A nice compliment to this lesson. Also click the other links provided on the handout. Some nice additions too!

Dido Thank You – Foldem’ listening lyric sheet

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

My own Egyptian moment (Part 2)

Previously, in the spring, I wrote about events in Egypt and my own feelings as a teacher. Given recent events, I’m revisiting these thoughts and thinking about my caution at the time, my fear that power will triumph over “education”.

By education, I mean what we SHOULD be teaching in schools. Here, in Egypt or in Kalamazoo. Teaching in a way that students realize their obligations as social human beings on this planet, to use their time for peace and in the vein of that ancient Greek Socrates, “contribute to the good”.

Recent events in America and Canada show the face of power – how we very much (and at all times do) are a police state. The level doesn’t matter, you either are or you aren’t. Read this post, “What have we been teaching?”, for more on this issue but as said there, “Frighteningly so, we have taught this”. Meaning, our own teaching and place as teachers has led to the baton, the tazer, the pepper spray, the hate, the thick lines of division…..

I don’t have answers and I’m being of necessity vague. But where is the curriculum in our schools that confronts students with the social realities of the day? Why isn’t “Peace” a subject and a credit course? Why is history as a subject a litany and list of who hit who?

I’m going to resurrect Project Peace this year. Do my own part but also ask myself how I can do more. Do more to raise the awareness of the students I’m investing my own energy and being toward. What can you do?

Let’s Ban “the ball”

Recently, a school in Toronto banned “the ball”  from school. The whole school. They are opting for something safer like badminton and bean bag tossing. My old school board, TDSB (Toronto District School Board) is considering a board wide ban. What’s next? Banning pencils?

Watch the video below for a great response to this issue. It would all be farcical if indeed there weren’t some really serious issues involved.

One of the joys of working outside of North America as a teacher has been not being overburdened with issues of  “student safety”. Filling out reams of forms for the simplest of “outdoor” activities and excursions.  Constant monitoring of students wherever they are, whatever they are doing (are we “guards”?). Etc….

In the U.S. and Canada, teachers (and by default school boards) can be held accountable under civil law for student injury. So the issues are serious and wideranging. Here’s one interesting case as an example, one of many. This is one cause of the fixation on student safety.

Further, beyond issues of civil suits and legal negligence, there is the issue of just “what is school?”.  I mean, school is often seen as a place for “the neck up” as Ken Robinson would frame it. That despite all our progressive rhetoric, school is still seen as a place where we filter kids for academics and “brain power”. The arts, movement, sports – all just add ons and if issues of safety do arise, they can be easily sacrificed because our philosophy of education  doesn’t really take them seriously.

Listen to Rex Murphy and let these issues stir and simmer. What do you believe? How is it in your own part of the world?

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

They broke my records….

They broke my records…… and so this iconic film scene begins. The main character experiences an intense dilema about his own role as a teacher. Watch as he goes “on the record” in the high school staff room. Watch and ask yourself the question at the end of the film. {and maybe drop a comment as your answer}

I’ll certainly be showing this to my students before sending them off to their practice teaching sessions this week.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

Hat tip to Ira Socol, the best damn blogger I know out there – always with relevance and voice.

My Perfect Classroom

{ I originally published this in Barbara Sakamoto’s wonderful blog – Teaching Village. I revive it here because I think its message is pertinent and important. }

“The problem with our profession is that there is too much teaching and not enough learning”.

I said this recently during a discussion and I think it is such an important point to understand about “teaching” a language – that we have to get away from delivery systems that are teacher directed and more towards models where students are self-paced, self-motivated and learning independently. The future IS learning not teaching.

English Language Teaching has been progressing towards an understanding of this. CLT (communicative language teaching), PBI (project based instruction), TBI (task based instruction), collaborative learning and other approaches have made big inroads into traditional teaching models. But they’ve been baby steps. The emperor still believes he / she wears clothes and won’t “give up the ghost” and stop swinging the baton. It IS all and too much, about control.

I’m not going to belabor the point nor expound on my own beliefs about why self directed learning is the future of language instruction and learning (given the access to curriculum technology gives us). No. Let me be down to earth and simply describe my “perfect classroom”. This will give you an idea of what I mean by SDL – self directed learning and giving students increasing choice and independence over what and how they will learn.
My Perfect Classroom.   It looks like this.

The class starts without any teacher talk nor any teachn’ and preachn’. Students walk into the classroom, sign in and head towards their assigned computer. They glance at the whiteboard for the assignment of the day.

The students work with a headset to produce language, finish projects, practice vocabulary word banks using quizzes/flashcards. The activities are leveled and self-paced. Low level students work with the right content – higher level students can challenge themselves. They help each other through English only chat or directly in the class. They are the experts.

The teacher sits in the middle, coffee and tea at hand. With a ring of the bell – she calls for a group to come meet. The teacher practices conversation with the students, using the target language and grammar for the week. She tests the students on the language they’ve been learning. He assesses their needs in a small group and gets valuable feedback about the activities. After 5-10 minutes, it is time for the next group.

The last 15 minutes of class, students get the choice to work on a variety of online activities. Games, songs, blogging, chatting, watching videos – all accessible as provided by the teacher.

The class doesn’t really end. The teacher flicks the lights and the students log off and walk out of the class. They can go online anytime and do the same activities and access the same content. The teacher can download a nice handy log with graphs of student progress and especially time spent on task/activity.

The teacher feels refreshed. He gets another cup of coffee. She skips into the staff room among her weary colleagues.


That’s my perfect classroom. However, it actually did happen and I actually did teach like that! It isn’t pie in the sky. Moreover, it all worked like that described. The trouble-making boys became engrossed learners. The unmotivated high level students became engaged and ignited. I, the teacher, felt invigorated after a day teaching, not weighed down and kaput. It was like Sugata Mitra recently quipped, “When the students are motivated, the learning just happens.”

But we all can do similar things and take steps towards getting to true self directed learning. It isn’t so difficult and in fact it is what YOU as a teacher are doing right now, right this minute.

It can begin with the simple step of deciding it should be so…..

Let’s hear your stories and struggles to be a SDL teacher. We can all learn from them.

Interested in SDL with your students? You might start with these excellent sites – Young Learners: Mingoville Teens/Adults: English Central (sign up as a teacher). Flashcards: EFL Classroom 2.0 Quizlet sets

Guess the Educational Thinker

I recently created for teachers and professional development, a directory of videos and readings on “Educational Thinkers”. It’s interesting to think of these “crazy ones” and get inspired by their own enthusiasm and dedication. Let’s celebrate them, as this famous video does. Take a look below while you are here and “Can you guess these educational thinkers”?

Minimally Invasive Teaching

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “the children are working as if I don’t exist.”
– Maria Montessori

During the last year, I’ve been following the KhanAcademy locomotive as it chugs on to distant fertile lands and glory.   I’m a big believer of video and its revolutionary impact to disrupt normal channels of educational delivery.  The KhanAcademy user group (google) emails are just mind boggling. Seems everyone from the granny on the couch to CEOs of major companies are leaving desperate messages – “get intouch with me!”, they scream.  However, I must say that they are on the wrong educational bandwagon.

This post I recently read, highlighted one problem not addressed by the Khan Academy – the motivation of the learner.  Even self directed learning won’t just magically generate a “self directed learner”.  What counts is the environment in which the learner is found. The teacher is essential to this. However, in a very indirect and “get out of the way”, way.

I firmly believe that given a free start, each child, each student, wants to learn and will learn.  We must create the environment from which their seed will grow.  Just like there are seldom any “bad” teachers, just teachers in the wrong environment and place – so too we must get students encountering a world of learning that they themselves encounter, they explore, they engage and nurture. Sugata Mitra has it right – learning is a self-organizing principle.

So without further ado, here is the man. Click the photos of the presentation to get to my favorite presentations detailing his beliefs. See my own posts mentioning him.  Here’s my bio of the man for further reference.  Sugata Mitra

I sure wish Bill Gates would have given him that big bundle of cash. 






Why the “gatekeeping”?

Copyright and education – the necessity, the vital import of the free, unrestricted flow of information through the realm of education, has been a big concern and obsession of mine. See this post for some views, see my copyright tags, see my own “Captive Mind” series.

It is so important to not “possess” or appropriate ideas. However, our whole system is founded on the principle that some know and “own” this knowledge. The “neck up” types who’ve got to the sacred realm of the university towers.  They alone have ideas and all the rest of us just borrow them from these esteemed gentlemen.

Poppycock! It’s all about power. All a dice game. Read many of my posts, I won’t get into it here. What I do want to mention is a big peeve of my own.  I really get upset by how so many blogs, networks, communities ban/delete/prohibit/(choose your word) anyone who posts links.

You know that scene. You read a nice blog post. You want to post something you wrote or a link to something you are involved in. However, you hesitate, you know you’ll be blocked, banned or brushed up.   How  dare you try to help others by leaving a link!

This is the culture on so many sites/blogs. So proprietary. I’ve been deleted often, on many blogs in ELT that preport to be “open”.  All in the name of “keeping things on their own blog” and in essence, restricting the flow of information.  It stinks, I’m calling all this out.  It is as if they don’t think we are adults and can judge where information comes from and assess information in and of our own right. I say, “we don’t need any gatekeepers”.

On my own site, EFL Classroom, I’m always astounded by the emails I get from people asking to post a link, some information. I’m always flabberghasted – they are actually asking permission to post something informative on a social networking site? Go figure – that’s how much of a “walking on glass” mentality we’ve created with so much coveting and possessiveness in the realm.

I was recently interviewed by a student doing her Master’s. She was researching ELT blogs. She was so surprised when I mentioned that many ELT blogs were not open and were insular and all about their name and protecting their own – not really about open discourse and sharing – they don’t pass the litmus test of allowing members to post links in their comments.  She laughed when I related some stories about some ELT blogs – she said everyone else had told her we were one big happy family! I’m sorry but I got to call it as it is – there are too many protecting their own and not about information and sharing worthy things but all about building their name and presence. I say they have it backwards.

So to end this diatribe — please, please, please, post a link to your own blog, a link to any other information on the web – when you comment. As long as you aren’t spamming and copy/pasting on many blogs. It’s okay. We’ll all live. The world won’t stop……



Teach | Learn – download the “techbook”.

I published Teach | Learn about 8 months ago.  A lot of what I’ve learned and believe about teaching English to students in a classroom went into this simple book. It’s simplicity can be deceiving and it is based on my own belief in SCC or Student Created Content. Find out more through these tagged discussions on SCC.

Beyond representing my constructivists and progressive beliefs in education – I wanted to make a simple book that teachers could use with many levels. A book that didn’t “detrain” teachers but allowed them the freedom to teach but with some basic underlying structure.  Further, in publishing the book online, I was dedicated to my belief that individuals could write, design, publish, print, sell their own textbooks. Not only that – do so in a way that isn’t a money grab but still pays the author for his/her time and labor.

In this vein, I’m happy to let the world download and share Teach | Learn. (click the link to preview and download). I’ve sold enough copies online to recoup my costs (about 235 copies) and now it is time for the child to fly away from the nest.

The book also has accompanying editable lesson files, a voicethread and a power point of the whole book to show on a big screen. You can get these extras as a supporter of EFL Classroom 2.0.

Enjoy the book and all feedback welcome!