I wear many teaching hats. Besides my courses at the university teaching education & schooling and tending to EFL Classroom 2.0 and my own online school, most of my waking hours are spent working with video for language teaching through EnglishCentral. I’m keen and bullish on this approach to learning/teaching a language – authentic video where there is both input/output, in context vocabulary study and constant feedback for the students and teachers. Come join the video teaching revolution!
It’s not official yet but given my role, I am able to give readers a small preview of our release of courses next week – timed for TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia which I’ll be attending. We’ll be launching many great courses with more to come weekly. They’ll be in many categories:
Business | Academic | Media | Social | Travel | Young Learners
Included will be ESP video content from Garnet Education and sensational video courses from Nat. Geographic.
I can’t let the cat out of the bag and we’ll have an official post on the EnglishCentral blog soon. However, note that they are a multimedia online textbook. Students study the units by watching and speaking the video and studying the vocabulary in quizzes and in the video itself. The units are designed to reflect a week’s study and teachers can add individual videos for study, to complement the professionally curated courses. Teachers can add courses to their class page for students to study – just like they presently add topics on EnglishCentral.
Look for the launch post on the EnglishCentral blog. We are excited, I’m excited. We are bringing something to the fore that we think is intuitive and will appeal to schools and teachers. Here’s an example of the preview page for a course, with how the course looks in a class page.
One conclusion I’ve come to after years teaching – testing and assessment are poorly used as a way for students to learn.
This is curious and unfortunate because students for the most part DO get motivated and energized through tests and quizzes. The pickle is, the way they are designed doesn’t make the test a learning experience and rather is meant to trick students. I’m calling for all teachers to review the way they test and I’m offering one example using the popular convention of testing – multiple choice questions.
I recently began one of my classes after the New Year by writing the following on the board. A typical, 3 truths / 1 lie activity where students try to guess the lie.
This new year I resolve to ….
1. grow my hair long
2. plan my classes better
3. travel the world and teach
4. get a new coffee maker
It’s a great activity for teachers to share themselves and also for students to do and allow the teacher to get to know them. However, I’m teaching teachers so I took this opportunity to go beyond the activity and ask them what this multiple choice question might say about assessment and how we decide design these questions.
What’s remarkable about this question is that you can pose it two ways. One – which statement is the lie? Two – which 3 statements are the truth? Now you might think this is just semantics but I believe if we created multiple choice, standardized assessments where the students were asked to not choose just one right answer but three right answers – they’d learn a lot more. They’d be encountering a lot of “right” knowledge and not trying to side step through a labyrinth of wrong.
Here’s another example.
A typical standardized multiple choice question for language students might be;
Beth ___________ to the store every day.
a) has b) is c) went d) liked
A multiple choice test that would actually give students more success and help them learn would be them choosing the 3 appropriate language forms.
Beth ________ to the store every day.
a) went b) likes c) goes d) has gone
It’s important that students choose 3 right answers and not be asked to choose the 1 wrong answer. This way, we can give marks for right answers. This way they feel “success”.
This is just one of many ways we could rethink assessment and make it more about “learning” and less about tricking students. Do you have any other ways?
PS. The 3 correct resolutions for this year are 2,3,4!
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?
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.
“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education”
I’m back on the war path again – beating the drum of peace!
I think “Peace” an essential part of any school’s curriculum, even an essential part of an EFL/ESL textbook. Look around the world today and you can’t reach any other conclusion.
I’m relaunching Project Peace as a classroom on EFL Classroom 2.0. Consider joining our Peace Train and making your own Project Peace video to share this year. I’ve made it easy – just download a peace pack song and get started. Here’s some inspiration – what other teachers have done. I’ll be getting my new student teachers this year to participate (see some previous ones in the collection). Let’s give peace a chance!
Which side do you generally side with when making decisions? Do you make decisions based on your expert knowledge and experience or do you lean towards the data and numbers?
I’m asking because I’ve had some interesting conversations in this regard, with a colleague. How some companies (or people) make decisions based on their own sniffer. How others are very rational and go where the numbers and crowd (or mob) point.
The question isn’t just academic. When related to education I think it really has some significance.
Of course we have all the data driven, test score driven administrative tom follery. I’m not going to discuss this silly stuff. If you can’t see that emperor has no clothes, well, then dream on…..
No, I want to look at how teachers make decisions in their own classroom. Are we like Apple, generals and experts that know and with our charts, handouts, videos, textbooks – steering the ship of students? Or are we listening to students and letting them take hold of the wheel and allowing them to steer the ship?
Of course, most teachers will say that they are the later, they are googlites, they listen to their students. This is the mantra of modern education. However, me thinks this is only cosmetic. Look deeper and almost all teachers are governing their class as “experts”. We truly don’t go down to the level of students or listen to them. We all say that we “listen” and are “data informed” but when push comes to shove – I believe we teach as we were taught. We perpetuate a worn and bedraggled and very much irrelevant orthodoxy. All the while propping up and rationalizing our methods, our job, by saying we are listening to the students, we are listening to the data. However, the facts are out there for all to see. School is Kafkaesque, a nightmare we can’t wake up from.
When I’ve asked the teachers in my curriculum development courses – they’ve almost all said they do needs surveys, they ask students, make changes. But if I ask deeper questions, it gets complicated. They still keep to a regiment, they still dictate that all students use x, y and z and better get to this or that objective. They are still steering the bus and unfortunately, I think too many students are being run over by it – however good their intentions.
Even Dogme, the notion that students guide the learning and are the “material” is suspect. I’d even say, very “Apple” and “Steve Jobs”. At the end of the day, the dogme teacher is, well let’s be honest, “dogmatic” and espousing an approach. What about the students? What if they say, let’s use Touchstone? What then?
I’m just throwing this out there so we might waken Freire from his grave. Truly question the power relationship in our classrooms. Because that’s very much why the “Expert” approach reigns despite all the pretense. And that is truly why too much of education is flywheel and not enough sparkplug. People are doing it for “power” not for the sake of learning.
My work over the years has brought me into thinking heavily about the role of video in language instruction. Even more so now with my work with EnglishCentral. I’m a big fan of video and have been from the get go. I saw its power as a university T.A. – tramping around the campus showing heavy “reels” of film to mesmerized classes. I wouldn’t go so far as Chris Anderson of TED who says we are in the midst of something as transformative as the Gutenberg revolution. But I will say, as a language teacher, it feels so! The world is now in our classroom!
We are using print less and the course book will take a less central role in the years to come. We are in a McCluhanesque way, returning to the older form through the newer media (one of his laws of media). Our brains are hard wired for pictures, the visual and language learning will benefit from this gigantic shift in the way humans learn (by video as opposed to books). I had a great chat with Vicki Hollett about this and she agreed, things will be changing. Video is the way forward. For a more learned read on the text / video debate – try The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts
I’ll be speaking more about this at the Reform Symposium conference next month. Talking about the Flipped curriculum and how video is so important to this delivery method.
So I sat down and wrote some tips for using video in the classroom. Here it is. Comments appreciated, I’ll be refining this as I go along.
Video is a powerful tool in today’s classroom. It provides strong context through which to teach English. Meaning comes alive and it brings the outside world into the classroom and gives your teaching “reality”. Video also provides all the paralinguistic features of language that audio only can’t.
Nowadays, students are very much visual learners. Further, with the quick spread of broadband internet access, the use of video in the classroom is much more reliable. Video is a medium which is replacing print – it is changing both the way we learn and the way we interact with each other.
Without a doubt, video is the future for all of us involved in education. Gone are the days where it took a high degree of technical know how and hours of set up to bring video into the classroom. Now the classroom is wired and connected. It’s an exciting time to be both a teacher and a student. The world is our classroom.
1. Keep the Video Short (2-4 minutes)
- attention spans are limited when watching visual content. Chunk up and divide up videos with focused activities.
2. Watch the whole video first.
- students need to “have a try” first and watch to get the “big picture”. This provides students with the chance to deal with the “ambiguity” of language. Give students one simple task while watching the whole video – to keep them focused.
3. Always preview the video.
- Be sure to watch the whole video yourself before using it in class. You never know what content might be inappropriate or hurtful to your students. You, the teacher, know your students best. Best to be safe!
4. Make it available outside the classroom.
- provide students with a webpage or link so they can watch the video and practice outside of classroom time. Many students learn better independently and this is a great opportunity to foster student independence.
5. Use videos your students want.
- this may seem obvious but many teachers forget to survey their students and show video content they definitely know their students will be “into”. However, use your best judgement and find a balance between videos that highly motivate and those that are strongly educational. Many times you can do both!
In the flipped classroom, students study and learn independently (in groups or individually). The teacher sets up the content and learning environment and then consults with students as they learn the video content. Students could learn on a webpage/lab (for example EnglishCentral) and the teacher could use class time to review their progress, check and evaluate. Also consult with the students to make sure they are on task. Teachers set up the curriculum and show students how to access the video content. In a nutshell, a teacher becomes a facilitator. Teachers might also use print materials made specifically for the videos (like these EnglishCentral example books).
2. Blending video into the existing curriculum and course.
This option allows a teacher to choose video content that compliments the objectives of their course. Videos are chosen for each unit and they are used in conjunction with a course book. Thus, the teacher is blending the learning – combining traditional print (textbooks) with the power of video. Videos are blended into and part of the official course curriculum.
3. Using video as a supplement for engagement or re-inforcement.
Here, videos are used only at the beginning of a lesson (to provide context and prompt student schema/background knowledge) or as supplemental material for the lesson (either inclass or as homework). The teacher brings in video that will supplement the existing course curriculum and provide context and reinforce the learning objectives. However, the videos are not part of the official curriculum.
How To Use Video
Videos can be used in many ways other than just one student at a computer. They should also be used as a “shared experience” and an in class teaching aide. Teachers should play video in the classroom and share it, as you would a book or any print item.
Don’t be afraid to pause, rewind, fast forward the video. Use it as a tool for reference of language and study points. Think of the video as a malleable material, like any other classroom material for learning.
Generally video activities are divided into 3 main types or stages:
1. Pre-viewing. Activities done before watching the video. They help prompt student schema and background knowledge. Often a way for the teacher to assess student knowledge and interest.
2. Viewing: Students have a task while watching the video. They perform tasks and activities during the video, either with or without the teacher pausing the video.
3. Post Viewing: After watching the video, the students practice the language forms and vocabulary encountered in the video. Students might discuss, retell, roleplay or complete exercises during this stage.
Here are a list of practical ways to use EnglishCentral videos in class. Try some and find what works best with your own students and for your own teaching situation. Good luck! Your students will love it!
10 Recipes For Using Video In The Classroom
1. Discuss It. Give students some previewing questions for the topic of the video. Students discuss and prompt their background knowledge. Watch the video. Now, discuss again using some prepared questions. Surveys are a great addition also.
2. Just Do It. Students are given a viewing task. This can be some questions to answer. It can be a group of vocabulary items to find or some language to listen for. You might even make this interactive – give students some different tasks (ie. different vocabulary) and when they see/hear it, they stand up. Again, they sit down. Last one standing at the end wins!
3. Describe It. Always a fun activity but make sure to get your students to speak in a low voice. One student watches while others describe the action. Pause the video from time to time to allow students time to describe fully. Switch the student who is listening. Make sure to watch the ending of the video together.
4. Report It. Students are reporters. List the 5 Ws on the board. After watching the video, the students must answer the 5 W questions. This also can be an excellent writing lesson. Also, get students making up their own post viewing questions and quizzing each other!
5. Listen For It. A teacher favorite. Teachers prepare a cloze version of the transcript (words are missing). Students listen for the words. Watch the video again, pausing and checking the answers together. Another option is to provide students with a graphic organizer or chart. They watch the video and fill in the categories.
6. Repeat It. A very interactive way to focus on pronunciation and form. Turn off any subtitles. Pause the video after a line and have the students repeat the line. If the video is a dialogue, assign different roles for students. Challenge the students to repeat the lines by only listening to the video, not watching. Also practice the present perfect tense (has/have just) by pausing the video and asking students, “What has just happened?”
7. Re-tell It. A very powerful way to acquire language. Students in small groups re-tell the story or the action of the video. One student starts and others must continue to re-tell by adding a sentence. Perfect for practicing transitions (First, Next, Then, Finally). Re-ordering activities are also great. Students are given sentences or pictures and must put them back in the right sequence while re-telling the story. Perfect practice for the past tense.
8. Revise It. Students love to “change up” the video. Students can role play the video and add their own twist, create their own version. Commercials work well for this. Also, write their own version, changing characters. For lower level students, prepare a transcript with words missing – students can add their own words to personalize.
9. Predict It. Prediction is a great language prompt and can be used with any video. Simply pause the video at a point and ask the students, “What do you think will happen next?” Students discuss and give their own answers. Provide a prompt for the students like
I (don’t) think that ___________ (won’t) will ____________________.
Lastly, continue the video and see if the predictions were correct.
10. Teach It. Videos offer a great opportunity for specific language study. Choose a video that highlights and reinforces your lesson objective(s) (for culture, topics, functions, vocabulary or grammar points). Pause the video and use it to explain the language points. It provides real life context and examples of usage. Prepare worksheets and exercises to practice your language points. Here’s an example
I started Project Peace 2 years ago. I’ve been amazed by the response and how other teachers have motivated their students and brought “peace” into their curriculum through song (and taught a lot of English!).
I will be doing more with the project this year and especially so now that we finally have “a home”. We’ve moved from our original Ning page to Grou.ps but now reside on EFL Classroom 2.0. I’ve made the change because now EFL Classroom 2.0 is fully public and also has new page making capability – so I can add the Peace Pack materials there. (and consider making your own classroom, school group etc… Groups now have great functionality + you get the content and security of EFL Classroom 2.0).
I hope many will grab a peace pack and make / share their own Project Peace video!
Here’s one of my favs, one of the first. Not using our cards – they went way out there!
Even now, this late in the day, a blank sheet of paper holds the greatest excitement there is for me — more promising than a silver cloud, and prettier than a red wagon.
- E.B. White
I’ve just returned from “a return” to nature. Hiked 30 hours through Killarney Provincial Park. Amazing mountains, nature, wild. I suffered and was “with myself”. No gadgets or wifi. Just my mind and foot after foot after foot step.
In teaching, I don’t always go with technology. I’m a big fan of just using a blank piece of paper and having students create content. My Teach | Learn coursebook is full of examples of this and is built on the back of my “blank piece of paper” philosophy.
Language to be practiced, just needs a focus. The teacher provides this and then delivers content so the students are prompted to produce language around the topic. I outline many activities in this Wiziq Online session demonstration I did a number of weeks ago. Also, see my Lessons in a Can #57 – #60 for many downloads and descriptions of “a blank piece of paper” activities.
But I thought it would be handy for other teachers to list here the possible lessons you can do with “only a blank piece of paper”. So here it goes. (update: Now get this as a “50 list” here.)
1. Vocabulary discussion: brainstorm vocabulary or write it on the board. (ie. names of family members). Put up the target language structure (ie. Who is ______? ________ is my _______ ) Students ask / answer questions to the teacher and then the same in small groups with their own list on a blank piece of paper. Can be done with any vocabulary word bank and target language.
2. Vocabulary Guessing: brainstorm vocabulary or write it on the board. The teacher describes one and students guess which it is. Continue until all guessed. Students then brainstorm vocabulary set words on a blank piece of paper and play again in small groups. Works wonderful for celebrities!
3. Bookmaking. fold a piece of paper, make a book. Draw pictures and write sentences for any topic. Great for closing a unit and consolidation.
4. Grammar Poems. Do one first as a group, then students do their own. For any topic. Then get them presenting their poems.
5. Categories. Students use a blank piece of paper as a graphic organizer. Fold in columns or rows and then categorize brainstormed vocabulary. (ie. food. Cheap / Expensive / Healthy / Unhealthy)
6. Alphabet lists. Students are given a time limit and must fill in boxes for each letter of the alphabet. Most words got, wins! Fold the paper to make the alphabet organizer.
7. A Piece of paper as a slate / answering board. Make any game interactive and have all students answering by laminating blank pieces of paper and giving students markers. They write answers and everyone answers by raising their answer board.
8. Pass the Paper games. A game I adapted/invented. Students pass around a piece of paper and when the music stops, the others must tell the person with the piece of paper to do something or ask them a question which they must answer.
10. Posters and projects. Students make posters with important information about a topic/theme.
11. Student made worksheets and wordfinds. Give students a blank piece of paper and let them make the exercises and worksheets! They are experts and have probably done many. They learn a lot through this method/approach.
12. Writing prompts. Give students a prompt. They write for “x” minutes on a blank piece of paper. Or prompt and have the students write only one sentence, fold over and pass on. Continue the writing chain and read the funny version at the end.
13. Snowball fights. Write 3 sentences about yourself. Crumple up and have a snowball fight. Pick up the snowballs, uncrumple and guess who it is!
14. Storyboards. Fold a blank piece of paper so you have 8 boxes. Students draw pictures and write sentences to make a storyboard.
I”m sorry but I’ve had a bad day. All the B.S. about the “royal” wedding and people aimlessly following, jollygagging along. The farce of celebrity and bread and circuses. Who’ll break this circle of lies?
What I mean is that school should be a place for creating citizens that are critically aware, citizens that ask questions and who in the spirit of the enlightenment – are free and pull on their own oars. The evidence that surrounds me, shows that very little of this is the case. Especially worrisome is a school system that puts the royal farce on the boob tube and labels it as “educational” – without nare a discussion of what all this mass psychosis means. Visited the local library today and that’s what I found the librarian doing with a class of 11 year olds. Them watching TV and the teacher oogling the ceremony.
Where is the shit detector that we should by adult responsibility, be building into each and every youth? What good is school if not that it follows Socrates’ example and “the life examined”? Is school and the classroom just another branch of an advertising agency? Is it just a place to kill time and socialize? Is it a lobby, a purgatory before the promise of wasting a life making money? Where is the critical mind and involved citizenry that was the promise of the enlightenment as they cast off the shackles of absolute monarchy, subservience and slave wages?
School does a piss poor job of getting students to critically examine their place in the world and the society where they live. The evil of unquestioned knowledge is really scary and we live in scary times.
Just wanted to say this. Here is a movie I dug up, to throw a wrench into the machine. Ecrasez l’infame. Let’s hope there are a few teachers out there still asking their students to carry shit detectors instead of dreaming of buying the next handbag or Chanel fragrance.
What is education? I just finished reading David Warlich’s 2cents worth blog and commenting. About making education purposeful. That’s what’s missing. Forget reform, change blablabla. Just get people together with a purpose.
And what should that be? Well, I think it should be what John Hunter says. PLEASE take a moment and watch this. I will say no more. I’ll only hint it has something to do what I’ve been harping on for awhile – and the teacher going away……
He has me pining for my own grade 4s (now grade 9ers!) – they learned so much, grew so much and in turn allowed me to stand on their shoulders, as I learned so much, grew so much.
I’ve made a very beta coursebook for beginning level learners. It uses a set of EnglishCentral videos which the students can then use for practicing their speaking using their state of the art speech recognition technology. Teachers can use the videos in class, along with the book.
The exercises are very simple. One – personalizing and then performing the dialogue. In this way, the students put in their own content/meaning and are more motivated than through pure repetition. Two – a simple exercise to use the word bank from the dialog. Students can do the video quizzes for the vocab. on EnglishCentral.
Click on the photos to go to the appropriate EnglishCentral video. Or find them all in one handy place on EFL Classroom 2.0.
Comments about this coursebook, its design, methodology and “future” are appreciated.
This month I’ve had my head full of “spring” and in particular that spring 40 some years ago in 1968 when students around the world became very “educated” and aware and sought to change things for the better. I didn’t live through that spring and I don’t condone everything that happened then BUT it was something I feel is missing in students/teachers these days — a sense that teaching is not just about the subject but also about LIFE. That teaching should follow the Socratic dictum of helping lead students to be SCEPTICS and who critically challenge the present order — all in the name of the “good”.
Students nowadays are more concerned than ever with “business”. Not just the subject of business and getting a better job but also qualifications, diplomas, certificates, marks, status. This culture is very conservative and doesn’t seek to challenge the authorities or question the very fundamentals of our society (because that would endanger their “position” and future). It is as if students these days, especially in university, feel that they have to keep quiet, feel they should just party and get good marks because “protest” and student movements would threaten their future possibility within society. This I believe profoundly effects our world.
We need students who question and challenge. Without these “soil turners”, the world just keeps spinning in violence, keeps along the same “moral/immoral” path and there is in a way, so much less salvation, less “spirit” in this world. My own hope is/was that the internet might be a way to fan the flames of youthful inquiry, protest against injustice. I”m not so sure……..
I remain convinced, we missed the boat so long ago in ’68. Yes, the cries and demands at that time have changed things in some ways — race, women, liberality, a peppering of more freedom. Still, the flower never bloomed on the stem. So many great critical theorists in education tried and offered solutions to the educational malaise in 1968 and thereabouts — I think of Illych’s incredible pamphlet, “Deschooling” or Postman’s “Teaching as a Subversive Activity” — both babies of that time’s bathwater. Yet their ideas and vision is left unfulfilled (though still as valid today as ever). The question is “why”?
The recent French movie, Cannes Palme D’Or winner, “Entre les Murs” – “Between the walls”, about a French teacher who challenges authority and his students really showcases what hasn’t happened in teaching worldwide. So few educators like this or like Sidney Portier in “To Sir with Love”, so few teachers who teach the other side — not the subject but “consciousness” and making students aware of the conditions in which they live. Today, so few teachers “risk” and take their students into that place where they truly become aware and in control of their own reality. So few teachers ever ask their students to “fight the power” and try for Socrates notion of “the good”.
Teaching, especially teaching EFL, is not just about the “subject”. It is about human relationships and engagement. It is about trying to affect eternity and in my estimation the greatest thing a teacher can do is to “lead”. This is teaching at its best. Lead. Lead your students to think outside the box and always be full of spring…..
Here are a couple videos which challenge the present status quo, especially the war in Iraq. We need more teachers to ask of their students — “why is the world full of violence?” , our future demands it……… I reject our present climate of teaching — the very apolitical sense and fear which pervades teaching. It is truly sad. The teacher’s role is not just the subject but THE subject — the good……
I’m reminded of my own reading of de Tocqueville and his prescient view of “democratic despotism” and the teacher’s job being to awaken others out of this ever present threat. He writes…
“For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? ….After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.”
He called for a “vigilant” population — informed through education. I call on all teachers to rise to that challenge and standard. And maybe question, with passion like Pink (and hasn’t changed at all with Obama……)
The objective of education is learning. Or not even that, I’ll interject. More exactly, the true objective is “contentment”, a well adjusted individual.
And the only way to reach this objective is to tap into the “feeling good about oneself” that is always there in each student. To give them success, that feeling of success that they define and set. And you do it by rubbing relationships together and giving students the space and freedom to be. The space to do what they can and want to do, what they can dream to do – not what you’d want them to do or what you’d want them to dream about or what the “state” would deem proper.
Anyone who’s read my blog more than a week knows I keep coming back to this one salient point. Teachers need to seek their own demise. Teachers need to have the courage to get out of the way and let their students climb, fall, reach, fail.
Nuff said. Watch this video on how students can “learn” from their own volition and drive. How teachers CAN get out of the way and still be successful teachers.
(see the previous post about “giving students room” – here.
The recent tragic events in Japan have brought back memories of the 2005 tsunami when I was teaching grade 4 at Rose Ave. P.S. in Toronto. I’ve previously written about this multicultural school and the impact it had on my own teacher development.
The tsunami in 2005 hit our school hard. We had a large Sri Lankan student body and in my own class, had 2 students who lost family. It was a month or more of chaos where regular classes really didn’t happen and there was lots of counseling for both teachers and students in the school.
I had daily carpet talks with the students. What was most important to them were two things I feel;
1. Telling their own story. Who they knew, what they’d heard and happened. My role as a teacher was to direct this conversation. Let them get it out and turn the conversation into a learning moment.
2. Knowledge. What was a tsunami? What really happened to the people? Why some places were destroyed, others not? So many questions. My job was to prepare materials and answers – to give students access to knowledge about these events. Knowledge IS control and that is so important at a time like this.
That year in our lonely, hot/cold, stuffy, crowded, noisy, dark portable was a turning year for me. I learned a lot about students and gave myself the time to reflect and think about students and what they need for their development. It was even more formative because of the 2005 tsunami, the pain and struggle we all felt. Out of suffering eventually does come something worthy. Our teaching, teaches us who we are.
Teachers have to give students knowledge after a tragedy like Japan. It is an important role. Twitter, FB etc… have really helped many teachers do this, this time around. In 2005, I was pretty well all alone and relied on newspapers and the librarian.
Larry Ferlazzo, Shelly Terrell, many others – tweeted about the events in Japan and gave educators access to information that they could process and prepare for their student’s questions on Monday. It was invaluable. I also did through my own tweets.
However, there were a few people on the internet – who didn’t get it.
I was disgusted and shocked by those who condemned great teachers, helping other great teachers through twitter and social media. Put off by their tweets and off hand moralizing. I collected a record and you can view the tweets below. (I have removed the individual tweets. For reasons that support the people involved to control their own content online and also because of the discussion and clarification that ensued).
Essentially, they saw teachers tweeting / RTing anything about resources, the morning of the tsunami/quake as “immoral” and “pornographers”. I vehemently disagree and throw it back at them. It is imperative that teachers get information about events, about materials they can use with their students. I’ll leave it at that. It’s not easy being a teacher during a disaster. Especially one who shares resources and ideas online….
I’m putting together an online presentation for some Brazilian teachers and I’ll be talking about “Stickiness”. I thought it would be worthwhile to air my own thoughts specifically about what makes our teaching “stick”. In other words, how to make what we do transfer into the heads and the production/fluency of the learner (now or over time).
I think at bottom, this metaphor is what drives most teachers. It drives a lot of schools and administrators that’s for sure. Progress, success, results….. I also think it is something students desperately want. However, the pickle is that both time and the differing needs of students make it very hard to make things sticky for everyone of your students.
Here though, are my top 5 things teachers can do to make language stick (and let’s be clear, sometimes you can do all these and still fail through no fault of your own).
1. A Warm, Comforting, Social Environment
Krashen’s concept of an “affective filter” gave this a name but teachers at all times and places have always been aware about how important it is to “relax” students. Anxiety, tension really does inhibit unconscious acquisition of language – the best way to learn English long term. A great teacher can relate personally to his/her students, relax them and make them willing to take risks. Risk taking is the most important characteristic we should promote and form in students – research supports this. The only way to do this is to create a safe, nurturing environment.
2. Local and Culturally relevant content
Context is queen with language teaching (content – the words/language are still king). You can’t teach a student what a rutabaga is unless you can provide context, words won’t suffice. The BEST context is the student’s own world and neighborhood – their life. Use local maps, celebrities, songs and issues. It works! Here’s a talk where I expound on CST (Culturally Specific Content) for the Korean context.
3. Consistent Monitoring and Feedback of Student Achievement
Motivation is the pink elephant in any classroom. We have to deal with it and one way is to give students lots of success and especially feedback. They need to be monitored and self monitor their learning through structured feedback and testing. No, I’m not advocating those big standard tests – rather more authentic assessments (quizzes, reflection, repetition, journals, projects). We have to realize that small but consistent feedback in the way of quizzes, really motivates but also helps students learn language. See this NYTs article for an interesting take on this. 4. Purpose: Linking class activity to real goals and actions
The classroom is a test tube of sorts. It is where we test our language. But it is only half of what makes a fluent speaker. The real test is the real world. Nowadays, it is much easier for teachers to link the trials of the classroom to the big test of the real world. Multi-media, web 2.0 tools, bringing in people from the community, projects etc… – any way to make what the students do in the classroom “meaningful” and “real” is crucial. Students will get motivated and learn better if they know what they are doing is more than just “killing time” or “getting a mark”. Language is a skill, let our students know it isn’t just a video car game and put them in the real car!
5. Differentiation and flexibility through an enacted curriculum
When I teach curriculum development courses – I drill into my students the importance of having an “enacted curriculum”. Not one set in stone as the textbook pretends. One with a plan but a plan that you can alter and shift. It has to be so. If your students don’t know many basic verbs – you can’t march on through a unit on modals! But teachers do, believe me, they do….. Let’s be honest and try to make the classroom an organic place where the teacher is contantly assessing student’s needs and adjusting for their levels and differing learning styles. One size won’t fit all. These issues are in part why I’m such a big fan of SDL, self directed learning.
One additional thing I would mention is the need to focus on “verbs”. Verbs are the fly paper of language. Get your students mastering many verbs and all the other functional and concrete vocabulary will “stick”.
I’m sure you have your own thoughts – please leave a comment and tell us what you’d put on the list.
Just watched this now 3 year old presentation – A Manifesto for Learning. I think it appropriate, given what the last 3 years have presented to us (better access to technology, more profusion of web 2.0, better audio/video tools for learning) to post this up again and I hope others will comment…..
[ Update: Now get this book FREE. I've sold the 220 copies to pay for its costs and now the world can download and share. Big thanks to all the teachers who purchased the book and who are now using it in classrooms around the world!]
I’m proud as punch to announce, after much work (and thank you Dario my graphic designer! – http://www.dgb-design.com.ar) – Teach | Learn – A Student Created Content Coursebook is now available. See related blog posts about it here.
2. It promotes the student created content learning method. Students creating the curriculum and learning much more organically.
3. It shows that textbooks can be edited and supported with multi media materials. They don’t have to be “jailed” objects. Your purchase allows you access to the Teach Learn wiki where you can download an editable copy of each lesson (plus a ppt of the whole book for more editing or display with a whiteboard or projector.)[give me a day or so to upload there]
I’ve been, like I’m sure many other have, watching the ongoing events in the Middle East with sheer fascination. The power of normal people to say – “we aren’t going to take it anymore”. The invigorating energy given by technology to inform and empower the powerless. Havel would be so proud these days – something he always talked about.
But what about ELT – English Language Teaching? Has technology, crowd sharing, social media, the internet and connective technologies been liberating?
I’d say that it has but with a caution. There is so much more that could happen (and I believe will). There are still too many “landlords” and “fiefdoms” in our part of education. Still the propertied class that doesn’t pay its share and is concerned with feeding itself and not learning. Let me talk about one small piece of the pie – textbooks.
I’ve been bantering and chirping to myself on Jason Renshaw’s always stimulating and thoughtful blog. I recently stated something there that I’ve always wondered and really grind my teeth over – the fact that we teachers/students, the underclass, purchase materials in the billions of dollars. Paying for yachts and planes (and yes, there are a few in the ELT business that can afford their own planes and boats). We pay but we have zero control.
I mean, why can’t we use technology to edit the materials we have paid for?
Imagine a publisher that would give you a textbook all ready for you to edit and change, as you will. You could do so much;
* put in students names and photos
* record students and have their voices as listening material
* delete the stuff that you don’t want and will never do!
* substitute and replace material
* throw in links that would send students to websites where they can do self directed learning and get more input.
* add photos that are culturally relevant to the students.
* allow innovation and teachers / students into the creative process
* add your own idea… I could go on forever.
Here is Richard Baraniuk describing how this is very possible. See his Connexions for what he’s built for the university / academic world.
And why isn’t this done in ELT? Well basically, it is because of control and archaic protection of copyright laws. Inertia. The money is still rolling in.
It is similar to the remix debate in the music industry. And it suggests that learning is NOT important to publishers – what is important is control and the ability to forever come out with new, “improved” variants. For them to control the curriculum – to say it in a nutshell. (please watch Larry Lessig’s lecture for an esteemed academic’s taking of the same forthright position I am. )
You see, if they allowed you (after purchase) to edit a textbook – why would you ever need to buy another one? OMG! That would just destroy their planned obsolescent model.
Let me return to the point about the possibility that edited textbooks would have. (not to mention how up to date they’d be).
Here is the first page of a unit from Interchange 2. Here are my suggestions, imaging what I’d do if I could just click on the document, change and then print for my students (and oops! forgot to mention, how would they ever make money if we could just print as we wished!).
I think we need a revolution in the ELT publishing and textbook industry. The people (students and teachers) need power and control. Teachers know best for their students. Teachers who design and create materials for their students (or even just adapt) are strong teachers. It informs them.
We need a wikipedia, Web 2.0, read/write revolution in the textbook world. My textbook out next week – Teach | Learn will be fully editable (and edible!). Viva La (textbook) Revolucion!