Disrupting ELT

Clayton Christensen, Harvard professor and proponent of how new technologies change traditional market structures and relationships, defines disruption as “the process of transforming something that was previously expensive and complicated into something affordable and simple that everyone can obtain.”

This is my own drum beat, as I look at my own dedicated road along ELT. But we need more, many more, pounding on this drum.

Open innovation and connecting what were “competitive” forces, is a feature of disruption that is very important. Many diverse groups can now join and achieve solutions to problems that once were beyond reach. This goes for ELT. Openess is key. Open innovation, open resources, open access, open collaboration. We are witnessing an age of transparency.

Disruption is also happening along the lines of the student-teacher relationship. Students can now learn online, can now get free access to knowledge. They no longer “need” the gate keeper, the teacher. So the teacher must now truly carve out a niche and show their worth/necessity.

For too long, students and teachers alike in ELT, have been captive to market forces that did little regarding the affordable dispersion of knowledge and access to resources/training. Too little. Technology is allowing disruption of this proprietary and I will say, “predatory” model. Here are just a few of my own involvements highlighting my own efforts at “disruption”.

1. Basic TESOL Certificate Course:

I offered it free and was overwhelmed by the response. Over 300 teachers signed up in under 24 hours! It has a small user fee now but I’m looking to return it to “free” status. This is an example of how the internet can offer freely, something once charging teachers hundreds of dollars. As is, as a standalone course, it is just as good as others that charge teachers 100s of dollars.

2. Ebooks. My ebooks are something I’m very proud of. They cut out the middle man and can be many times offered for free download. Even this blog is an ebook! My “techbook” Teach | Learn  has been directly purchased over 230 times and I’ll soon reach my goal and release it as a free download. No longer do teachers and students need to buy a textbook for their class. Just download this book. Print for students and in addition get support, get a book you can edit, get multimedia materials…. In a word, disruption.

3. Social Media / Online Community

EFL Classroom 2.0 has been a godsend. Born of spirit, it continues in spirit – the spirit of giving teachers resources/training/ideas that they need for FREE. The twitter and facebook age have made this a challenge, this creation of community but EFL 2.0 forges on because of the content it offers teachers. No fees, no ads, no agenda like so many traditional social networking communities. TEFList, my jobs site, offers all the ELT jobs on the web, at your fingertips, in one place. It disrupts the traditional model of protective “job banks”.

4. EnglishCentral

My work with EnglishCentral and my own joy in joining them – is precisely because of the disruptive nature of this new way to learn and teach the English language. It is truly radical and disruptive to the traditional model of a coursebook and one size fits all delivery of lessons to students. Students choose their own videos. Teachers can bring “real” language into the classroom, in a controlled and purposeful fashion which helps students learn English. No longer do students who really want to become fluent in English, have to pay thousands of dollars, have to fly overseas and spend, spend, spend …. Disruption.

There are more ways I’m disrupting and using technology to take what was once “expensive and complicated”, what was once the realm of “the expert” and making it open and available at low cost to many.

What other disruptive sources/efforts do you see in ELT?

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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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1 Response

  1. Ann says:

    Hi David,

    Raelly interesting post and great resources!
    Have just posted a link to it on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check there for comments.

    Please feel free to post on the page whenever you have anything you’d like to share.



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