Spelling out the maths

December 2, 2014

Hey, I am now over 300 posts on this blog. And things have changed since I started! What was originally a support for talks I gave has become a space for reflection on language teaching in a much more general way. That’s what technology does maybe: change how we function in subtle and unpredicable ways.

I have considered closing this blog: at best it needs a spring cleaning given that most of the blog list on the right are now closed with the exception of the wonderful David Crystal.

Meanwhile, while over Christmas pudding and various Ryanair flights I will ponder what to do next, here is a summary of where technology and language teaching may stand at the moment. Gavin Dudeney and his company have always been at the forefront of training when it comes to using technology in EFL. They have also been very realistic which for me is the key.

Have a look at this video.


The politics of language

September 5, 2014

Here is a short post to start the new academic year on a topic which could go on for ever … or maybe it has!

How important is accent? And for a moment let’s forget about students and think of “native” speakers.


Where is English going in India? Read this.

Regional accents in America, particularly Southern? Read this.

Now it is back to class (upper, middle, lower?? can you tell by the accent???).

Good luck.



Taking our medicine

June 16, 2014

I still have fond memories of the good old computer room, particularly one we had when the students worked in pairs at a computer with their back to the teacher who was free to observe, roam, advise, supervise and aid students on an individual level. It was almost Dogme! In fact, it was in comparison to what came next: IWBS and up front technology driven teaching which may provide the occasional “easy” lesson but to my mind, fail to engage students or stimulate learning in any positive way. It is just far too easy to sit back and enjoy the graphics: Disney Channel probably requires more concentration.

The article below discusses increasing use of tablets in classrooms and how that moves back to my initial scenario: using tablets students can again work at their own pace, be helped individually by a teacher and all in all the whole procedure is effective, engaging and worthwhile.

This article gives some practical indications of how tablets and specific educational software can work.

Brain alive

June 2, 2014

How often as teachers do we feel brain dead or wonder if our students are? The good news is that a recent study shows that speaking a second language may delay dementia as the effort keeps the brain’s cognitive functions challenged and active.

So the next time you are feeling down in class, just think that you will have years of mental agility to snap out of it … although don’t walk under a bus or anything equally silly just in case.

Full story here.

Going off the rails

May 26, 2014

There is a famous dilemma called the Trolley Problem in which a person has to decide when faced with a runaway train carriage whether to do nothing and let it kill five people or divert it and only kill one. What would you do? Logically you should divert and kill one but it is a difficult decision to make in reality. Make the equation more complex: you can stop the trolley and save five lives by pushing the fat man beside onto the rails (you are not heavy enough so a heroic suicide is not an option!) and he will die but save five lives in the process. Having to physically push the victim makes the dilemma even more demanding morally and cognitively.

dilemmaInterestingly, recent research in a university in Barcelona throws up a linguistic angle to the issue. Essentially, when subjects were explained the situation and decision in a foreign language (which they spoke fluently) they were more willing to kill the fat man. Why? Because the presumption is, even when fluent in a second language your brain is still processing it in a more reasoned way and thus the brain is devoted to more logical than instinctive decision making. As the article below points out, given that so many company boardrooms use English as the main language, and it is often a second language for many of the board members, this might bring benefits to managerial decision making!

As EFL teachers many of us are also competent in another language and live in foreign countries: people should think twice before standing beside us on a train platform; or if you are caught on a runaway metro train you should hope and pray there is a non-native speaker waiting up ahead willing to sacrifice passers-by to save you. And if English was a Lingua Franca would we all end up in the same boat?

Original article: http://tinyurl.com/mhmpkl3

Search Wikipedia or Youtube for “Trolley dilemma”


Thanks for all the phishing

September 19, 2013

Hi all and welcome back to a new teaching year after the summer. For those of you who may be slightly paranoid about internet security the Economist has an in-dept survey on the issue and an interesting debate about whether or not security agencies should be allowed pervert the flow of information as it were. If you don’t want to read the complete article scroll down to the fun section on Panoramic paranoia where the newspaper gives some tips on being really safe electronically (ie keep your mobile safe from interference by switching it off, taking out the battery and storing it in the fridge when not in use).

This blog is, of course, about technology and teaching but maybe the security issues remain the same. At what point should we shut technology out and store it in the fridge just in case it corrupts our classrooms? My daughter has just started secondary school and has been told that all mobile devices have to be turned off and locked away during school hours. A recent talk by a work-mate encouraged me to get my teenagers to take our their mobile phones and use them creatively in class last night. There is always a back door when it comes to technology. The trick may not be finding it but using it productively, creatively and in a way that stimulates the teaching and learning process. Technology is not an automatic virus. It can be, but in education that probably depends on the teacher.

That has always been the intention of this blog: learning about and using technology in the best pedagogical way possible. I have just re-read the aims of this blog stated in the WHY section and I hope to some extent they have been fulfilled.

Time moves on and technologically things change ever quicker than time does. After nearly 300 posts I think this blog may have reached an end. Three years is a long time in the history of internet. Things have moved on. I may return here or on a new blog when I have found a new angle: at the moment I feel that it is time for an upgrade, and they always take time to de-bug.

Meanwhile thanks for all the phising! Let me leave you with one final clip which does what we try to do every class: put a humanistic layer on intelligence, artificial or not.