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.

Let’s face it

June 3, 2013

Facebook is no longer cool. Even Rupert Murdoch says so: and he must know … has to have some inside information, a hotline to someone in the know 😉

Facebook can boast enormous numbers of members but the time they spend online is decreasing, especially amoung the younger members of the community. In Spain, Tuenti remains the favourite amoung the youngest users of online social communities followed by Twitter. This El Pais article concludes that it seems that children are born on Tuenti, grow up on Twitter and become comfortable in Facebook.

Am I too old to start all over again and get a Tuenti account? Probably just have to leave that to the kids … but they can wait a couple of more years. Disturbingly, the article also has the statistic that 15% of Spanish kids between the ages of 14 and 17 confess to having been hassled on online social networks. I suppose, it happens all the time in school playgrounds but still not nice and of course leads us as teachers to consider our role in either using, promoting or teaching social media.

Being resourceful

May 13, 2013

Here is a site I, surprisingly, have just come upon. Lots of practical information and ideas here. The blog posts cover a range of issues in EFL from teaching pron to using coursebooks. What I particularly like are the downloadable lesson plans as they are clearly tagged to CEF levels and they are based around some really entertaining videos. Have a look, some good fun and thoughtful input here.

Only words … child’s play

April 3, 2013

imagesNothing strange about a younger learners book introducing clothes vocabulary. Curiously, however, when personalising the activities and playing games withthe clothes they were actually wearing I had to introduce a whole new lexical set: tracksuit, uniform, trainers etc. Nothing wrong with that but it is interesting how irrelevant textbook material can be to real life … or vica versa.

Twenty years since Lewis proposed a more lexical approach based largely on findings from what was then recent field of computer based Corpus research. Suddenly it seemed impossible to distinguish grammar from vocabulary; everything became a chunk of language. Twenty years on, text books and possibly teachers still pay lip service to the concept but it nevery fully brought in radical changes in the way it initially urged.

It may just be that it takes that long or even longer for academic thinking to seep down to the chalk face. That is one of the ideas in this Guardian article on why the lexical approach has never been as influential as perhaps it should. The same probably applies to effective use of IT in teaching: despite all the initial enthusiasm, the reality at the chalkface or even the IWBface is that really creative use may take longer than expected.

The author of the Guardian article above has a blog which is a great resource site for ideas on exploring lexis in class. The TOOLS section has an extensive list of very useful links for vocabulary and corpus information on the web. Some of them you will know and others perhaps not, but great having them all in just one place.

untitledMy message for today then? Let’s not let Lewis haunt us. The lexical approach is too important to be hidden away, another EFL skeleton in the wardrobe.

Teaching by numbers

January 28, 2013

imagesCAN4AHK2Dogme has been mentioned many times on this blog. I may not be willing to go the whole hog on this but I do feel that there can be too many materials in our classrooms at times and that a little more direct f2f communication is better than searching for the next youtube clip or expensive flashcards to show on the IWB.

Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill have been grappling with the same issue over the past year.  Given the quality and range of materials teachers now have to work with, they too argue for a little less reliance on these materials and more focus on the students and their learning. They advocate what they call Demand-High Teaching. As a simple example they point out that, when correcting, rather than searching for the correct answer, ticking it off and moving on, we should spend more time asking everyones opinion as to what is correct, discusing why certain options might not be correct etc. In other words, working a bit more on teaching, getting more out of the process. Perhaps a lot of what we learn on courses, and even what we do in class in terms of manipulating material etc is a little like painting by numbers. We follow the steps, colour in all the options carefully, hit all the correct buttons, but maybe miss a little flash, a spark of creativity. Something sound can be produced, maybe even worth hanging on the wall … but is it possible to paint without the numbers and achieve something more pleasing and worth-while?

If you haven’t been in contact with Demand-High Teaching before this article by Scrivener and Underhill in the Guardian is a good introduction. For more detail and discussion follow their blog : follow the posts chronologically for an idea of how their thoughts are developing.

Absolutely Ambrosing!

January 21, 2013

imagesCA116KRHI downloaded my Christmas reading from the Gutenberg project so it was all free and easily loaded into my reader. Not sure what it says about Christmas, or my return to work, but only getting through the books now. Wonderful find was The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce ( I still remember having to study but actually enjoying An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge many, many years ago).

For lovers of language, this book provides a wonderfully cynical definition of words you will never use in the same way again. A couple of tasty examples:

ABRUPT: Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannon – shot and the departure of the soldier whose intersts are most affected by it.

which can be nicely linked to the definition of …

CANNON: an instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.

There are also some wonderfully caustic explanations of terms frequently used in terms of politics. It struck me as depressing that they seem completely relevant to today’s world … not much has changed.

Here is one particular curiosity I came across:

HASH, x. There is no definition for this word – nobody knows what hash is.

What did he mean? And what would he have made of HASHTAG? In fact, I think the world is dying for an update of this dictionary. How would we define Facebook, Twitter, Blog … with a sufficient sense of cycnicism and of course the occasional pun as demanded by this blog? I am tempted but will wait for another day …

Babel fish

December 10, 2012

This is wonderful. Finally, a magazine for people interested in language and with David Crystal as a consultant. The first issue can be downloaded free from the website but I am certainly going to sign up for future issues.