Building bricks

July 2, 2014

holeWhen younger my son went through a phase of wanting to do everything independently, by himself. If you are not in a hurry and trying to get a kid out of the house, it can be entertaining to watch a little boy struggle into his trousers back to front.

Sugata Mitra’s plenary at IATEFL this year continues to generate controversary; indeed, his work in general does as he promotes the idea of students teaching themselves (the famous “Hole-in-the-wall” experiment) and more recently his idea of Self Organising Learning Environments (SOLEs). A search for any of these terms on YouTube or TED will give you an idea of how radical some of his claims may seem, and how persuasive he himself can be!

Some years ago I was involved in organising a TESOL Symposium on Learner Autonomy in the University of Seville. One of the speakers, Leni Dam, spoke about how much teacher work goes into developing learner autonomy! It is not something that happens automatically or even naturally. I am not sure Sugbata Mitra would agree but I think I do.

Michal B. Paradowski has a comprehensive article on the debate in the recent issue of IATEFL Voices. It can be read online and the references at the end also provide excellent follow up, particularly the comments made by Hugh Dellar and Jeremy Harmer.

My son is now autonomous when it comes to dressing. But it took time, and I don’t think he learned all by himself. Parents seem to have some small role in kids development. Teachers probably do as well: even in the future. Sometimes people need to be taught how to brick up that hole in the wall before winter kicks in although, by the same token, I think Pink Floyd had a song about the dangers of bricking everything out.

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.

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.

Telling tales

June 6, 2013

Child and teacher-friendly site with stories from all around the world. Great stuff!

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.

Killing the radio star

March 20, 2013

Here is something entertaining, especially for younger learners. is pretty much what it claims to be: a video dictionary. In other words, you choose a word and watch a short video which demonstrates its meaning, a type of moving flashcard basically. The site is still developing so keep your eye on it as for the moment the choice is limited but if it continues to grow it could be very useful. Rather than searching for a word in the hope there is a video for it I would concentrate on using the CATEGORIES or COLLECTIONS sections as a means of getting a feel for what is available. The GAMES option is also interesting or potentially so as the site grows.

Have fun during the Easter holidays if you have them!