Raised Lutheran, junior-schooled Catholic.
Explored Buddhism and Taoism while exploring the Asian world.
There is a point the Christians fight over with such passion you would think it really matters.
The Eucharist: Wine and Bread or the Body and Blood of the Christ?
Transubstantiation, trans-elementation, re-ordination or just fermented grape juice and baked flour?
Now I'm not going to upset anyone here by telling you what I think because if you're in one of the above camps you know what you think and that's good enough.
Instead I'm wittering on again about the English Language Teaching methodology kicked off by Scott Thornbury.
In my previous post, entitled the Dogma of Dogme, I gave you some of the background to the methodology and also talked about its new bible, Teaching Unplugged.
Dogme has been referred to as a movement, off and on, with Thornbury hailed as its guru (by me including but with respect), has been prodded and poked, deemed impossible, made fun of by a large body of know-a-lots and the-would-like-to-look-like-they-know-a-lots who feebly attempt, at every turn, to show how actually it was so and so who came up with the idea before Scott did.
An exercise in grossly missing the point: akin to quoting Dionysus’ birth story, his 12 disciples and the ability to turn water into wine or the star in the east announcing Krishna, the crucifixion of Horus and subsequent resurrection as … infallible proof the Sermon on the Mount never took place or doesn’t hold any truths.
Yeah? Like whatever...
The methodology of dogme: pray tell, when are we lot going to get around to talking about the how, why, when, where and who it does really work with?
When are we going to start empirically proving it?
Given that dogme is Danish for dogma and dogma is, according to Merriam Webster, a point of view put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds… it really is about time this methodology was put up to the test and not just for a week or two.
Thornbury brought the ways of thinking about student-centered learning together, organized them so there could be a code of tenets, doesn't claim to have been the only one with the idea (you should see the list of sources he has to quote each time he speaks) but basically, is the one that made this way of teaching sexy.
His more fundamentalistic followers do really like to split hairs on what teaching dogme-style actually means, even those of them who are no longer teaching and are rather instead, philosophizing.
Some dogmeists focus on the social change, the critical pedagogy, some the concept of bare essentials and others, the damning of technology and a yearning for a simpler life. Some just claim to live in the same city as he does and therefore have special knowledge into its function and purpose.
For others, like myself, it's a mindset - a way of being in the classroom where my students are the co-creators of our curriculum.
Yet it is actually shocking how often you will see written "well, that's not dogme" about anything not that does not fit into someone's personal take of what a dogme class looks like.
In its most simple form: teaching should be done using only the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom – ie themselves – and whatever happens to be in the classroom.
Teaching Unplugged, Scott Thornbury & Luke Meddings
Whatever happens to be in the classroom – herein is probably the root of the confusion - many of us live in a fairly modern world with technology in our rooms, whether it is in our students’ pockets, in our own, on their desks, on the table or on the wall. Does a classroom not contain books?
Sometimes relying on only that which is within the classroom's walls is not enough to hold a conversation together for hours, consistently over a long period; at times there are external pressures which require thought and consideration like exams or HR requirements; it's probably not a very easy or comfortable practice for the new or set-in-their-style or very stressed teacher and in my own opinion, there is a lack of monitoring (I created conversation control sheets which do the trick).
Here is my student, Phillip, talking about what it means to learn English with a dogme teacher.
Fellow dogmeists: consider yourselves most duly called, what will you be doing this year to prove dogme?
- will you buy Teaching Unplugged, study it, read Thornbury & Meddings’s articles and put the pedagogy into practice?
- will you convince your DOS to let you try dogme with at least one group?
- will you talk to your students, explain what’s going to happen in the class and ask them if they want to try it?
- will you apply the tenets to exam classrooms? To large groups?
- will you try it out with the kids? With the teenagers?
- will you walk into class without being the one in control and allow the language to emerge?
- will you give up your textbook and just teach?
- will you record what happens in log books, blogs, ning groups?
- will you share the process? The progress and/or failure (DogmeYahoo!Group)
I, of course, would not call upon you without subscribing to the same and will be recording a new lot of language students right from the get-go, but as the protest-ant here, I'll be doing this with my dogme 2.0 approach, i.e. following the commandments as laid in the council of SEETA:
Scott Thornbury: "I am prepared to admit that my own position, while intentionally provocative has been dangerously reactionary at times.
At the same time, my main complaint about those who advocate the use of technology in the classroom is that they are seldom very explicit about the learning theory that would ground such use. As Neil Postman wrote (in Technopoly) "To the question 'Why should we do this?' [i.e. introduce computers into the classroom] the answer is: 'To make learning more efficient and interesting.' Such an answer is considered entirely adequate, since in Technopoly efficiency and interest need no justification.
It is, therefore, usually not noticed that this answer does not address the question 'What is learning for?' 'Efficiency and interest' is a technical answer, an answer about means, not ends; and it offers no pathway to a consideration of educational philosophy" (p. 171).
This failure to distinguish between means and ends is why I reject the argument that we should use technology simply because it is here. Or there. Or everywhere. Or because it is fun. Or because not to do so is willfully perverse. Or incongruent. Or hypocritical. And so on. These are arguments not about ends, but about means.
Let me suggest some ends for which technology might be facilitative. To me, there are at least four. For convenience I'll label them DDCC. In ascending order of importance, they are:
- Delivery: technology should be capable of delivering content in ways that are more efficient, more immediate, more impactful, more customised than many traditional means such as print materials;
- Dialogue: technology should be capable of providing means for learners to interact with one another and with their teachers, and to do so in a collaborative, communciative way, that might radically increase learning opportunities.
- Creativity: technology should offer the means for learners to be creative either inividually or collaboratively, using a variety of media and modalities, in ways that enrich their language learning experience;
- Community: technology should offer the possibility of building extended but close-knit communities of practice among learners and teachers, distributed over time and space and in ways that motivate language learning and use.
To me, then, a technological tool - such as Skype, Moodle, YouTube, Powerpoint, Second Life etc - needs to be evaluated in accordance with its potential to meet at least one, if not all, of the above criteria.
At the same time, the feasability of the technology must be assessed in relation to its costs - in terms of hardware, training, maintenance, built-in obsolesence and so on.
If, in the end, the "DDCC" ends can be achieved just as efficiently and as economically without Skype, Moodle, YouTube etc - then fine.
Let's not be seduced by technology for technology's sake. Language teaching has been going on very nicely, for centuries now, with little more than a few people in a room."
I look forward to many lively conversations on these themes.
And now for fun, the video, Any Given Dogme, starring Al Pacino as Scott Thornbury, directed by Lindsay Clandfield.
Useful links related to this posting:
• Dogme, nothing if not critical
• Marisa Constantinides, Technology: with or without you