Foxy Voxy: #mlearning meets motivation in language teaching

In a rant, several weeks back I emphasized my thoughts on how I really, simply, can't see how mobile phones and language learning/teaching are ever going to lie in a bed together...  partly because of the size of the tool itself, issues related to internet access on the go, but also, most importantly to be quite frank, my main suspicion is that, like Thornbury's suspicion of products developed for IWBs, is all we're gonna wind up with is a rehash of tired and out-dated methodologies spiced up for diamond-sharp-screen-technologies (gap-fill, random-name-that-photo anyone?) but these materials won't be personalized nor learner-centered, and undoubtedly won't be an interactive learning tool and sure as heck, won't be motivational.

I sure do love being proved wrong.

Folks, it looks like a fox has slipped into the henhouse with something really rather innovative.

FOX

At first contact, when they emailed, I scoffed and almost reached for the mark-as-spam button.

Oh, here we go, I thought,  I mean just how many emails do I really have to receive each week with someone wanting to be promoted on my blog?  But this email was very different.   It didn't congratulate me  and tell me how much they just love my blog but instead I got a long, professionallly laid out  list of solid reasons why their product was worth taking a look at.  

I clicked through.

I emailed back.

We Skyped.

I put it to the student-test.

Unanamious votes all round:  they said "cool" "guile" "very cool".    They asked "can we download it in German?"  I told them not yet.  But I hope soon.

The company who've created this incredibly simple concept of sending out a 3 minute SMS/email/app with a lead in in the students' own L1 is called Voxy, headed up by Paul Gollash (who lists in his claim to fame, working within Richard Branson's venture capital wing). 

His killer team includes Manuel Morales - in charge of community outreach; Gregg Carey (co-founder) and Ed Menendez who are developing the product; Laura Martinez (journalist and blogger) their Editorial Director - she currenlty creates the daily streaks.  

Linguist Jane Sedlar and language coordinator Sandra Rubio keep them on andragogical track... and their secret weapon?


Rudy Menendez who comes in with a background in creating addictive games.

  

The language learning tool came out of a simple wish to make language learning more interesting, they ask:


Why is language learning so un-interesting? Languages are, after all, empirically exciting, useful, and empowering to all of us. Does studying it have to suck? We don't think so.

Voxy was first conceived over cold beers at a Yakatori bar in the East Village of New York and the business plan was written shortly afterwards while in San Sebastian, on the northern coast of Spain. It grew out of a fascination for evolving media (including magazines, newspapers, digital and social), and a passion for language learning in an increasingly global community. At Voxy's core is a fervent belief that there is better way to learn a new language.

Voxy raised a seed round of capital from a group of angel investors with experience building successful businesses in the for-profit education space, and a history of creating powerful consumer brands.

Software in the back records what the students are interested in, what stories they tend to click on and flashcard games based on the lexis that the students have chosen themselves goes into a personalized bank.




Voxy is a young company, founded in Feb 2010 but has already been written up in the New York TimesCNN money and TechCrunch. In the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield (video), Gollash quotes Chomsky saying that 98% of language teaching is just about keeping the students interested and they've met that challenge head on by creating an application which adapts seamlessly into adult life, converting relevant, topical content and turned this into a game.




Voxy uses an incremental approach, important in minimizing cognitive load.  Language is also offered in chunks - no grammar-based curriculum here although there is grammar: highlighted in context. (Hear my gasp!)

New material is presented at a level of difficulty  just beyond the students' current ability.

Students receive points based on how often they log in and play these streaks, the words they accumulate and the games they play.






Want to get involved?
As I mentioned earlier, Voxy is a young company and very eager to get real feedback from teachers and students.  The website is completely free (the i-phone app will cost a dollar) so if you happen to be a teacher reading my blog, based in the US or in Central or South America or Spain - basically anywhere where you have Spanish speaking students learning English then why not head on over to the Voxy website, mess around a bit  and then if you like, show it to your students.

If you'd like to ask questions or send in your thoughts, contact the very friendly Manuel Morales: manuel (at) voxy (dot) com.


Useful resources: 

and if you thought I was kidding when I said I am mostly suspicious of mobile technologies... do please have a thorough look at David Reed's blog on mobile ESL, he reviews products there and talks about the use of the phone in the classroom.  Well-written posts but as far as I can tell, personally, really can't figure how these apps he reviews are supposedly thinking outside the cage...   watch out ELT.


Best,
Karenne

Google Docs for Focusing on Form: dogme 2.0

Olympus Trip focusingAlong with encouraging co-construction and emergent language, the practice of dogme calls for, via scaffolding, there be a focus a form and one of my favourite tools to help me meet this objective in the techno age is Google Docs.  

And although I've been meaning to do this post for ages, I reckon this might be one of those occasions where an explanation won't be anywhere near as effective simply showing you why:





Video 1: 
Backstory my student Y, would like to comment on G's summary blog post about mobile phone market share (based on an article and infographic from Mashable).  

He's nervous that his comment won't be written correctly so has drafted his response before clicking on add-a-comment.  We then imported this into our shared google doc in order to work on his text together.   As you can see in this video, we are working on separate computers - me showing him where he needs to make the changes and discussing the errors or mistakes while he corrects the problems himself.

His weaknesses remain his private domain at the end of the day as only the two of us have access to his page, however, at any time he can go through previous entries evaluating his written work and find patterns in his errors.   But while his English develops, he can still add his thoughts  and opinions to G's post and although they are at different levels of English they can effectively hold a conversation about a shared interest.








Video 2:
Backstory My student B, lives in another city and our classes are held over the telephone.  In this video I am showing how, over a series of lessons B can get a feel for the type of errors she makes most often via the colours.  As Google Docs don't work on pages, but instead a long running stream, she can go back and forth through her document reviewing whether or not she still remembers new vocabulary and phrases.   You can can also see how I link to other sites for reference and how I use the blog I write for them to review and scaffold language which emerges in our lessons.







Hope these were clear!   Don't hesitate to ask questions if not.

Please note that like everything I write on this blog, my work is creative-commons licensed so I am very excited when my readers try things out in class and then take ownership of a practice or material,  adapting it for their own purposes and so if you do adopt this practice too, I'm deeply honored... however, I would like to stress to you that working in this particular fashion, in terms of creating an e-space in order to focus on form, is my original concept and therefore if you write an article, a research paper, blog post or print article or give a presentation on google-docs and error correction that you do not forget to atttribute my work by referencing this post.  Imitation is flattery, plagiarism and copyright violation isn't.  Thanks so much!

Best,
Karenne



Useful links:
Learn more about Google Docs: http://www.google.com/google-d-s/tour1.html
More of my posts using Google Tools and Apps

S is for Scaffolding
Reformulation by Scott Thornbury
Giving language learners a voice in correction by Peter Watkins
Sometimes a prop is really the best thing by Mike Harrison
interesting...  John Truscott, disagreeing with L2 grammar correction in writing

Dogme Blog Challenge #4 Being Light

Dogme is about teaching 

materials light.



Luke Meddings & Scott Thornbury, Teaching Unplugged, Delta Teacher Development Series, 2009.
 
Four Unplugged


What does it mean to us as teachers to go into a classroom materials-light? 
Where should all these  light materials magically come from?  
What do you think that Paulo Freire meant when he said that liberating education consists of acts of cognition, not transferrals of information?  Does going in light, as opposed to heavy, change this?  And, what in your opinion, might teaching materials-heavy look like?
How could teachers approach teaching with coursebooks dogmeicly*?
In Meeting of Minds, Stuart McNaughton challenges us with the idea of 'a curriculum that promotes only segmented, isolated, and elemental learning tasks reduces the students' degree of learning (including incedental learning) and also their preparedness for future learning.'   Have you seen this?  Felt it?  How do your students cope when the real-life need to speak in English crops up in their lives: can textbooks ever prepare them adequately for these experiences? Can being light?
Thinking about your colleagues and staffrooms along with your classrooms - do you think it is the teachers or students who favour most grammar based curriculums?  For either, why? Do we need to unlearn them?



The Blog Posts Challenge #4
      Read previous Challenge blog posts:
      Read Next in the Challenge series

      Since its inception, Dogme has had the reputation of being a movement whose goal it is, if not actually to burn coursebooks, at least to banish them from the classroom, along with any other materials and technological aids that teachers now take for granted.  But it is worth emphasising at this point that a Dogme approach is not anti-materials nor anti-technology per se. What it rejects are those kinds of materials and aids that don't conform with the principles of Dogme.   (Meddings L. & Thornbury S., Teaching Unplugged, 2009)

       Video with Scott Thornbury:

























      What is all this about? 
      The Dogme Blog Challenge + links to the blogs discussing Dogme
      The dogma of Dogme - background info & links
      Dogme ELT - other stuff I've written on Dogme

      How to share on Twitter:  use the #dogmeme hashtag

      How to share your fellow teachers' blog posts with each other?  Add/link to the blog(s) written on the subject on your post so they form a ring and your readers can travel on from post to post!

      How to respond?

      Comment below with short thoughts
      Go to your nearest yahoo!group and share your opinions
      with like-minded teaching colleagues

      Blog it:
      Write a list or tell a story, 
      compare lessons: dogme and non-dogme, 
      relate an experience, a contrary opinion,
      quote research, your own theory,
      submit mere musings, rant...
      share an idea, a paragraph, a dictionary's definition
      come up with a clever sentence,
      a beautiful photograph,

      a video-log
      an article or draft the bones of an essay, 
      share examples from your own classroom experience...

      In short, be dogmeic: personalize  your response!)




      Important URLs to quote/link to in your post (if necessary):
      • Dogme myths 
      • Teaching Unplugged: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/titles/methodology/teaching-unplugged
      • Scott Thornbury's website + articles: http://www.thornburyscott.com/
      • Scott Thornbury's blog: http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/
      • Luke Meddings' blog: http://lukemeddings.wordpress.com/
      • Luke Meddings' on the Delta blog: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/author/luke-meddings
      • Dogme ELT in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_language_teaching

      disclaimer: dogmeic and dogmeicly aren't words. I made them up.

        Dogme Blog Challenge #3 The Scaffolding

        The teacher's primary function, 

        apart from promoting the kind of classroom dynamic 
        conducive to a dialogic and emergent pedagogy 
        is to optimize language learning affordances,
        by directing attention to features of the emergent language;

        learning can be mediated through talk, 
        especially talk that is shaped and supported 
        (i.e. scaffolded) by the teacher.

        Luke Meddings & Scott Thornbury, Teaching Unplugged, Delta Teacher Development Series, 2009.

        What do you mean "Unplugged"? 20081012_0809ed


        Who coined the term "scaffolding" to describe the co-construction of learning between learners and teachers?  What was he trying to say through this?   
        In your opinion, what do you think  it means to optimize language learning affordances?

        Michael Long encourages us to focus on form, (1991) to draw our students' attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in communication, to redress the weaknesses our language learners make and to help them to notice these - which requires the teacher to do more than simply provide the conditions of language to emerge: their language must be scrutinised, manipulated, personalised and practised; Nick Ellis suggests that 'by making the underlying patterns more salient' (1997) acquisition can be facilitated.

        That is to say, if learners are having trouble identifying and abstracting patterns, seeing or understanding form, then their attention can be purposefully directed at them.

        How?  Why is this different from teaching with grammar McNuggets?

        What strategies do you generally apply in your language teaching classrooms to keep your own students focused on their own particular areas of individual concern?   What techniques work best?

        Answer in the comments below or if you happen to have a blog, do write your own post explaining how this affects you and your work as an English language teacher.

        And by the way, have really enjoyed travelling through the 'sphere, reading the posts and converations so far and am very much looking forward to learning from and sharing even more with you!

        Karenne


        The Blog Posts Challenge #3
          Read previous Challenge blog posts:
          Read Next in the Challenge series


            What is all this about? 
            The Dogme Blog Challenge + links to the blogs discussing Dogme
            The dogma of Dogme - background info & links
            Dogme ELT - other stuff I've written on Dogme
            S is for Scaffolding by Scott Thornbury

            How to share on Twitter:  use the #dogmeme hashtag

            How to share your fellow teachers' blog posts with each other?  Add/link to the blog(s) written on the subject on your post so they form a ring and your readers can travel on from post to post!

            How to respond?

            Comment below with short thoughts
            Go to your nearest yahoo!group and share your opinions
            with like-minded teaching colleagues

            Blog it:
            Write a list or tell a story, 
            compare lessons: dogme and non-dogme, 
            relate an experience, a contrary opinion,
            quote research, your own theory,
            submit mere musings, rant...
            share an idea, a paragraph, a dictionary's definition
            come up with a clever sentence,
            a beautiful photograph,

            a video-log
            an article or draft the bones of an essay, 
            share examples from your own classroom experience...

            In short, be dogmeic: personalize  your response!)




            Important URLs to quote/link to in your post (if necessary):
            • Teaching Unplugged: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/titles/methodology/teaching-unplugged
            • Scott Thornbury's website + articles: http://www.thornburyscott.com/
            • Scott Thornbury's blog: http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/
            • Luke Meddings' blog: http://lukemeddings.wordpress.com/
            • Luke Meddings' on the Delta blog: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/author/luke-meddings
            • Dogme ELT in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_language_teaching

            The Easiest Speaking Game in the World


            That's it really.

            Draw this on the board or on a big piece of paper or click on the photograph and print that out....

            The first few times you play this game, put a subject in the middle circle e.g. movies, jobs, current projects, holidays - whatever is topical at the time - elicit this from your students if you like.  Divide them up into groups and then encourage your students to ask each other questions.

            Once you've played a few times your students can then choose the topic within each group themselves and no group has to be discussing the same topic as the other.

            You circulate and provide feedback on the lexis and structure.

            I, um, think this game is straightforward enough not to include any further instructions but don't hesitate to ask questions if you have them.

            Best,
            Karenne

            update: THIS IS NOT A BRAINSTORMING EXERCISE.   Encourage your students to simply ask each other questions and talk to each other: no writing :-)

            Let's sell a car...

            I get it, I do, that in a lot of cultures this particular picture would be shocking.

            So I'm not going to ask the ELT publishers to be so incredibly radical as to include something like this...


            Take my hand

            But I'm not a book publisher.

            I'm an edu-blogger and I live in Germany and I teach adults.

            And I like to get my students speaking.

            And people here, like everywhere else, are sometimes straight, sometimes gay  and sometimes not anything at all...

            - 0 -

            But on to the teaching point, shall we?

            The other day, I wrote that one of the problems in textbooks lies in having many a pair-work activity and not enough non-even-group activities... and although some of my readers did, quite rightly, point out that you as the teacher can take on the role of one of the people in the activity, I don't actually think this is good all the time - I tend to need to walk around and listen and give feedback on their English.

            Yes, of course, sometimes you can get one of the class to help you monitor and feedback on speech, structure but that very much depends on the activity, for that to work, doesn't it?  In fact, to be honest the overall let's stick to an evenness of group sizes bugs me a bit - I just don't see why...  isn't it much more fun when they're not uniformed...

            And isn't it better if the language they need to use is repeated several times...


            I'll give you an example:

            The book I'm currently using... 

            (gasp! sometimes I have to and I like this one, gasp! and I can still dogme it, wink!)  
            ...with my group of intensive automotive students called for one person to sell a car and the other to be buying a car.   A was told he was at an auto fair and B was provided with details of a fictional car, size of the engine, mpg fuel consumption, number of cylinders that sort of thing.  

            The standard textbook speaking activity.

            But there are three problems with this sort of highly prescriptive activity: one, you really need an even number of students, two it's a bit spoon fed to be giving out random numbers about cars and their costs at random car fairs and it isn't exciting or motivating and finally, three, if you have a large class then they're all going to be talking about the same thing at the same time... and that's sort of naff.



            But rather than just moan, I'll tell you how I 

            two'd, 
            three'd 
            and 
            four'd it...

            I selected some of my students and asked them to think of the next car they'd most like to buy (in some cases if they could afford it) and then I told them that they were all now, officially, car-salespersons.   I asked them to jot down notes about this car, the one they liked so much - what was so special about it including things like how many miles to the gallon, the type of engine, the style...

            While those students were busy working on that... I chose different students to "be:"
            i) a modern business woman climbing to the top of her career - what car did she want to buy?
            and...
            ii) a young husband and wife with no thoughts of children in the near horizon
            iii) a gay couple
            iv) a father and son
            v) an older husband and wife with their live-at-home son, who would be sharing their car
            The mini-groups of different sizes then had to work together to decide if they were in agreement regarding what would be the best type of car for their personal circumstances and to talk about preferences of engine,  size, features and general style (lexis we'd covered in the units to date).

            c) Lastly the purchasers went around the rooms in circles, talking to each salesperson one by one and deciding to buy.


            It was super interactive, personalized, fun, the target language was practiced and repeated and yea, we didn't pretend that the entire world revolves around the two-by-twos.  :)

            Best,
            Karenne


            I love hearing from you!  Have you ever introduced the topic homosexuality into the classroom or simply ever let it slide in?   Have you found ways to get out of the mould of pair-work?

            Please add your thoughts if you enjoyed this piece and you feel like there's something you would like to question, add or say about it - don't worry about perfection or agreeing with me: it's always a pleasure to hear from you and know your own opinions. Worried about spamming me? Spam = you haven't read any of the discussion either in the post or by the other comments yet you want to come to my page in order to advertise yourself... (which probably means you won't have read this either :)). Your comment will be removed. Contribution = you've read the post and the discussion which has been added from other educators (or you want to start one off) and you would like to share your own thoughts, opinions, knowledge and experience. And by the way, have you already written about this specific subject or something similar? Do please add your link as I welcome the opportunity to participate in your conversations too! :-)

            Teaching English Online: Tara Benwell and MyEC

            I was just going through some of the great sessions from the Virtual Round Table last week to catch up on what I'd missed and while on over there, saw a posting about one of the sessions I did attend at the time and which, if you're interested in teaching online but aren't sure where to start, would really like to point you towards. 

            The session was with Tara Benwell of MyEC who works with English language learners from all over the world: almost 25,000 of them!  

            She sets up monthly blog challenges for them to write, administrates their discussions and also helps them develop computer skills and develop learner autonomy.

            One of the best things about MyEC - if you're a teacher as well as a learner is that you're welcome to go onto their site and set up your own group - there are many, many other groups to join in as well.    Many of their members frequently write their own blogs so you can quickly offer your services in terms of general feedback or correction (when/if they ask for this).

            So basically if you've been hedging on whether or not you'd like to start teaching online, doing an Masters in Edtech/TESOL and you'd really like to have a free space, a kind of 'sandbox' to test out on strangers who are really keen to learn... or you want to work out whether teaching online is for you before diving in with  creating your own site (or even, like me the reverse, you'd like to see how tasks you set with real students work with total strangers)  then you should definitely watch this video and join their site.  

            If you have any questions, Tara is super approachable, she tweets at @TEFL and her page on the MyEC page is here, the creator of their site was Josef Essberger.


            Good luck!
            Karenne

            p.s. Let me just share with you a blog post from one of their members (displayed here with permission):

            Not a Drop to Drink (Blog Action Day)

            playing with water 15Although I have already written about water in terms of teaching English in

            today's post is actually in support of Blog Action Day.

            And I suppose in many respects, my post from last week on schooling the world would have worked better here... but I've been thinking about it, about the issues as I walk around the city, as I meander from lesson to lesson.   

            How we spend such an incredible amount of talking about issues in education and referencing the 3rd world to support our adventures, waxing lyrical from warm homes, safe lives and families and friends.

            We debate about the benefits that we Europeans and Americans can bring to their lives to save them  (all over again because it worked so successfully the last time when we preached - our economies did do rather well, didn't they) and we rave on and on about how we can teach them, reach them through technology but sometimes, god help us, we actually forget that the people who want an education also need, mostly need, an infrastructure in place around them.

            We forget that in our very "special" position with our cheap coffee or our expensive coffee, that this  like so much of what we eat and drink comes at the cost of their ability to grow their own vegetables  - to feed themselves properly.   

            We forget that the endless toys that stuff our homes or our over-filled wardrobes came on the back of their labour.

            We forget that their priorities are very much things on the very bottom of the Maslow pyramid.   So yes, of course they need an education and there are wonderful good-hearted people around the globe doing this and of course, why yes, being given a free phone is wonderful (wouldn't we all love to have free phones too)

            but 

            please, can we not forget that they need

            shelter

            food

            water.

            So I guess I better get on to point of this post and share my contribution to the blog action day:

            Did you know that almost a billion people on this planet do not have access to safe water?  That every week 
            38,000
            children, under the age of 5, die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions?

            Did you know that the war in Dafur was probably caused due to a scarcity of water?

            Did you know that in the United States alone, on just one average day, more than 500 billion liters of freshwater travel through the country’s power plants—more than twice what flows through the Nile?

            Did you know that often, to get  fish on your table, many fisherman completely abuse oceanic country borders and overfish - leaving countries and islands (like the Caribbean) without enough fish for their own people?   Did you know that our deep seas are also in danger?

            Did you know that every time you plug a Smartphone into the wall about half a liter of water must flow through kilometers of pipes, pumps, and the heat exchangers of a power plant.
            I'm not saying feel guilty.   I'm not saying let's not teach them with technology - let's face it, I would never say that, now would I :-).... but I am saying that if we're going to talk about educating the world's children, then let's please also try to put a little more on the agenda than selling them stuff.

            Anyway, I'll leave you now with these thoughts, political twice in a row... but here's the website link to sign a petition if you're in the mood or perhaps you may just feel like digging around for interesting conversation material for lessons next week...


            Best,
            Karenne

            More blog posts

            Dogme Blog Challenge #2 It's Emergent?

            If learners are supplied with optimal conditions for language use

            and are motivated to take advantage of these opportunities, 

            their inherent learning capacities will be activated, 

            and language - rather than being acquired - will emerge.

            Luke Meddings & Scott Thornbury, Teaching Unplugged, Delta Teacher Development Series, 2009.

            A Spark of Bokeh

            What does this sentence mean to you?  Do you understand what it means for language to be emergent?   Can something come out of nothing?

            Answer in the comments below or if you happen to have a blog, do write your own post explaining how this affects you and your work as an English language teacher by answering any of the questions or something entirely of your own creation...

            • In your own experience, what are the optimal conditions for language use?   Does your classroom look like that?  Why/why not?
            • What are some of the psychological factors which tend to motivate the general population?   Do you ever apply these needs to your language teaching practice?  Which and how?
            • Critics of a dogme approach are quick to seize on its apparent lack of structure or methodological rigour.  In your own personal opinion, how can it qualify as sound practice if so much is left up to chance?
            • Do you believe that we humans have an inherent capacity to learn? And to learn languages? Can you give any examples of something you or your students learned by themselves - stuff which had nothing to do with the materials you were using, your classroom (or the teachers before you)?  Why did you/they learn?  Or conversely, can you show how the materials you've been using are directly key to the language ability they now have today?
            • Read these quotes:  Any attempt to control the selection and sequencing of syllabus items would be most likely to interfere with learning, since, given the state of our knowlede, it could only be appropriate by chance (Allwright, 1979).  Speech cannot be taught directly but "emerges" on its own as a result of building competence via comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985).  And, not finally,  Paulo Freire said: the class is not a class in the traditonal sense but a meeting-place where knowledge is sought and not where it is transmitted.   
            How do you teach at the moment?  Do you think that it is necessary to provide your learners with all the language they need to communicate in English or can you enable them to discover any/all the words they need themselves?   How?  If you disagree, why?  If you are using a course book at the moment do you think that there is a way to create "appropriate" opportunities for language use?  How?




            Looking forward to learning and sharing with you!

            Karenne


            The Blog Posts Challenge #2
            Read previous Challenge blog posts:
            Read Next in the Challenge series



              What is all this about? 
              The Dogme Blog Challenge + links to the blogs discussing Dogme
              The dogma of Dogme


              How to share on Twitter:  use the #dogmeme hashtag
              How to share your fellow teachers' blog posts with each other?  Add/link to the blog(s) written on the subject on your post so they form a ring and your readers can travel on from post to post!


              How to respond?

              Comment below with short thoughts
              Go to your nearest yahoo!group and share your opinions
              with like-minded teaching colleagues

              Blog it:
              Write a list or tell a story, 
              compare lessons: dogme and non-dogme, 
              relate an experience, a contrary opinion,
              quote research, your own theory,
              submit mere musings, rant...
              share an idea, a paragraph, a dictionary's definition
              come up with a clever sentence,
              a beautiful photograph,

              a video-log
              an article or draft the bones of an essay, 
              share examples from your own classroom experience...

              In short, be dogmeic: personalize  your response!)




              Important URLs to quote/link to in your post if necessary:
              • Teaching Unplugged: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/titles/methodology/teaching-unplugged
              • Scott Thornbury's website + articles: http://www.thornburyscott.com/
              • Scott Thornbury's blog: http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/
              • Luke Meddings' blog: http://lukemeddings.wordpress.com/
              • Luke Meddings' on the Delta blog: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/author/luke-meddings
              • Dogme ELT in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_language_teaching

              Running towards TEFL

              A long time ago I had a conversation with a 'normal' school teacher who said TEFL teachers are all weirdos, people who are running away from something...


              running with the seagulls


              It gave me pause.  When she said it like that, so bluntly, but then I forgot until it came up again last week.   The view being that if you chose to live an international life, something must have been wrong with the world you were from originally.

              Yes, for some of us, that's probably undoubtedly true.

              And yes, probably, some of us are freaks, criminals or people on the run.

              But 

              some of us simply ran from the drudgery of an office life.

              Some ran towards the drudgery of an office life.

              Some ran away from low-paying jobs.

              Some ran towards low-paying jobs.


              Some ran away from hard familiar circumstances.

              Some ran towards new lovers in new countries.

              Some ran towards the risk of the new.

              Away from safe nests and towards challenges and growth.

              Some stayed at home to live life through their students' lives.



              Some explored the world in order to attain a certain level of global understanding.

              Some felt guilty and wanted to give something back, to pay for the sins of their ancestors.

              Some felt disappointed and ran on home.

              Some hate our profession and want to run....




              And

              the rest

              of us?



              We just want a life whole-lived.



              Where do you fit in?  Walking, jogging or doing a marathon?

              Best,
              Karenne

              Schooling the world

              Sometimes I can't help but wonder if we know what we are doing...

              And whether or not, we care...

              If our 'way' has to be the only way.

              If what makes us happy has to be the thing which makes everyone else in the whole world happy.

              I wonder if we're happy.   

              Playing with our toys while wanting to have the toys of others...


              Schooling The World: The White Man's Last Burden trailer HD from lost people films on Vimeo.


              The world, the times they are -a-changing.

              But at whose cost?

              Thanks, Sir Ken Robinson
              Karenne

              Dogme Blog Challenge #1 Co-construction

              Materials-mediated teaching is the 'scenic' route to learning, 

              but the direct route 
              is located in the interactivity between teachers and learners, and between the learners themselves.

              Learning is a social and dialogic process, 
              where knowledge is co-constructed 
              rather than transmitted or imported 
              from teacher/coursebook to learner.

              Luke Meddings & Scott Thornbury, Teaching Unplugged, Delta Teacher Development Series, 2009.

              Plug and Play


              What does that mean to you?

              Answer in the comments below or if you happen to have a blog, do write your own post explaining how this affects you and your work as an English language teacher.

              • What is the 'scenic' route?  Why do Meddings and Thornbury suggest that materials-mediated teaching practice provides this?  Is there a subtext to what they're trying to communicate to us?
              • Why do Meddings and Thornbury suggest that the direct route to learning is, in fact, located in interactivity?
              • In your opinion, what do you think interactivity is - between teachers and learners?  And between learners themselves?  How do these differ?  Should they differ?
              • In your opinion is there any such thing as a direct route to language learning? Why, why not?
              • Do you think that learning is a social and dialogic process?  Justify your position or argue against.
              • Is knowledge co-constructed? What does it mean, exactly, to co-construct knowledge?


              How to respond?

              (Write a list or tell a story, 
              compare lessons: dogme and non-dogme, 
              relate an experience, a contrary opinion,
              quote research, your own theory,
              submit mere musings, rant...
              share an idea, a paragraph, a dictionary's definition
              come up with a clever sentence,
              a beautiful photograph,
              a video-log
              an article or draft the bones of an essay, 
              share examples from your own classroom experience...
              In short, be dogmeic: personalize  your response!)


              Can't wait to read your posts!
              Karenne


              What is this about?  Read here
              How to share your post on Twitter: Please add the hashtag #DBC_01  #dogmeme

              How to share your fellow teachers' blog posts with each other?  Add/link to the blog(s) written on the subject on your post so they form a ring and your readers can travel on from post to post!

              URLS which may be useful for your post
              • Teaching Unplugged: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/titles/methodology/teaching-unplugged
              • Scott Thornbury's website + articles: http://www.thornburyscott.com/
              • Scott Thornbury's blog: http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/
              • Luke Meddings' blog: http://lukemeddings.wordpress.com/
              • Luke Meddings' on the Delta blog: http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/author/luke-meddings
              • Dogme ELT in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_language_teaching
              You can travel through each blog post easily via Furly (see orange navigation bar at the top of page)

              Blog posts
              Is this dogme? by Candy Von Ost
              Interactivity and co-construction by Cecilia  Coehlo
              What really matters? Our students by Sabrina de Vita
              Interactivity and co-construction by Willy C. Cardosa
              Dogme days by Diarmuid Fogarty
              The importance of pair work by Nick Jaworski
              No dogma for EFL by Jeremy Harmer
              A response, by Andrew Pickles
              Dogme for all, by Richard Whiteside
              Where I stand on dogme by Natasa Grojic (also #4+#5)

              Other challenges
              Challenge #2 It's emergent?
              Challenge #3 The scaffolding 
              Challenge #4 Being Light 
              Challenge #5 The Learners Voice
              Challenge #6 NNEST vs NESTs

              The Dogme Challenge: Introduction

              The other day, Jeremy Harmer wrote the following on Andrew Pickle's blog post:



              Plug Face - Day 3/365
              Andrew,
              Nice lesson. Good use of vocabulary and students’ imagination.
              Course I don’t want to rile Luke and Scott (again!!) ,but is it Dogme, really? If people were doing this kind of thing before the Swedish film makers published their manifesto, can you still give it that name?
              But it does show what can be done successfully with very little.
              Jeremy



              I've seen this sort of comment before, a lot.  And it's not that Jeremy is wrong, that this sort of "lesson" even with the google-fight (post-manifesto) hasn't been done before, it's that who cares?   If you're teaching dogmeically then there will always be someone, somewhere out there who wants to sagely say, that dogme existed before dogme existed.

              Yup...

              it did.

              And before the i-phone, smartphones were a-plenty (as were tablets before the i-pad and portable mp3 music devices before the i-pod).  

              Before Crocs, garden shoes existed.  Everywhere, only they were green and there weren't a clog with holes nor made of foam and plastic. 

              The Kalinago populated and ruled the Caribbean before it was ever named the West of India.
              Sunglasses before Ray-bans.
              Vacumn cleaners before Hoover.
              Anti-Art before Dadaism.


              The BRAND name of a thing is not the thing.   Distracts but also adds.  I mean an i-phone is an i-phone after all.  

              But this is hardly the point, whether or not (sigh) Dogme is an approach or a methodology or a style or a fad or the fool's way out.... it actually doesn't matter what the thing is called, it was named so by Thornbury  in an apparently uncharacteristic rant against the world of ELT but like all things in life, once a thing has a name it has a life.

              Can you imagine students actually giving a crap about what you call the way you teach?   

              I think the main point for them is whether or not they walked out of their lessons with you with a higher level of English communicative skills than when they walked in.  And that is the singular goal of conversation-driven teaching.

              Andrew Pickles shared with us a great lesson plan for a lesson which no doubt didn't have a plan until he wrote it down and I understand this completely - I had the same problem, recently, when writing a case-study based on a 20 week course with five groups which I'd done in a mix of dogme and dogme 2.0 - the question of how on earth could I lesson-plan backwards in order to extract and tell what occured, what emerged in my classes..?   The mind boggles but I did do it (more on that later).

              The thing is that to share the "experience" of dogme sometimes you've got to share the experience.


              So, anyway, folks I have an idea...

              From tomorrow and every Thursday for the next 10 weeks, I am going to lay down a challenge where we will attempt together to take a deeper look into some of the specific points Meddings and Thornbury have been trying to teach us through their book Teaching Unplugged.  

              Perhaps it'll turn into yet another polemic discussion akin to why Acer is better than Apple (any day, hands down) or maybe this time instead we'll focus: unravel the knots, discover the gold, think about what separates a dogme class from a non dogme class, what really matters in the real classroom and teaching practice rather than mere theories of what it couldn't be before it had a brand and we'll attempt to challenge ourselves to teach in ways which are ever more student-centered, regardless of the name(s) we want to use.

              You are a blogger:
              After each challenge, write a blog post answering the question(s) I put forth.  Then you can  DM or email me (see the side bar) with the specific URL to your own blog post(s) or link back here (the trackback will show up at the bottom of the post) so that we can all travel on to your work in a so-called "dogme blog ring." 
              I'll try to provide you with instructions of who to link on to (who was before and after you) but you can also keep track of this through the 'sphere and 'verse.

              You are not a blogger but you are part of a forum/ ELT discussion group of any description:
              Take my question into your forum and ask your fellow members what they think about each question.   Email me a link to the forum or a summary of what's been said so that we can post responses anonymously (if you/they want to).



              You are not a blogger and you don't participate in groups:
              Answer the question posed in each post, either in the comments of each blog challenge (if you feel like it) and then visit the blog posts on this subject within the 'sphere and agree or disagree with what the bloggers have written!

              Sounds fun?

              Talk to you tomorrow,
              Karenne


              Blog posts on teaching Dogme
              The dogma of Dogme
              My own musings and guest-posts from other bloggers
              Dogme2.0-style teaching tips

               Other related
              Sue Lyon-Jones on Ken Wilson, on teaching the unteachable
              Emma Herrod, Failing to plan is planning to fail?
              Darren Elliot, an interview with Scott Thornbury

              and of course, D is for Dogme by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, Dogme and Identity

              Videos:
              Scott Thornbury on the Myths of Dogme

              Challenges:
              Co-construction? #1 
              It's emergent? #2
              The scaffolding #3
              Being Light #4 
              The Learners' Voice #5
              NNESTs vs NESTs #6

              Miscellaneous
              ELTchat 20 October 2010
              Merchandising gimmicks for dogme teachers by Lindsay Clandfield
              And...a little light relief or inspiration














              How's my job different from yours?

              Teeth brushing
              Sean Banville's excellent blog post questions the practice of teaching adverbs of frequency with things like how often do you brush your teeth or surf the 'net and for the most part I do agree with him that it's an oddity to combine this structure with questions of how often we do do our daily personal activities 
               
              (can you imagine chatting someone up at a bar 
              and asking him how often he combs his hair let
              alone in a business situation)... 





              And it is always presented this way in the coursebooks...
              (see the thing is, as I've moaned about elsewhere,
              lots of textbooks are just copycats of each other with 
              little critical thinking into the "why" of an activity: basically PennyUr 
              or Jill Hadfield suggested this way back when and voilá all textbooks now carry it

              profJohn combs his hair

              But rather than me just moaning on again, the problem, is strictly in the nature of using the question "How often:" it is unnatural and can feel like an invasion of privacy.   However our students still need to  learn how to use these accurately and naturally, so  it is a relevant and necessary lexis so I'll just tell you what I usually do with my adult learners to personalize this teaching practice.





              Step 1
              After reviewing the presentation in the book on adverbs of frequency (or letting it come up  in class) go through the phrases commonly used to express how often we do things and then go to the board with markers in hand (type into a wordle while online in the classroom/Powerpoint if offline) and elicit activities which most people do as part of their regular work responsibilities.

              Circa Levenger
              • What's the first thing you always do when you walk into your office?
              • What's the second thing?
              • After you've checked your emails, is there anything you usually do?
              • Do you do this all the time? 
              • What else do you normally do?
              • What's something you maybe do once a week or so?
              • What don't you do very often - let's say rarely - but it's scheduled in your calendar?



              Fill the board completely (e.g. check emails, answer the phone, make a cup of coffee, write reports, participate in department meetings, go out for drinks with colleagues.)



              Step 2
              Ask students individually, while you're still in front of the board/screen or circulating,  which ones they don't do regularly or not at all.

              Ask why not.


              Step 3
              Ask students to then jot down notes (bullet points) on things they do every day/ week/ month/ year, and in particular, activities which they do that they think are DIFFERENT from their colleagues/classmates.

              If they work for different companies, they can also prepare a list of things that their companies do to get new business/ promote their products - things which are probably different from what (they assume) other companies do.


              Step 4
              Put them in small groups and ask get them to share their work/company lives with each other (write blogs if you're working online) and explain that they should give each other reasons for what they do, how often  they do it and if relevant, how they feel about these activities.  

              Once they have shared their own stories they should then ask their partners if any of the things they listed are things which their colleagues do do too.

              The different adverbs will emerge naturally i.e. this model: 

              I usually talk to my boss on Friday mornings to plan activities for the following week but sometimes we're both too busy.   I often have to go out to meet clients in Stuttgart in the afternoons but sometimes I wish I didn't have to as it really interrupts my day. 
              I hardly ever go overseas to meet clients but last year I went to Africa and China.
              Do any of you ever have to meet with clients too?

              Encourage them to prompt each other for more details about what's said and ask one student in each group to act as a secretary.   Warn them ahead of time that one person will have to present what's been said by the rest of their group.



              Step 5
              Once they've all had a chance to tell each other about their days, bring them together as a class and elect a speaker from one of the groups to share the ways that his colleagues' work lives are the same and different from his own.


              e.g. Tom and Mary always get to work around 7.30 because they have children so they want to go home early but I usually get in around 9.30; Jane and Alice sometimes have meetings with their bosses on Fridays and I normally have my meeting every Monday.   Tom and Mary never meet their boss and they feel angry about this as he hardly ever listens to them.   I have to write a report at the end of every month but no one else has to.  Jane usually goes to Switzerland and Austria three times a year.

              Step 6
              Ask the key speakers of each group to now compare what was been said against that group's report - basically responding on his own group's findings and adding (group members can help).

              i.e.  No one in our group works at 7.30.   All of us, except for Bill, always arrive at work around 8am.   Rosie has to write reports every quarter but I prepare mine twice a year.  Michael always submits his yearly budget report in December.
              No one ever goes overseas to meet with clients.


              Step 7
              Provide feedback on the structure, accurate use of the lexis, word order issues and alternative versions of what could have been communicated.




              Notes

              Why is this is a good activity?  It mirrors the sort of small-talk which ocurs when international members of the same company get together and have little in common to talk about except their company.

              • What to do if you're working with teenagers?  Brainstorm out-of-school social activities, weekends and home responsibilities.   
              • What to do if you're working with unemployed adults?  Brainstorm housecleaning tasks, child care responsibilities and social activities that have regular and irregular scheduling.   
              • What to do if you're working with refugees/people integrating into a new society?  Brainstorm their problems, current life situations vs their life as it used to be: ask them to compare each others' then and now.

              If you're working online, you can do step 4  in the chat function as a whole class and then ask them to blog about what they noticed regarding other people's daily responsibilities and activities.

              Caution: go through each step clearly and patiently and provide good models of what you want to hear being spoken by them  - don't stress about how often you hear the "adverbs of frequency," stress about how natural the sentences sound.

              To print this activity out, hover over the box which reads bookmark below (above the retweet button), one of the options on the right is a little icon that looks like a printer, click on that.

              Best,
              Karenne


              I love hearing from you! Please add your thoughts if you enjoyed this piece and you feel like there's something you would like to question, add or say about it - don't worry about perfection or agreeing with me: it's always a pleasure to hear from you and getting to know your opinions.

              Do you have another fun, conversational dogmeic approach lesson tip when teaching people how to talk about the real things they do regularly but don't feel silly talking about (repetition being the key to vocabulary acquisition and all, I'd love to add more feathers to my bow)...and feel free to drop a link if you've already blogged it.
               

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