Melanie Butler on Glass Ceilings in ELT

Is there a glass ceiling for women in ELT? 

Let’s conduct a thought experiment.

Shut you eyes and walk into a staffroom, any staffroom you know well. Count the number of women’s faces.

Now do the thought experiment again. Go back into the staffroom and count the black faces.  If you are working anywhere in the private sector in Europe the answer to the second experiment is probably “none”.  If you are working in British ESOL, as migrant teaching is called  the answer is probably along the lines of, “one black and a couple of Asians.”  

If you are working in a US  language school you can probably count two or three black Americans and a sprinkling of teachers from other ethnic groups. And what if you are working in Kenya?

EFL is a global market and the situation for black teachers, (or women, or homosexuals) will vary depending on the country and the sector you are working in. Because it is a global market ,building a career generally means being globally mobile and that in itself can be a glass ceiling for working mothers  - or indeed anyone with kids. In most of the world, though, the highest level of discrimination is not against women teachers but against non-whites, irregardless of nationality or first language. 

A glass ceiling for white women there may be, but if you are black and you are British there is a solid steel front door.

Now that we are, I hope, all feeling a little less sorry for ourselves, let’s go back to the original questions: is there a class ceiling for women in EFL? 

The answer is: that depends on what country and in what sector you are working. And it always has done.
In the mid 1980s I gave a lecture in Barcelona on the role of women in ELT to a roomful of Masters students from both sides of the Atlantic. Women who wanted to get on, I argued, should go into publishing where there were plenty of high achieving women, and avoid academia. At the time there was not one female professor of any ELT related subject in the whole of the UK. At the end of the lecture the Europeans all clapped and the Americans all protested. In the US, twenty years ago, publishing was dominated by men but there were plenty of female professors, including the Emeritus professor at Harvard, the redoubtable, Australian-born, Wilga Rivers.

There are other examples of country to country variation in other sectors. In the UK the original language schools and language school chains were largely founded by men: John Haycraft of IH, Peter Fabian, of the London School of English, Paul Lindsay of St Giles and Frank Bell of, well, Bell. Pop across the Irish channel, however, and you find that many of the most famous schools were founded by women: Mary Towers of the Language Centre of Ireland, Hilary McIlwain of Keltic, Rosemary Quinn of CES, Celestine Rowlands, of Galway Cultural Institute.

So here we are in 2009, a quarter of a century after I gave that lecture in Barcelona, and what sectors, and what countries, offer the best opportunities for women now?

Let’s look at them one by one.

The situation in British Universities is much improved. The first women Professor, Gillian Brown, was awarded a chair at Cambridge and 1988 and the number of female professors has grown apace, not just in the UK but almost everywhere. We are not at parity in the ivory towers, but the difference between the sexes is no longer as ridiculous as twenty five years ago. In one Gazette piece I wrote on the subject at the time one famous (male) Professor of Applied Linguistics defended the fact that none of his peers were female: by pointing out that “women generally perform less well on video spatial awareness tasks.”

To which the Gazette responded:  “But women score better on verbal reasoning. What are they teaching in Applied Linguistics? Video Games?

Right now the university sector is a good place for women to be almost anywhere in the world. And not just for those with a PhD. The growing number of university department offering  Academic English courses for students,  seem women-friendly too not just in the UK but in Ireland, Australia and the States. Take just one New Zealander working in the UK right now : Olwyn Alexander, author of EAP Essentials, pioneer of EAP training and chair elect of British Association of Lecturer In English for Academic Purposes.

Migrant English courses, or ESOL if you’re British, are also doing better when it comes to women than was the case a quarter of a century ago. It’s not all good news in the UK, though. There may be more women in senior positions than there used to be but there are fewer Asians. One ESOL trainer told me the current profile of an up and coming Esol women is “ upper Middle class, privately educated and white.”

Almost everywhere in the English speaking world  the State Sector is good for women, especially working mothers. The teaching hours are shorter, the holidays longer and there is usually good child care provision. There is less need to be globally mobile – though you may need to move institutions in the same country if you want to get to the top. The pay is much better too, up to 200% better in the case of hourly paid teachers in London.

Except, of course, for those at the very top.The starting pay in the state sector is generally better, but you are much more likely to be earning six figures a year running a publishing house, a chain of language schools or an exam board.

So who runs those?

Well things have changed a little in publishing: there are more senior women than there used to be in the US houses, and slightly fewer in the UK ones. There is no figure anywhere that I can see as powerful as Paula Kahn, who fought her way up from ELT editor to head the whole of Longman publishing in the 1980s. Not only was she the most senior woman in the whole of British publishing, she was the only open Lesbian ( ELT may be racist, it may not be as women friendly as it could be but nobody could accuse this industry of homophobia).

There is a catch, though. Most of the women who dominated UK ELT publishing in the 80s, from Susan Holden at Macmillan to Yvonne de Henseler at OUP, had no children. Publishing is a long hours, long-haul travelling corporate game and, as my publishing director told me firmly when I worked at Longman in the early 90’s “children are a career decision”. And not, she implied, a very good one. Publishing is woman friendly but, like most big corporate businesses, child-friendly it is not.

Exam boards do better Liz Bang Jones at Anglia has two children, Monica Poultner, the head of teacher training qualifications at Cambridge Esol, has a tribe of boys, and  the extraordinarily entrepreneurial Caroline Browne who recently launched English Language Testing has a daughter..

There has long been a phalanx of formidable women at all the exam boards, especially at ETS in the US the home of Toefl from Marilyn Rymniak, who was formerly head of TOEFL to Gena Netten, who heads up the marketing.

The exam pendulum, though, may be swinging in favour of the men. Testing is booming but you increasingly need a specialist Masters to get into it and more and more men are taking that option but rather fewer women. Maybe men are more attracted to researching face validity in criterion-based reading tests. Or maybe they are just better at smelling out where the money is: the starting rate for a Masters qualified tester worldwide is about £40,000 (us$60,000) per year. 

I am reliably informed by  my friendly neghbourhood  (male) professor of testing, that there is currently only one such recent (male) graduate in Britain who hasn’t got a job.

The same is true of IT. Some of the leading pioneers in ELT distance learning were women: Nicky Hockley, Ruth Gates, the British Council’s Caroline Moore, and the redoubtable Flo-Jo.  Now  the field is increasingly filled with young nerdy men clutching Masters. Ah well, I hear you sigh, it is IT.   To which I can only reply with a questions ” What do you call a geek when he grows up?”


This leaves us with the language school chains. Obviously it is easier to build a career in a chain than it is in a stand alone school where you have to sit and wait for the DOS to die before you can get promotion. But are the chains women-friendly?

My completely subjective impression of this is that the situation for women is getting worse. In the private sector corridors of academic management women are on equal footing (count the Dosses) but in the corridor of power it’s the young men in grey suits who seem to predominate. 


Men do Sales. In many commercial chains the route to success increasingly comes through sales rather than teaching. And men get all the sales jobs. I asked a language school chain owner why in his business, most of the academic managers are women and the sales force is predominantly male. Yes” he said “the women run everything and the men sell everything. But that’s only because women don’t apply for the sales jobs..”

Women can do sales  - they do so very successfully in publishing, in language travel agencies and for examination boards. When it comes to global language school chains though, men take the all the sales jobs. 


The clue may lie in the word global. Global sales means global travelling. Again, this probably has a lot to do with children. In most societies women still take most of the responsibility for childcare, and it pretty hard to take care of the children when you are spending half your life on a plane.  Not all chains have this men at the top profile. 

At the Bell group, for example, the sales manager is male but the rest of the team are female. One of the three directors at Bell is a woman and two of the three UK school principals as is half the borad of Trustees. Ironic when you think that Bell was historically famous for having a management team almost entirely consisting of men: the famous “ Bell Boys”.

Bell do try very hard on the equal opportunities front and are  leading from the front when it comes to taking on prejudice against non-natives. But they are not paragons of virtue. When the Gazette wrote a piece saying Bell women teachers were living off compound in Saudi Arabia – insane in my opinion in a country where women cannot even drive cars or leave their house unaccompanied - Bell told us that the women were on exactly the same terms and conditions as the men. In a country that’s not equal opportunity, that’s house arrest.

Compare that to the British Council approach when they needed to recruit a senior woman for Saudi. According to Fiona Bartels-Ellis, the dynamic, black head of the Equal Opportunities and diversity unit, they spent hours agonising what to do. Then they advertised for a woman who was either married or would be prepared to get married before taking up the post!

A compromise, of course. But a compromise based on a real understanding of the problems of working as a woman in Saudi Arabia.

Again the Council are not perfect. But they have come along way from the days, 20 years ago, where a Council officer was suspended without pay when she got pregnant and another, senior, officer took them to court. Men are still slightly ahead at the London HQ   but overseas we are on the inside track: the two biggest markets are now headed by women: Ruth Gee in India and Joanna Burke in China.

The Council has long been aware of the need for global mobility.  To build up a career in the British Council teaching centres network, the teacher has to be prepared to move every two to four years. This is pretty difficult to do if you have children – and that is the case whether you are the mother or the father.
Almost uniquely the Council have done something about it. 

They have recently agreed that teachers with middle-management positions and above working outside Europe should be entitled to have schools fees paid for the local international schools.- an absolute necessity if you want to attract working mothers or even working fathers.  ( No, before you ask, I’m not sure why Europe is excluded either. If you move from Spain to Greece and then Greece to Poland, you’re going to end up with some linguistically confused kids). I don’t want to hold the Council up as saints: after all these are the kinds of terms and conditions normal in most other expatriate jobs. But it’s a start.

As far as I can see, kids (or working partners unable to move with your career) present the real glass ceiling in EFL. This is a global business and like any global business from oil company exectuives to aid workers, if you want to build a career, you are probably going to have to move. If you are tied to staying in Bournemouth or Barcelona, Brisbane or Boston you are simply going to limit your scope.

I’m not sure anymore that the problem is direct discrimination against women. It is discrimination against families that is the problem. In fact, increasingly it is not only women who find their careers are slowed by family ties. Very recently I was asked to headhunt a very senior (and very well paid) job at a British-based chain. One man I tracked down replied: “ This is a great job, a really great job and I’d love to do it. But my kids are teenagers, and my wife commutes to work full-time. Right at this point in my career I just couldn’t take on something like this.”

Sound familiar? 

Useful links related to this posting:
The She-in-ELT series
Sandy McManus on Melanie Butler
"I don't want to say it, Sir" by Vicky Loras

As editor and owner of the EL Gazette, Melanie Butler is a well-known She-in-ELT and I am honored to feature a piece written by her.  Melanie and her team of intrepid journalists carry out a good number of major investigative pieces and deal admirably with the usual libel threats which accompany perceptive and accurate stories of this type.

Powerpointing Grammar - EFL Tech Tip #13b

One of my favourite quotes is :

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.
Mark Van Doren

PowerPoint is one of those tools - really not quite as fancy as the vast majority of web2.0 tools out there at the moment but, nonetheless, still a favorite for achieving the above effectively.

I'm sure you've already done this sort of exercise with your own students - handing over content control - probably using great big A3 sheets of paper and giant markers all throughout your career ;-) so I won't belabor the point but simply head straight on to an example of student work:

The Dark Past


  • Group a few students together and encourage each group to decide on one particular grammar point or series of points they would like to be in charge of.  This is especially useful close to an exam when they need a review or at the end of a course.  
  • Using books or the internet, they should check on their understanding of the explanations and, most importantly, must decide collaboratively how to explain this information in the simplest way within their own presentations.  
  • Using Powerpoint (or any similar software) they then create the slides, adding pictures, graphics, sound or videos (or whatever else).
  • Let them choose who will be the teacher for each group and if you have a beamer (data projector) beam their presentation on the wall, if not, print out.


If you're using a Ning or other community based platform either upload the presentation directly into it or upload them into a file-sharing website like or

Alternatively, distribute copies via email so that all copies can be revised at home - encourage questions and examples a few days later, after the presentation has finished.

Update June 2010, a simpler student example:

Prepositions of Place 1


Useful links related to this posting:
Powerpointing me, tech tip 13a
Seth Dickens version of Powerpointing me
Using Powerpoint when teaching metaphors in Financial English

Coming soon: 
Powerpointing Lexical Sets 13c
Powerpointing Country Guides 13d

Have you tried this sort of activity with students?  How much error-correction  or other meddling do you do  - what about if you see a strange choice of images or an incorrect explanation?

And, by the way, if you've got another great Powerpoint activity suggestion don't hesitate to share your tricks and tips with us by explaining in the comments or if you've blogged it, do add your url.   (Or consider writing a guest piece for this blog on the subject! :-))

New Year, New Look

aaaaagh, 39 hours of programming later, I've finally finished my attempt at making my blog resemble an online magazine!

Lost some bits and pieces of code along the way... the pictures stretch when viewed in IE... had to redo a number of widgets which broke during the transfer and LinkWithin disappeared :-(...

Added a few extra features like the BELTfree Master Feed to the bottom and totally revised my blog roll to help you find other great ELT bloggers. 

Lemme see, what else - hopefully, I have made it easier for you to navigate your way around the blog through the new menu bars. 

If you, by any chance, find any typos, silly mistakes or there's any other issue that's confusing - please, please do let me know as I completely depend on your eyes and fingers for feedback!

Click on HOME to see the full effect :-)


Monkey See = Monkey Do 2

I wonder who first coined the phrase Monkey See Monkey Do after noticing primates copy each other - probably it was someone in a village somewhere who was keeping one as a pet or it might well have been a circus entertainer - - hmm, whoever it was, it was definitely way back before a bunch of men in white coats studying macaque monkeys yelled Eureka.

The Italian scientists were yelling because the monkeys not only copied their actions but apparently also seemed to experience pleasure even though they themselves didn't have any "reason" to.

As the story goes, a monkey's brain had been wired up to detect the firing of his neurons when planning and carrying out a movement such as grasping a peanut. One researcher returned from lunch licking an ice cream cone. As the monkey watched the researcher, some of his neurons fired as though he were eating the ice cream, even though he was not moving. The monkey's neurons were "mirroring" the activity that the monkey was observing.
Neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues at the University of Parma reported their discovery of monkey mirror neurons in 1996. Researchers soon found evidence for mirror neurons in human beings. Just like monkeys, it turns out that when we see someone perform an action—picking up a glass of water or kicking a ball—our mirror neurons simulate that action in our brains. Researchers have suggested that mirror neurons are crucially involved in the distinctive human development of language, morality, and culture.

Ronald Bailey, The Theory of Moral Neuroscience

I first came across this concept while reading Buy.ology by Martin Lindstrom because I am a nerd and I take business books on holiday with me. In one of the early chapters of this book which explores the reasons we buy the things we do, he mentions our purchasing decisions are often mirrors of what the people around us are buying.
e.g. I-phone, U-phone, we all I-phone

The book is brilliant: he unravels the psychology of our daily purchasing decisions, revealing influences like tradition, security, religion, superstition and sex, sensory input such as smell; somatic markers and subliminal messages - and if you're a Business English teacher of adult learners like I am then you'll no doubt find it an invaluable materials resource for authentic, stimulating conversations on topical themes.

Anyway, enough on that...

because actually,

actually it hit me like a brick,

falling out of the sky and

landing smack dab

upon my dreaming brain

while I lay lying there,

peacefully on the beach.

If most of us do things that other people do....

do we learn new words and grammar and language because other people are communicating in a certain way and we copy them? Is that how language evolved?

Oh right, yup, the men in white coats have theorized on that one already.

Not an epiphany after all.

Hmm... how does it apply to the L2 though? Maybe that's why so many expats learn second and third languages using television soap operas or why full-immersion programs are better than years of classes in a non-native speaking country. Hmm... but what about all the learners who do achieve fluency despite never having stepped outside their own countries?

My mind kept spinning as my toes wriggled in the sand...

Jeremy Harmer's fluency dilemma drifting in and out of consciousness, my feeble attempts at trying to label the rush for him - the thing I see in students' eyes when they "get it" - when they cross an L2 language threshold...

In and out... round and round in my brain.

Cloudy skies drifting past lazily and waves crashing against the shore.

I decided to push the mirror-neurons theory towards the basic processes of education:

1. We observe the world around us.

2. We notice that which causes pleasure or pain in others.

3. When we notice other people's experiences we simulate identical feelings in our own brains: pleasure inspires desire to go through the same; boredom may generate the same unless we repel or avoid the experience.

4. We remember most the things that give us pleasure.

So what I'm actually saying is this, if it is that the teacher is the most important factor in deciding whether or not students learn, as Bill Gates seems to think, is it enough to say the teacher is Factor it?

Shouldn't we be delving deeper into the why?

Shouldn't we look for what the unifying similarities are amongst different yet equally amazing teachers?

Briefly, my 4:

Mrs Lewis in grade 3: warm, helpful, supportive - she was the first person to believe in me, she told me that I would be a writer and I have spent my whole life attempting to prove her right.

Professor Hein who stood on tables and rode into class on a unicycle, passed on the gift of teaching through humour, inquiry and outrageousness! He gave me a deep appreciation for history that I've never lost.

David Langsam how many of us left his journalism course, I wonder, with not just the love of a well-written piece but the desire to become him: to have all those adventures, the prizes on the walls and the grainy photos in dark, foreign places.

Scott Thornbury, though not directly my teacher is my guru nonetheless: his cocky arrogance and abyss-like intelligence stretch my mind as he persuades those around him to dig deeper into language and communication.

What did/do these teachers all have in common?

They inspire.

Is it possible that whenever we notice our teacher's pleasure of being in the classroom, whiles she's sharing her knowledge, that we want to copy her in order to taste the joy, the secret to her happiness?

Could it be that the maximum potential for learning is when others around us are actively engaged - that we are not only enjoying the content of what we're learning but that motivation is, in itself, contagious (as is boredom) and the teacher is the virus carrier of knowledge?

Does L2 acquisition simply boil down to enthusiastic, engaged, motivated copying?

What are your thoughts? Am I on to something here or should I just go back in the ocean for a nice long swim instead?

Coming with me?

Useful links related to this posting:

draft version written overX-mas/NewYear09

Face On or Face Off

Facebook =

a) close friends
b) family and family of family
c) teachers I know
d) teachers I don't know
e) people I went to school with
f) people I've met along my travels
g) students
h) people who began as tweeters but are now my friends

See a pattern?

My inner circle.

People I respect.

Seriously, so here it is. My Saturday Rant.

"Bob," "Angie" and "John" want to connect with me on Facebook using images they downloaded from Microsoft ClipArt. They look like:
  • jungle animals
  • inanimate objects
  • sunset landscapes
Or, scandal of scandal, they came online as their

(don't gasp out loud if you're in a public place):
  • their company logo

LinkedIn is like a CV on the internet, it contains the details of one's professional life.

Twitter is where one's PPLN resides: the personal and professional converge creating an awesome learning network.

Ning is the deepener of all those experiences.

But Facebook?

Facebook is where you are you.

And, for the most part, everyone in this new country understands this... the people I'm connected with there, are themselves. Their picture is of them, circa today, smiling or frowning or laughing.

Yes... there are a few exceptions: one of the teachers who used to work for me has a picture of her toes. One friend is currently sporting her newly born child (why do mothers do this?), another has up her wedding picture and she does look awfully pretty in it.

The ex-husband? He is dark-shaded, looking like he's Ecuador's answer to Al Pacino.

Recently an older family member got cold feet and took down all of her pictures returning to the Facebook silhouette. My sister's the surf she was riding last summer and a favorite professional colleague is a tea pot...

Yes, a tea pot.

My inner circle can wear and do whatever they like.

In the teaching field, one of my 'connections' is a logo on Twitter, however, knowing how I feel about logos in general decided to reach out and invite me into her life on FB.

When I got the invite, I didn't jet off to go check out all her photos (I tend not to when you're not someone I "know") however novelty did make me go take a look at her main wall. There I found the pic of her and her husband: you know what, they look like really "good folk" - it was nice to have the connect so now I have warm and fuzzy feelings about her, whether or not her bosses want her to be on Twitter in drag.

In fact, I have really warm feelings about her company simply because she's employed there.

A handful of lovely teachers and other edu-bloggers have also chosen to let me in and I've let them into mine.

It's nice knowing there are others just like me out there, interested in the same stuff, challenged by the same stuff... so if opening my world means they see my "private" sphere I don't mind: we come together as equals, from around the globe, are subject to the same revelations, frustrations, thoughts and status updates - our private and public lives meshed.

  • How do you feel about the anonymous in web 2.0?
  • Do you worry about your privacy?
  • What sort of preventive measures do you use?
  • Do you keep certain sites/profiles just for certain people?

But back to Bob, Angie, John and random Joe who all think it's cool to click on that "add as a friend" button while sporting some miscellaneous avatar (so they can keep, well, er, like you know their life private while they troll around)...

I've got just one thing to say:

Face on


Face off.


Getting Your Students Reading Blogs, H2LE (1)

This is part of a new series (H2LE) with information you'll be able to share with your adult English language students.

Have you had a chat with your students about learning English by reading blogs?

While they're aren't that many blogs specifically aimed at English language learners here are a few of the one's we really like:

I also feed in Sean Banville's Breaking News

And sometime next quarter I will restart my own How to Learn English (more on that soon).

What I do

I feed these blogs into my students' Ning using a Google Reader widget.

To view current entries in my widget, see here - to grab the same one for your students, click here - to create one of your own, simply join Google Reader (free) and add the blogs you and your students like, then go to
  • Settings
  • Folder and Tags
  • Add clip to your website

What they do

As I mentioned above, these blog urls feed into our site so whenever my students have completed a task and are awaiting for the others to, or they've participated in a forum discussion and are awaiting answers on that or they've just completed a blog post... but their neighbour is still adding photos to hers, then I encourage a hit the blogs while you wait approach...

The interesting thing is, without me ever telling them to, some continue to visit the links outside of class-time :-) and have commented!

(sighs, proud teachermommy)

What do you do?

  • Do you know of any more blogs specifically aimed at English language learners? What are your general thoughts about these? My links are aimed at adult learners (because that's what I teach) however feel free to mention ones aimed at younger students for my other readers ;-).
  • Do you find it difficult getting students to comment on public blogs?
  • Do you have other tips for helping promote learner autonomy?

Google Doc for your Students
in Word so you can download, add or change before sending on


Online ESL teaching - how to get started?

I received this email this morning:

Hey Karenne!

Do you have any advice on how one gets started offering virtual ESL lessons?


Before answering, I thought I'd turn it over to you as I can think of several ongoing training sessions she could participate in to get her skills up to speed and will be sending this link (courses at the bottom) - however I reckon she's also asking about finding students and keeping them actively learning, motivated and.... (me putting words into her email of course) probably how to do this in a way that also brings in a reasonable income.

So if you're a successful online English trainer (or even a company that deals with this sort of thing), whether it's via Skype, 2nd Life or any other platform - would you like to share with us your best tips, helpful links, book suggestions, good/bad experience and things to watch out for - so that we can become better informed?

Thanks muchly in advance!


Blogged (Jan 01 - Jan 10, 2010)

Lesson Plans / Tips


ELT issues


Read & Recommend Reading

Teacher Training

Read & Recommend Reading

Language & Linguistics

Read & Recommend Reading

Technology in Teaching


Read & Recommend Reading

Social Media


Read & Recommend Reading

For Our Learners

Read & Recommend Reading


Weighin' in

For those of you who aren't on Twitter (yet), regularly visiting and reading blogs or who've been on vacation recently and missed the rumble in the blogosphere...

Two TEFL heavyweights recently joined us!!

Adding their voices, sharing wisdom and experiences with all of us and I highly recommend a visit on over.

Jeremy Harmer is one of the most recognizable names in the field of ELT: a teacher-trainer, conference presenter and seminar leader, faculty member of the New School's MATESOL and a trustee of International House.

Leading author of The Practice of English Language Teaching and How to teach English, he is also general editor of the How to series for Longman Pearson. He's also an active musician and novelist. His twitter id is @harmerj

Scott Thornbury

Scott Thornbury is an Associate Professor at the New School in New York where he teaches online as part of the MATESOL program. His vast writing credits include several award-winning books for teachers on language and methodology and he is also the series editor of the Cambridge Handbooks for Teachers.

He is also widely known for his articles and instigating the practice of Dogme in the classroom. His most recent book, co-authored with Luke Meddings, is Teaching Unplugged. He tweets as @thornburyscott.

Other leading ELT authors who actively participate in the Blogosphere include:

Lindsay Clandfield
Lindsay Clandfield is an English teacher, teacher trainer and writer. His first book, Dealing with Difficulties (DELTA, co-written with Luke Prodromou) won the Ben Warren International House prize and the Duke of Edinburgh Highly Commended award for books for teachers. He is also the author of The Language Teacher's Survival Handbook (iTs magazines, with Duncan Foord) and material for students including two coursebooks in the Straightforward series from Macmillan. His latest work is as main author for the new adult course Global, also published by Macmillan.

Lindsay is the blogger behind the site Six Things, a miscellany of ELT for teachers and enjoys making funny videos about the other VIPs on Twitter. You can follow his tweets at @lclandfield.

David Crystal
David Crystal's authored works are mainly in the field of language, including several Penguin books, but he is perhaps best known for his two encyclopedias for Cambridge University Press, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language and The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Recent books include By Hook or By Crook: a Journey in Search of English (2007) and Txtng: the Gr8 Db8 (2008).

Gavin Dudeney
Gavin Dudeney's blend of pedagogical and technical skills take him all over the world, primarily on behalf of International House and the British Council, helping teachers and schools bridge the gap between their training, teaching portfolio and technical needs. In 2003, he set up The Consultants-E with Nicky Hockly.

Publications include The Internet and the Language Classroom, CUP 2000 & 2007, the Ben Warren award winning book How to teach with technology (Pearson Longman 2007) with Nicky Hockly. Catch him on twitter at @dudeneyge

Vicki Hollett
Vicky Hollett is an English teacher, trainer, conference presenter and course book writer for Oxford University Press and Pearson Longman. She has also lived in Japan and Algeria, delivered workshops for teachers in Europe, the Far East and South America. She currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and is particularly interested in pragmatics and socio-linguistics.

Popular publications include the best-selling In at the Deep End, Business Objectives and Business Opportunities, Tech Talk and the video & activity book, Meeting Objectives. She tweets at @vickihollett.


2 more IATEFL scholarships!

Dear Latin American Readers,

You might be in luck... IATEFL have one more scholarship available, check the link(s) below and apply ASAP!

The award consists of:

  • conference registration
  • £1800 towards accommodation, expenses and travel costs
  • a year's IATEFL membership if applicable

To qualify you must:

  • be a native of and resident in a Latin American country
  • be a practising teacher or teacher trainer in primary, secondary or tertiary education
  • agree to write a 500 word report of your conference experiences by June 2010
  • not have attended an IATEFL annual conference before
Deadline: 1st March 2010


The Consultants-E have another scholarship for teachers (anywhere in the world*) unable to attend the annual conference in person but who participate actively in the online conference Moodle by making relevant and thoughtful postings.

You do not have to be a member of IATEFL for this scholarship.

The award consists of:

To qualify you must:

  • live and work in a developing country
  • have 5-6 hours per week available to study for the duration of the course
  • have a reliable Internet connection for the duration of the course
  • be able to undertake the course within one year of winning the award

Deadline: 25th April 2010.


Ask for Help - EdTech Tip #14

"sMarty..." I whined to my baby brother busy sitting in the corner checking on his FB friends via his i-touch.

"Wa' you want?" He didn't bother to look up.

I handed him my LG Prada.

"Can you check this out for me and tell me how it works?"

I've had the phone for about 4 months now and apart from the obvious features: the ones that my HTC had or the ones I've needed for classes, I really haven't had the time or inclination to explore. Besides, so much easier when someone tells you where everything is, reading instructions is for chumps :-).

As expected, 15 minutes later Martin found out how to use the radio and take panoramic pictures.


Don't need either feature for classes but then my whole life isn't actually in the classroom.

Do you have someone in your life (your son, niece or nephew, spouse) who is a digital native or a fully integrated immigrant?

Don't sit there, ignoring the changes in our world today... drumming up cliches & excuses and missing out on all the things which can make your teaching work easier, fun, more effective...

Ask for help.

Your Options

Teach yourself:
  • type "how to xyz" in Google
  • type "how to xyz" in Youtube

Join a Ning:

Join Twitter & follow the #edtech hashtag

Read more in this series of tech-tips or TEFL lessons with a techie edge:

to these ELT-EdTech bloggers/posts:
& General Education EdTech Bloggers
Do a 6 week course for free with EVO online

Go to national & international conferences and attend tech-based workshops.

Do a course through the Consultants-e: (I took their wiki training with Ana d'Almeida, an excellent trainer based in Brazil.)


L1 in the classroom?

I generally tend to read ELT blogs rather than ELT magazines: I like the authenticity on the page, the immediacy of opinions, the lack of pretension and love all the dialogues which naturally emerge from readers - however sometimes someone writes something that gives me pause and makes me do a rethink.

This month's Voices, the IATEFL magazine, contains an article written by Ali Bastanfar, a Ph.d student and lecturer of the Islaamic Azad University of Iran, and in it he presents a case for L1 in the language learning classroom.

For 14-15 years now, this is me:

"No Chinese, please."

"Talk around the word if you don't know it, but don't use Spanlish."

"Using German translations is like using a crutch to walk, try to create images - make bridges in your mind instead."

But as a language learner, what did I do?

Except for French, (full immersion in Belgium, as a child), every language I've learned, even if it was just survival level (Malay), I used my native English to understand the new one.

Is this a case of do as I say not as I do?

Is this a case of following what the those-in-the-know decreed as the way languages are learned, training us in teaching certificates, workshops, through methodology books and articles rather than the way we actually learn languages once we've reached adulthood?

I'm not sure but I think Ali makes a highly important point that we teachers are not dealing with robots but intelligent human beings and we should be finding new ways of exploiting the benefits of comparison between the L1 (a learners first language) and L2 - it's something I want to explore more deeply in practice.

What do you think?

Useful links related to this posting:
Alex Case on L1 in the classroom


Predictions 2010 - 2019 (Lesson Plan)

Probably one of the easiest, getting-back-in-the-groove, sans materials, dogmesque lesson I can think of:

Step 1

Write 2009 on the board
  • Ask students to quickly jot down a list of the 5 most important things that happened to them (and/or their companies or families) over the course of the year.
  • Put them in pairs and ask them compare and share.

Add 2000 - 2009
  • Join some of the pairs of students to create mini-groups of 3 - 5 students. Without asking them to create lists, encourage them to share the significant events in their own lives and the world around us in the previous decade.

Step 2

Draw a table on the board and fill it in with some of the key words below - areas where one might expect to see change within the next decade - and elicit others from your learners:

- politics
- economy
- war
- sports
- weather-environment
- technology
- social media
- entertainment
- education
- can you suggest any other areas of change for your own specific students' interests?

Hand students large sheets of paper and in micro groups ask them to brainstorm, collaborate and make predictions. (Adding dates of when they expect these changes to occur).

Encourage them to agree and disagree, discussing fears and solutions, feelings and hypothesis. You can choose on whether or not to focus in on the use of the various futures which will naturally emerge as you circulate.

Change the members of groups after every 15 minutes or so in order to keep content, ideas and conversations dynamic. Their sheets should be completely filled.

Step 3

Post-task: get your students to take specific areas of responsibility and write these up in notebooks or blogs - they can also create posters, glogsters or simply powerpoint them.


p.s. if you've got a "don't like to talk to each other group" - help kick off these conversations using a prediction based news article, Abba song, slideshare, video or last years' conversation prompts / change lesson from Eric Roth's Compelling Conversations.

Or tell them your own.

What is one thing you predict happening 2010-2019?

(I reckon they'll be a lot more edu- blogs and many more university lecturers online - but you'll have to pay for monthly access (some sort of i-tunes-like platform) and... I think there will be a whole lot less printed textbooks: 2016 on and hmmm... learning a 3rd language will suddenly become a fashionable trend - it somehow gets easier: brain implants probably :-).

8 radical technological changes which (shock!) rocked education

and caused us to deeply question our pedagogical practices and principles:

1. The candle

Reading was suddenly possible all the way through the night.

This was followed by the light bulb and the florescent tube.

Eyestrain created eyeglasses.

2. The scroll

These aren't in historical time reference order, by the way.

Recording text which could be stored and shared.

This was followed by the mind-blowing concept of paper.

3. The fountain pen

Preceded by the quill, followed by the biro.

Not dirtying our fingers every time we wrote a sentence was a breakthrough, indeed, shame about their environmental impact.

Actually shame about the environmental impact of all these technologies.

4. The blackboard and chalk

Granting our teacher vanities with the power of erase.

Followed by, more recently, the whiteboard and markers... bringing colour to education (and therefore losing quality because learning is a serious business).

5. The typewriter

Uniformity! Clarity!

Carbon copies!

Followed by computers and photocopiers.

6. Scissors. And not pictured: Glue

Like I said, not in historical order.



The things we could make to teach!

7. Calculators.

Now these really did cause a furor.

An uproar.

Completely responsible for the atrophied working brain, the demise of intelligence and the loss of math forever as times-tables disappeared.

8. Tape recorders.

Fast forward and going backwards.

Record and play back.

Playing texts again and again and again meant our learners no longer had any need to pay attention.

By the time these were followed by the Walkman and CD player, all was lost.

What else changed teaching?

'cause you know, like, obviously, the list above isn't comprehensive...

Do you know the pedagogical principles behind the use of each item as applied to education?

I most certainly hope you do.

Were you worried about your methodology, whenever you pressed that green button on a photocopier?

Well, really.

Tsk. Tsk.

You know, if you like me are of a certain age and you just (shock!) used these things as mere tools to get from A-2-B in whatever it was you were teaching, then by golly, you couldn't possibly have been effective.

Winging it, you were.

What is changing the way we teach today and tomorrow?

Are we really forgetting to pay attention to how our students learn?

Are we stumbling blindly, right alongside life, getting lost in bells and whistles?



Useful links related to this posting:

Medius bloggin'

I have these random thoughts...

Sometimes they're troubling questions or fascinating revelations - sometimes I decide a few days later that the idea was nothing more than a load of tosh... but sometimes those thoughts turn into full blown pieces, develop on into rants or even series of rants...

Sometimes, something I read in an ELT magazine or a business book or a PLN's tweet made me go 'huh?' and three hours later my head's still spinning... or I've suddenly clicked and realized how wrong I was about a blah, blah philosophy... sometimes these ideas turn into macro-sized posts... sometimes I send them out into the Twitterverse....

But sometimes I need a bit more space than the microblogging 140 character limitation to express these ponderings and sometimes I just don't have the time to put in 2 - 6 hours on fleshing something out, properly linking on etc (which is probably why I have so many drafts in the queue)... and sometimes I've read something that is just like wow! and I want to share it.

So I'm thinking I'm going to start daily media blogging...

Here's the first:

What's the thing with collecting numbers?

Each time I see someone tweeting out the number of followers they've got or the number of hits a blog (post) received or the number of members currently in their Ning yet no word on what the exact function of collecting the members is... or how many people attended a presentation on blah, blah or who've watched their youtube video...

I think: And?

Why do so many of us measure success by counting things?

Does it come from when we migrated to caves - when we counted the dug-up yams before the soil froze over in order to know exactly how many of us would survive? Or was it all about having the most bananas and attracting the prettiest ape ensuring the survival of our own gene pool?

Is it because quality itself is uncountable?

Counting the bananas and yams while not determining whether they'll ripen or poison still tells someone something?

Jes' wondering...


Bring on the teenies...

The decade of the uh-oh's is finally done.


For me those ten years were made up of:

A marriage... a divorce, surviving volcanic eruptions and political coups, moving from South America to Germany, completing a full-length screenplay, not selling said screenplay, trying to sell a conversation skills supplementary book then putting pieces of it for sale online instead, working on an animation film, writing materials for Klett, meeting President Obama, joining facebook, completing a pilgrimage across the north of Spain, creating this blog... abandoning the other one... becoming addicted to Twitter and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember...

'xcept co-convincing someone important that there really is a paradigm shift going on in education today :-)

What's next?

No doubt another roller coaster of a ride but also...
  • teacher training for teaching associations
  • presenting at conferences
  • participating/hosting online training sessions
  • more writing... tons more writing
  • more blogging... lots, lots, lots more blogging

and hopefully...
  • studying film and its application to learning English
  • some kind of techie related job, related to the above
  • coming back home (Grenada) and working online from here
  • lots of pictures with loads of ultra-cool ELT people :-)
  • some travel (Tibet, Machu Picchu, Pyramids)

How was your decade?

What are you hoping to get out of the teenies?

How are you hoping to develop professionally or personally?

Whatever it is, I truly wish you much happiness, heaps of passion in your journey and many, many smiles along the way!


New Year Lesson (Abba video, worksheet, conversation prompts)

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