Dogme meets Coca Cola

For anyone whose clicked on over here without really knowing or understanding what dogme is, you might enjoy reading the older posts first (linked above).  For the ELTers, who've heard me rabbit on and on before, let me tell you all about how I came to realize that dogme and Coke have something in common...

It kicked off in the dogme yahoo!group.   A long time member said  "anything 'online' has absolutely nothing to do with the materials-free ethos which is Dogme."

Now, I've heard this argument so often before that this time I couldn't even be bothered with the illogical bias against technology as every single other generation has been frightened of changes too... didn't stop them from coming though...  (yawn)

at the end of the day...

some people in the world have access to computers and some people don't  (yeah, and... are we expected to feel so sad for them that we should not move with the times but wait patiently for them to catch up or do we just get on with it  - I mean go work for or donate money to a charity  if the social conscience itches I say, that would be heaps more effective),  because let's face it,  in a few years, just like Coca Cola, most people will have a computer* just down the road or maybe even on their mobile phone...

some teachers use computers in their classroom
some teachers don't

I mean why bother pretending that life as we know it hasn't changed., draaaassssttttiiiicccalllllly in the last ten years, five years, three years...

personally, it's become so completely normalized in my own teaching practices that I could hardly give a hoot whether or not another teacher finds this a good thing or not.   I don't make value judgments of those who're still use whiteboards instead of laptops or IWBs - in fact blackboards are very much still around  in some German community colleges (along with the beamer on the wall) and chalk, well chalk is still a staple in any local stationers. 

I like computers.
(Your turn to yawn!)

I find them useful and supportive and they happen to suit my approach to teaching and those of lots of others but so what?

After all, my favorite chocolate is made of 80% cocoa beans, comes from Ecuador and has a cherry chili flavored nougat center. Does it matter than many other people would rather eat a flavored milk product  which only smiled at a cocoa bean for a micro-second before it was drowned in a vat of sugar?

Not a jot, it doesn't.

Anyway, I didn't start this article to talk about chocolate or have a dig at some guy who thinks that the computer is the end of civilization, but instead to compare Coca-Cola to Dogme.
Dear Scott and Luke, forgive me...

Regular Coke = 139 calories in a 33cl bottle.

Coke Light = 1.3 calories

Coke Zero = 0 calories.

The calories, while negligible, count.

Materials Lite 
is not 
Materials Zero.

The reason why we churn out students after 8 years of language lessons in English, still not speaking English, is because in class they're loaded up with a whole bunch of stuff they don't need and not given enough chance to express themselves about what they do need.

It's not the students.


It's not the students.

It might, oooooh, dangerous territory, not be, indeed, just the book's fault, in part it might be the teacher's too.  Thing is, Meddings and Thornbury even included a section in Teaching Unplugged on working with coursebooks and I've heard many a teacher say they see parallels in dogme to many a methodology and of course,  Thornbury did acquiesce, somewhat, at SEETA last year on the issues of Dogme2.0.

If a teacher is personalizing a text to extract the students own thoughts on it, creating an environment of communication, enabling the emergence of new language and then scaffolding this process, then heck, the use of the book doesn't matter, what matters is it's been used lightly to go deeply...

see, the crux of the issue, the matter, the philosophy, the dogma, once the gold foil wrapper has been unwrapped and all that is that


It's the how you teach, not the what or the with what you teach.
It's keeping the classroom all about the participants within.

Useful links related to this posting:

image credit, by Lvklock on wikimedia commons

Tweet, Tweet: Learn English on Twitter!

Was just trying to gather up a handful of twitter handles to share with my students next week as a useful way for them to follow people on Twitter and actually found this to be quite a difficult task!

I've managed to find about 15 I thought useful... but I'm sure they are more out there.

So, go on, help me out, would you - if you're  tweeting out with suggestions and references, links to materials, daily tips on Learning English or basically you have a pro account where you tweet hoping that English Language Learners will eventually find your stuff to learn from, then do please add your name and twitter handle below and I'll put together another TweepML list.

And of course, if you're a teacher who knows of others or who's already compiled a list, do please share it with us!

Those on my list already include:
What #hashtag are you guys using to help global learners find you? 
#something else?

A word of web 2.0 advice
Do remember that Twitter is a place of conversation not just a marketplace to yell and sell your wares, so you really should be following your learners in return and a general tip: if you collaborate with each other, rather than simply tweeting out in non-ending streams then your tweets will probably be seen a lot more often by the students you all actually want to reach!

Download for English Language Teachers

Previous Postings you may find interesting

The Lists - one click to follow all the people listed in each separate list
  1. Tweeplm list1, 100 Great Educators on Twitter to follow
  2. Tweeplm list2, More great English Language Teachers to follow on Twitter
  3. Tweeplm list3, Educational tweeters, aimed at English Language Learners

Best, Karenne
imagecredit: twitterbird by xioubin low on

Why use Google?

Do you use Google?

Well, of course you do! But how often do you use it in the classroom and/or for setting pre and post-task activities?  

Are you familiar with all the resources they've got freely available to innovate your classroom and motivate your learners?

Here's a slideshow which goes through some of the different apps and tools I've found, plus examples of how I and others have been using the different functions and products in our ELT classes.

Don't hesitate to ask if  you see a slide that you'd like more info on and most of all, I'd really love to learn more from you about what, how and why you've been using Google with adult, teen or young learners, so do please share your thoughts (or links to postings too)!

imagecredit: g-nicole, swiatekj on

*click on the small box next to the slide counter to see full-sized

Useful links related to this posting:
Lots of links bookmarked on delicious 
Free 33 page guide to Google from Richard Byrne (General Edu)


Blog break: the footie's calling...

My dear readers,

Sorry, but ya kno' every 4 years I gotta go a wee bit nuts.  So, hmm... I won't be around much over the next two weeks, but please do feel free to explore my archives via the menu bar in the header or via the most-read posts which I've linked for you on the lower side bar.

To my PLN, I'll see ya on Twitter every now and then!

Now go wave your flag,

imagecredit: football world cup by chooyutshing

p.s. quick rant: Why on earth do Americans insist on calling The Beautiful Game soccer and passing on this misinformation to the rest of the world...  I mean the game they play is with their hands.... but logic dictates that man running to connect Foot to Ball = Football.

Man running, stopping for commercial breaks, with egg-shaped non-rolly thing in hand = Comhandegg?

It's not that complicated, is it?  ;-) ;-)

RT: @Britsmiles RT @marekandrews: Football is a language, if you don't speak it, get yourself an interpreter -quick! #worldcupFri Jun 11 07:30:32 via web

u got the spirit RT @kalinagoenglish: Somos unidos, oh, give me freedom, give me fire...en las calles...celebrando...el partido va comencarThu Jun 10 21:05:30 via TweetDeck

Useful links related to this posting: 
World Cup referees learning English swear words
World Cup calendar
World Cup kick-off concert
World Cup on Twitter

From the ELT world
Getting the ball rolling in South Africa (Spotlight magazine)
World Cup crossword and Qualifying countries by Sue Lyon Jones
World Cup news lesson by Sean Banville

From the ELT bloggers
World Cup commercials by David Deubel
World Cup links by Larry Ferlazzo
World Cup links to 42 resources by Sean Banville
World Cup Spelling by Johanna Stirling

My fave video

The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference

Ever had students say to you they hate(d) English at school?

Ever had teachers rise up in protest at all the rapid changes in technology, yelling about how the way they've always worked has always worked?  It falls on deaf ears, when you tell them quietly, gently, the world is a different place today, it really is, and my oh my, tomorrow... well, tomorrow you won't recognize most of what we take for granted today.

Whether it's with students learning telephone phrases or with colleagues challenged to adopt the new technologies, change inspires great emotion.

But mostly this is because they don't understand the Why.

See, thing is, we humans (since the age when we stopped starving) really need good solid emotional reasons to do the things we do and we need an even greater knowledge when we're asked to change.  Reasons that connect to our needs.  

It's simply not enough to say, look lots of others are doing it.  

We have to believe that the reason for the change makes sense and that it will, in fact, bring  us happiness.

It's simply not enough to say, the whole world's learning to speak in one language so hey, you should to.

It's not enough to say your boss wants you to speak English so it has to be.

It's not enough to say if you learn English then you can go to the US on holiday next year.

Instead, a better approach might be:
"As the world's economies change it's no longer enough to do business on one's home turf.  Mastering another language (English) will enable you to master your communication when dealing across different cultures and as a result you'll probably get more projects or make more sales."
Selling them, if you like:
Put in the effort now to learn this language and you'll be able to earn more money and take care of your family even better in the long run.

When dealing with colleagues wary of edtech, your approach might be:
"Taking time to master a handful of tech-tools will help you to organize your teaching strategy, saving you a lot of time and energy in the long run.   It will make your lessons more up-to-date and dynamic and as your students will be excited with your innovative processes and their own marked progress, they'll talk to their friends and colleagues about how much they are learning with you and recommend you to others.
Selling then, if you like:
Become a part of a global community of innovative educators and you'll be able to earn more money and take care of your family even better.

Of course, different people have different reasons that motivate them.  

And to be truly effective an exercise it's even better if you can get your students or colleagues arriving at their own whys.  But whichever way, directly or indirectly, it's only once the people you're asking to change understand the reasons for the change that they will adopt and adapt. 

I'll leave you Simon Sinek's thought on inspiring others:

Useful links related to this posting: 

image credit: Questions by Oberazzi

p.s. Business English Lesson Tip: The Sinek video is a great one to take into class with top management types, 1-2-1s... ask them to talk about why they do what they do and make the products they make.

Powerpointing My Office

It goes without saying that any good beginner level (and many elementary) coursebook has a picture appropriately labeled to tell the students what everything is.   If it's aimed at general learners, it'll be the kitchen or the bathroom or perhaps all the rooms in a house.  If it's aimed at Business English students or ESP learners, it'll be common instruments they probably come into contact frequently.

But here's the thing... why use someone else's picture when your students actually live in houses, work in offices or manufacture on site?

My tech-tip to bypass the coursebook or rather personalize it, if you wish, is this:

1. Ask students to take photographs of the room they need to describe or refer to in common speech. In the example above, we've used an office.  By the way, these were taken with Torsten's mobile phone.

2. Get your students to load the pictures up into a Powerpoint document.

3. Ask them to now work in groups to share each others best guesses at what things are before checking their dictionaries (online/on the phone/in hard copy).  

If you're working individually, as I am in this case (not many beginner level students in Germany!), talk through the items together, ensuring that the student does most of the work, using words he's already come in contact with before and look up others together, rather than you giving him all the answers.  

4. Ensure that your student(s) do all the labeling themselves.  

5. If you're working on an online platform with students, you can also jpeg the slides and upload them into a common album.

Why is this such an amazing resource?

Aside from the fact it's a very personal photograph and therefore has a real and immediate relationship to the learner and his needs, you can use these pictures/Powerpoint slides, repetitively, to
  • practice articles
  • practice this and that, these and those
  • practice prepositions
  • discuss functions of items
  • review vocabulary
What other things could you get your own language learners taking pictures of and labeling?  What other language functions can these pictures help practice?

Have you ever tried anything like this?   How did it go?   Do you think that the pfaffing involved is setting something like this up is prohibitory (it took us about 10 minutes to go around the building snapping pictures... about 5 minutes to load the pictures from his phone into Powerpoint but then I needed to teach him how to make boxes and label, that was about another 10 minutes - I'd refused to give the instructions in German) - we did this about a month ago and his feedback was that he knows the words because he 'sees' them whenever he looks at things in the office now.

Useful links related to this posting: 


Education has always been political

I bought Mark Pegrum's From Blogs to Bombs the other day, for my own research and deeper reflection into the IATEFL LT-SIG day back in April where he presented via SecondLife.

 Right away, in the first few pages, this sentence of his jumped out at me.
Education has always been political.  At its best, it walks a tightrope between reproducing the status quo and providing open democratic spaces for challenging it.

He goes on to say:

When teaching through digital technologies, educators have a responsibility to help students explore the power of these new tools to craft individual and community stories, but also to help them perceive and compensate for their limitations and dangers...  It's vital that today's students graduate with the creative skills to make the most of digital technologies, as well as the critical skills to evaluate the freedom or lack of freedom to which they may lead.  

I believe, of course, that we shouldn't only be looking at today's youth but at all students  - no matter their ages and at ourselves, as educators - especially, especially those of us, the early adopters who are exploring digital media  and its applications in the classroom.

As passionately as we feel about education  and technology and technology in education, we know enough of the world to know that there are times of great differences in opinions and many generations have lived through the consequences of those beliefs.   

What political statements do we actually make by speaking and what statements do we make by remaining silent?

Recently, passionate twitter exchanges of a political nature were captured and posted on Mark Andrews's blog.   Within his PLN and his connected others with their own PLNs  (including mine) members exist  who are from all the countries involved.   The world has never, ever been changed by silence.

But being globally connected, how does one speak or not speak without causing cultural offense?

We've gone through this when I discussed truth-telling in classes so you can probably guess my thoughts:    no matter which way you flip it, the choice involved in speaking out or deciding not to is simply a flip-side of exactly the same coin and makes a statement.

Both are political decisions to be taken very seriously however  via our newly networked lives these conversations are now no longer limited, no longer private - these conversations we once would have had within families, circles and communities are recorded for the entire, very wide world out there. 

Does this put us in danger?  

What advice do we give to our students if they ask?  How public do we allow their opinions and discussions to be?

The decisions we make today about education, technology, and technology in education must be informed by a consideration of the long-term social, socio-political and ecological consequences: in short, what kinds of stories - individual, local, national and global - they'll enable us to write. 
It's up to us to shape our technologies as much as they shape us.   And given the pace of ongoing technological development, we have to start now.
What divides might we end up creating or enhancing or bridging?   

image credit: Nuclear Bomb by jtdjt on

The ELT Blogosphere: May 2010

On Friday 28th, 2010 I came home after a really hard day of teaching to find out, via Twitter, that Kalinago English has been chosen as's #2 Language Teaching blog!   It's truly an honor and if you're one of my lovely readers or friends or family members who voted for me thank you very, very much!

In fact what I discovered also, once I recovered and looked at the Lexiophiles' round-up was that a whopping 15 members of BELTfree, an online community dedicated to ELT bloggers, made it into the top 100 and, as the group's mistress (moderator) I am even  prouder of this than my own prize.

The thing is, for those who have been following my conversations on Um, I hate to ask, on principle I tend to have reservations about contests of this nature.  

From a marketing perspective, it is important to have these sorts of badges on our blogs - it's part of social proof if you will, which is why we wear them, but what happens whenever these awards occur is that inevitably other blogs of similar or even higher quality are omitted - perhaps they don't have a significant number of contacts who can vote for them, or they weren't able to suck it up and toot their own horns (trust me, there is a certain loss of face involved in doing that) but it doesn't mean that their work has no value or isn't appreciated.

These monthly (or bi-monthly when I'm knee deep in other projects) come without any sort of shiny badge** to put on your blogs...  it's just me Karenne Sylvester, fellow TEFL teacher telling you, my blogging colleagues and professional readers: here's the quality, I've traveled throughout the globe to find it, have saved the best of the best posts I read and organized them for you - so go read and go enjoy!

(Sorry it really is a bit of a bumper edition this time 'round - forgot to publish April's due to IATEFL and the Carnival and some of the posts were just too good to decide not to... so it's probably best to use this list as an online magazine index and choose  to read the ones which sound most up your street!    Or come back later...)

**do you  want me to make a nice shiny badge? Or would you like to make me one that I can share with the stars below? :-)

To catch up posts from this blog see:
Kalinago English summary

In the ELT Blogosphere

TEFL industry

Methodology, Pedagogy, Linguistics

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

On Technology

Lessons using technology

Lessons without "technology"

Hidden Gems (Posts from the Past)

Introducing New ELT Bloggers on the Block
    Old Bloggers on the block: Why not pick one of these and put it into your google-reader, decide to read all of their posts and comment frequently and encourage them in their new style-writing process...

    And if all that wasn't enough...

    See you next month!
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