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

7 Responses to “Dogme meets Coca Cola”

    July 01, 2010

    On reflecting a bit on the differences between these two words I went to Google... because they like the taste of the different cokes, is about formula

    An approach is the means, the manner of the method

    and a methodology is the technique used to determine a scientific process...


    The goal of learning English can be seen as a journey from a to be, the methodology deciding to travel by foot, the approach 'how' you walk.

    July 01, 2010

    But feel free to correct me or expand...

  • Vicki Hollett says:
    July 02, 2010

    Just an expansion on the terms ‘approach’ and ‘method’, in case you feel it fits the bill. It comes from an old classic ‘Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching’ by Richards and Rogers, (pub. 1986!) They didn’t think approach (theories about the nature of language and language learning) dictated method (a particular set of teaching techniques and activities). Instead they argued:

    “What links theory with practice (or approach with procedure) is what we have called design …Design is the level of method analysis in which we consider (a) what the objectives of a method are; (b) how language content is selected and organized within the method, that is the syllabus model the method incorporates; (c) the types of learning tasks and teaching activities the method advocates; (d) the roles of learners; (e) the roles of teachers; (f) the role of instructional materials.”

  • Karenne Sylvester says:
    July 02, 2010

    Thanks Vicki!

    You could see I woke up the next morning in a quandary about what I'd exactly meant, and what did I mean exactly... you're a star for this, it really helps picture it better!


  • Vicki Hollett says:
    July 03, 2010

    So glad you liked it. I enjoyed blowing the dust off it actually, because it was - and still is I think - a jolly good book.
    They covered a lot of bases with (a - f). I thought the one you'd like best might be (d), but maybe there's room to add a (g) - the role of technology

  • Emma Herrod says:
    July 03, 2010

    Hey Karenne - nice post and I'm glad you were moved by the initial comment to write your thoughts. I was angered when I read the comment from the Dogme group regarding online materials. Perhaps the user in question should be taking up with Scott his teaching of an online MA? Alas, no, it is a boring argument now and I wonder whether there is really anything left to be said to those who are still exhausting themselves with their invented dichotomy between tech and a dogme approach. Grrr and more grrr.

    I would like to add to the Vicki's excellent Richards and Rogers quote. I have been reading Diane Larsen-Freeman "Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching" and if I'm ever in need of someone to tell me whether my approaches are on-track or way-off, I usually find her note to the Teacher-Educator does it:
    "Methods serve as a foil for reflection that can aid teachers in bringing to conscious awareness the thinking that underlies their actions"..."By becoming clear on where they stand, teachers can choose to teach differently from the way they were taught"..."A knowledge of methods is part of the knowledge base of teaching" (Larsen-Freeman: 2000, OUP)

    I feel that what dogme is able to offer the teacher (without at this moment getting into what it can do for the student), is an uncluttered space in which they are able to see to reflect on their own teaching approach.

    July 05, 2010

    Hi Emma,

    Agree with you, I think dogme in the classroom very much challenges us as teachers to think about what we're doing when we're in the classroom - not pre the classroom - it's a much more concentrated way of teaching...

    in a way, I'd say, if I wanted to find another non-threatening analogy than coca-cola, I might go for the difference between cooking up a favourite dish -

    Non dogme would be cooking according to the recipe- a recipe given to you by someone else - and going through each part of the instructions, step by step - step by step - it most definitely still churns out a good meal...

    but dogme, it's cooking from your gut, from your experience, from your memory of what flavours came out strongest: you need a lot of the same ingredients but there are some you really don't so you add and subtract, a bit more salt this time round, after all, it's summer, taking out the almond essence because it left a funky aftertaste, considering this time whether or not a drop of sherry would help,

    taste - test - taste...

    and each time something unique and absolutely wonderful comes out (and oh dear, sometimes, something you might go ooooh, nooooo.. sherry is not the right ingredient here) but nevertheless you keep reaching and you keep working on finding the meal that the students will love and learn from the best.

    By the way, love that Larsen-Freeman quote, thanks for sharing it - you know, personal note, it's such an exciting time of teaching right now!

    I'm 15+ years in but am having the time of my life!!!

    All this blog reflecting, taking chances, publicly, on being completely way-off-base challenges me as a teacher and a person - I love that I get to challenge other teachers at the same time too and that wonderful folks like you and Vicki pop along to keep me learning and growing!


    p.s. now Alex Case is going to pop along, lurk, and write another blog post about the love-fest that is the ELT blogosphere today :-)... yeah, and, Alex?


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