Blogging, Chatting & Discussions Online

One of the luckiest things to ever happen in my life was being taught by Professor Hein at MLS in the US.

It was his boundless energy, creativity, positivity, dynamism and knowledge which probably most influenced me to become a teacher myself but also, it was he who inspired a love of history.  

A passion for the past. 

I am lucky to have this, I think, because unless we as a species are able to look backwards then we are unable to see forwards.

On Saturday, 17 July 2010, we held Stuttgart's first Tech Tools Day - an interactive, hands-on, full day of workshops where teacher participants were encouraged to learn more about the use of web 2.0 tools in the language learning classroom.

Expert colleagues Carl Dowse, Gavin Dudeney, Anne Hodgson, Mike Hogan, Heike Philp, Dr Petra Pointner, Byron Russell, Shelly Terrell and Andi White reviewed speaking, listening, watching, reading, describing, applying, searching, evaluating, analyzing and creating and it was a fantastic day - we all learned so much from each other.

Details of their presentations: level one here, level two here.

My own presentations were focused around the use of some of the "simpler" and depending on where you stand, possibly the less flashy of the numerous and fascinating web2.0 tools which are available today, however it was my role to look at written communication.

During the workshops, so I could provide an easy online space & exercise for our trainees to experience  threaded conversations (forums) I created a Prezi which asked "why do we write?"

To look at this Prezi:
click on the play button to start, continue clicking play 
or select More and set to auto-play

Many great thoughts came up and discussions ranged from whether or not we write for the interaction, to record information; to communicate with others when we aren't within hearing; to keep in touch; to share instructions; to create and collaborate.

Then, continuing on the historical theme, I made a video of our species' development of the tools we  have used to write with in the last 500 years - this  led to the qualities of instantaneous chat, asking them to think of the pedagogical applications and purposes of web2.0 tools in our classrooms.

Create your own video slideshow at
song by Sue Lyon Jones

I was very proud to be involved in the creation of a TechToolsDay for ELTAS partly because I enjoy sharing my knowledge, partly because I am afraid that those who are shunning technology will be left behind in ten to fifteen years as unemployable adults (or relegated to only base-level service industries) and partly because I have long felt incredibly irritated by the very, non Socratic, question "But what about the Pedagogy?"  

This, personally, to me is an incredibly foolish and fear-based question.   

The creation of the tool, the actual tool and the reason for using the tool are all different and yet all interlinked. 

A lot of teachers around the world who are resistant to today's developments will spout for you Postman - in some kind of pseudo-intellectual argument for keeping life and learning simple.   They criticize the current development of technology in the classroom as if it were something random, something that is only occurring now, in our time,  in our generation.

If we look backwards we will understand our present and see our future:

62,000 years ago we broke off branches and dipped their rough edges into the juice of berries, added chalk and colored stones to tell the perennial story of love and strife.   When charcoal paintings washed away from the walls of caves we learned how to chisel into rocks so our ideograms would not be lost.  

We fashioned clay tablets when we realized that we could not carry giant rocks, when the seasons forced us to move on to our next destinations.

We developed papyrus when we saw that clay breaks.  

When we ran out of papyrus, in a labor-intensive step, we created vellum from the hides of animals and  then finally, we made paper which 1,200 years later we're still doing because Man has an innate need to transcend his mortality, to communicate across time, to leave messages for colleagues, to share knowledge.   

When we understand this then we are able to understand that the time we are living in today is a mere blip, the so-called paradigm shift we are currently experiencing is actually nothing more than the same resource-issues we have always faced, it is no different from at any of our other junctures and it must be solved  - for today, the felling of trees is responsible for a major part of our massive environmental damage and burden.

Writing has always been done in order to reach others, to reflect and review our own experiences.

Blogs, chats, texts, tweets and our other discussions online are simply one step along this long road of evolution.   

It is nothing more than it has ever been - an attempt to harvest fleeting thoughts, to gather experiences, to warn of pain, to share joy and the experience of being a human.  

To teach.

Through our digital web2.0 tools, we are doing nothing more than painting on cave walls.

imagecredit: man of many languages, by eyesplash on flickr

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5 Responses to “Blogging, Chatting & Discussions Online”

  • Darren Elliott says:
    July 20, 2010

    Great stuff Karenne. It's part of the arrogance and stupidity of humanity to believe that the present incarnation, minus about 50 years, is 'the golden age'.

    When we used to (insert activity here) we were perfect! Now with all this (insert current activity) we are all going to hell in a handcart. Oh how quickly they forget how much they used to bitch and moan about the way we used to do things at the time.

    Humans, eh? Gotta love 'em!

    July 21, 2010

    Exactly. I remember even in my own time, the change from chalkboard to whiteboard - gotta tell ya - I hated the smell of the markers, sure I was, that would never catch on!


  • Vicki Hollett says:
    July 21, 2010

    This is peripheral to the main thrust of this excellent post, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the pictures in that prezi that built up to the IKEA instructions! Ha! It struck me as an idea that had all kinds of potential for Technical English classes.

    July 21, 2010

    :-) didn't think of that, Vicki, and that's a really good idea -

    When I found the Hawaiian pictograms and then researched the concept of ideagrams, the first thing I thought was "IKEA!!!"

    Many manuals do indeed work on the same concept of telling a complex idea or series of instructions through a set of diagrams which transcend language.

    (btw the hieroglyphs - precursor of all alphabets - were initially created (according to Wikipedia) as a way to give instructions to their Semitic slaves!).

    Life doesn't change much, does it!

    Perhaps the student version of this Prezi could inspire some good dogme conversation with ESP/technical students...

    Ta, again!

    July 21, 2010

    Oooooo just reread my comments, now, not only am I an über tech geek.. now I'm just a nerd... sorry, I love this history stuff, it was fun research!


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