The rain forest wept! Stop doing this, now!

Computer, laptop, MP3 players, mobile, CD
What you see in the image above has come out of the printer that I sit next to around 25 hours a week, and has been printed by a trainee on a pre-service course (probably CELTA), who is probably about to ask to borrow my scissors to cut the words up.

In this example, we have a list of words; often it's sentences, each word of which has been printed at font size 100 or so, also to be sliced up, so that the sentence can be BluTacked to the wall or lain out on the floor (possibly first having been photocopied into identical sets), after which the students "mingle" and put the sentence back together again.

Photocopy of mobile phone
Sometimes it's images of every day objects — like Metro tickets and mp3 players and mobile phones, as you see above — that could so easily have been drawn or pointed to instead, but which have been printed under the absurd notion that an image is worth 1000 words, when often it really isn't!

The other day, we had someone printing single phonetic symbols (!!!), as huge as possible, each on a separate piece of paper, then to be magnified further via the photocopier.

This  happens all day, every day, whether the trainees are on CELTA or Spanish teacher training courses, and I suspect that someone somewhere (a coursebook writer…?) must have come up with this "idea", and people on teacher training courses must now be taught that this is a great (???) "activity" or "task", or whatever they call it.

It has to stop.


I say that partly as further promotion for my one-man, entirely unsuccessful campaign to smash the photocopier in all language schools around the world and I say it for these three reasons:

  1. It's unsustainable environmentally. If every sound (not word, sound!!!) we ever taught language learners needed to printed, how long would it take us to wipe out the rainforests? This matters! Even if you still refuse to believe the evidence of global warming (video).
  2. It's an absurd waste of the trainee's/teacher's time. Do you really need to go and find a computer and print and photocopy the term mobile phone (or find an image of one) when there's a mobile phone in everyone's pocket and they already know the word anyway?
  3. It's so 20th century. As course tutors we need to stop recommending this activity. It encourages trainees to continue backwards into the 20th century, to imagine that PC+projector, together with printer+photocopier is technology, when in fact the world has kind of slightly moved on from that, and it may well be that those four "P"s are things the learners only ever encounter in the time warp they enter when they set foot in a language classroom.

When was the last time a trainee doing teaching practice on a CELTA course got the learners to use an app? Perhaps, just perhaps, they should be doing that…

Single word get printed out
Get? The rain forest wept! You don't need to print the word get!

Will an Apple watch lead to more learning?

Just a couple of thoughts on this:

I'm a big fan of Edutopia (also their excellent Twitter feed), it's excellent for keeping yourself up-to-date with what's happening in technology and how advances there might be profitably used in education.

But this question, to which they have a sensible answer, is frankly daft (though possibly quite clever as link bait).

NO! It won't lead to more learning! NO technology ever leads to more learning!

It's only good use of technology by the learners — and good task design by the teacher — that leads to any learning at all, let alone more learning!

Incidentally, as well as being a big fan of Edutopia, I'm a self-confessed big hater of all things Apple, but perhaps it's best not to get into that…

PowerPoint and the printer are not ICT!

Venn diagram: Things I wish I could teach people

Here's one from a recent session on a CELTA course, drawn on the (non-interactive) whiteboard.

Using Powerpoint, the printer and the photocopier may give you the (false) impression that you're using technology in your classes, but that's in fact not really the case.

You could make a (very tenuous) case that PowerPoint is communicative but, really, none of those evil 3 Ps could really be classed as 21st century information and communications technology (ICT).

Instead of you using PowerPoint, if your learners were sharing and colloborating on creating Google Drive presentations, that would be the way to go.

A social, not a technological focus — always!

Just in case any of you are thinking of coming to my session today at IH Barcelona's annual ELT Conference;-) !

Something I always say to trainees on our pre-service CELTA courses: learning should primarily be a social, not a technological experience — and if we're in ELT, the focus really has to be on language, not technology.

I suggest tasks that use such tools as Edmodo not because they're technologically exciting (which they are) but because they provide opportunities to use language in communicative ways, and because doing tasks of that nature, sharing and commenting on each others' work, allows us to be social – and to thus use more language.

What makes a great teacher?

Need something uplifting for Monday? This one i found on Adam Simpson's All things ELT (more about, the kids being 12-13 year olds, if I've understood the Australian school system correctly.

Such things are fun for kids to create and record (either as a podcast or on a mobile phone) and super instructive, I think, for teachers to listen to.

I provided technical support for a similar project recently where the kids talked about what makes a good learner. There was a privacy issue (the school involved vetoed any videos being uploaded to YouTube) so instead the videos were shared on/via the kids' phones.

The recording had to be done outside class (the school has a ban on mobiles being used in schools) but that (ie. the former!) isn't necessarily a bad thing: classroom time was used for discussion and rehearsal, with the recording being done outside class.