Keep calm and don't use Google Images

Here's another slide from my session at our ELT Conference last Saturday…

Keep calm and don't use Google Images

In fact I always suggest this to trainees on our CELTA courses: CELTA can be quite a stressful course, and it gets especially so if you waste an hour or more looking for images that may in fact be adding little or nothing to your class, if they are not going to generate a lot of language — which in the end is always our aim.

As I suggested in the session, I'd in fact like to ban Google Images entirely from the school: it's Google Images that should be blocked, not potentially hugely communicative places like Facebook, or fabulous ones for material like YouTube, access to which school and systems administrators have been known to block, or brilliant tools like mobile phones, which learners could be doing so much with if we didn't impose blanket bans on them.

To my CELTA trainees (I in fact only give one session on their course, on technology) I suggest two other things that would also help reduce the stress level:

... or PowerPoint

You don'tever! — need 30 or 40 PowerPoint slides for a 45-60 minute class: pare that back to 5 or fewer. Reduce the material to its minimum expression: one great image is going to generate way more language and interaction than 25 or more boring ones of things you could point to, or draw on the board, to pull out of your pocket, or translate…

And if you can reduce your photocopying to less than one page per student per class, you'll also be doing yourself a favour, not to mention the environment.

There's another thing I also often find myself saying to people taking CELTA (and our equivalent course for Spanish teachers): you're training to become a teacher, not a graphic designer or a materials designer.

What you want to be designing are the task/s, the interaction, the social experience of learning. Focus on that, not the materials.

What's that? You want to use the scanner? Are you sure it's worth while in terms of how much more language your learners are going to get for your efforts…?

See also
Great sources of images for class (not Google Images!)

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  1. Catherine McFarlane

    Great reminderTom and couldn't agree more about trainees spending too much of their valuable time searching for 'the perfect picture'. I'd totally forgotten about that 1000 pictures book – great resource indeed, and I might treat myself to my own copy from Amazon! The 500px site looks good too – thanks for sharing that.
    Sorry I missed the conference this year, but see you over the summer.

  2. Catherine McFarlane

    PS: Just shared on my FB page.

  3. I agree, Tom. What I learned was that any material put in front of the learners takes their entire attention. Unless it is the actual material you want them to work on, it will only distract.
    Every time you change the slide or the paper you hand out, that's where their mind is. Much better for them to be paying attention to their own speaking, another learner speaking, a listening or your modeling.
    Also, a different part of the brain is used in processing written vs spoken, so sticking to one or the other depending on your goal probably enhances progress

  4. Thanks, Catherine, Lee, for commenting.

    Indeed, the Andrew Wright book is an outstanding one: highly, highly recommended to all teachers.

    @Lee: yes, I agree. As a general rule, what I think we want is to aim to get the maximum response from the minimum possible "materials".

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