Great BBC podcast series to recommend to your learners

One that I posted on Twitter last week, BBC Learning English Drama, which is an excellent BBC podcast series:

In weekly episodes of 6-10 minutes, they are retelling both classics and stories specially written for the series, with Jamiaca Inn the current story. Probably suited for B2 (or a good B1) and above.

As a language teacher, what more vital role do you have than getting your learners started on independent mobile learning?

Podcasts that they will enjoy and learn from are a great way to achieve just that and you want to be recommending that kind of thing!

July courses: Success with technology in language learning

Teacher serving in a restaurant aka a classroom

They pay you to teach — but in fact you're a restaurant manager, a cook and a kitchen slave. In the digital age, are there magic ingredients, recipes, that will make your "restaurant" a success?

Enrolment for the July courses we run for the Generalitat de Catalunya's Departament d'Ensenyament starts this week and is open May 14-29.

We've running 4 courses this summer, three in Barcelona and one in Lleida, with me as tutor on courses (1) and (4) below:

  1. Technology for project work in the English classroom (Barcelona, July 1-7)
  2. Improve your language analysis for teaching purposes (Lleida, July 1-7)
  3. Making the most of your ELT time in Primary (Barcelona, July 6-10)
  4. Success with technology in language learning (Barcelona, July 8-14)

Success with technology
The two technology courses are designed to be hands-on as far as possible — so be prepared to have your fingers on keyboards or smartphones for up to about 75% of most of the sessions.

I've mentioned recipes and magic ingredients there in my question in the caption below the image above. We'll be using various bits of technology (we stay as jargon-free as possible 😉 !) to discuss those but I'll say now that I'm not sure that such things exist — certainly not ones that will apply to all teaching circumstances. What I hope you'll come away with will be "recipes" that you can try out and adapt in your "kitchen".

To a considerable extent, I don't like to go into these courses as the tutor with a fixed "menu": as the teacher, you're the person best-informed to decide what is going to work best in your classroom. But I'll advance this: I'm a big believer in the teacher not using technology and handing it over to the learners to use for language practice.

Both of the technology courses are really about how we can do that.

Note that these are closed courses for school teachers in state schools in Catalonia. Enrolment is via XTEC.

See also
We offer other ELT summer courses at IH Barcelona, including CELTA and DELTA (the latter already full) as well as other professional development courses.

Best practice: have your learners use smartphones to make video

Flipped learning: technology is not about the teacher does with it!

Here's on I posted on Twitter this week:

The project and competition is here (you have only until 1st June to get your learners to complete it, so hurry!) and the book is this one, Film in Action, by Kieran Donaghy, who produces the ideas for using film clips in language teaching on the brilliant Film-English.com website.

Go to any language teaching conference nowadays and you're all but guaranteed to hear someone speaking about flipped learning and how it's the Next Big Thing. I'm sorry, I just don't buy it, not for language teaching. In ELT, I don't think we're paid anywhere near enough to be producing video content, no matter how easy smartphones have made that. Now getting learners to produce the videos — as in the competition — that's surely the way to go!

Here's another brilliant example of the sort of thing learners could produce, which I also tweeted this week, from Mike Harrison:

Can your learners — not you, your learners!!! — tell a video story in 6 seconds (or 15 if you use Instagram)?

A tweet from the Innovate ELT Conference this weekend quoting Ceri Jones suggested that we should "Ask not what your tool can do, ask what it can help you to do". IH Barcelona replied:

It seems to me that real innovation, revolution if you like, isn't going to come from tinkering with what teachers do or don't do, or from what teachers do with technology, but from what teachers get learners to do with technology.

Recommended | The other titles from Delta Publishing are well worth exploring. See also two excellent ones on technology — Going Mobile (Nicky Hockly and Gavin Dudeney) and Teaching Online (Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield).

On Twitter, as @Tom_IHBCN, I post a maximum of one thing a day which I think will be of interest to language teachers and/or learners.

8 assumptions you need to make about using classroom technology

Assumptions, in handwritten notes, explained below (just in case… 😉 !)

In July, I teach two face-to-face technology courses for local secondary school teachers working for the Education Department of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the dates of which have just been confirmed for this summer.

In doing the spring cleaning here on my blog, partly in preparation for the summer, I came across the image above, of handwritten notes I made about this time last year, on the assumptions I make about using — or rather not using — classroom technology.

For anyone struggling with my handwriting (!), here's what the list says, with the notes expanded and commented on:

  • It's NOT the teacher but the learner that's using the technology which, among other things makes it less stressful for the teacher and puts the focus on the task and interaction not on the technology. In other words, as far as possible, technology is something that should be used for language learning rather than language teaching
  • There are lots of things that technology has NOT changed, for example you will still want linguistic aims  and language practice — lots of language practice! If the use being made of technology induces a lot of clicking and passive watching, but not much communication and active use of language, then technology isn't moving us forwards, in other words!
  • All classrooms should be creative spaces — and because technology, including mobile phones, allows us to do things like create text and images (both photographs and video) and audio [see the posts on podcasting here on this blog], we should exploit those possibilities and have our learners create such things
  • Simple is better — by which I mean that I never attempt to do, or ask my learners to do, anything complicated with technology. I never edit audio or video (at least not for class), for example, and never ever waste class time having my learners do that. It's far better — from the learner's point of view — to rehearse properly and, if necessary, to re-record as the return on investment is so much higher

It's wrong to copy and paste!

  • It's wrong to allow  students to copy and paste from Wikipedia [etc]. In designing tasks for my learners to do that will require them to use technology, I try to ensure that the answer is ungoggleable and not to be found on Wikipedia. I also always point out that copy-and-pasting from Wikipedia (or anywhere else) is an automatic zero for any assessed work. Copy-paste-cut-quote-and-cite is fine, copy-and-paste is not — because it requires neither thought nor understanding, nor any manipulation of the language, which is where learning occurs.
  • It's wrong to steal images from Google Images — both for the teacher and the learners, that is. As far as the teacher is concerned, I believe we should use fewer, better images; and as for the learners, they have the technology in their pockets to take (and find) their own images, which are of far greater interest to them than 99% of what you could find for them on the Internet. Again, I always try to design tasks that cannot be illustrated with the aid of Google. A pet hate of mine: an imaginary webquest trip to London or New York, illustrated by theft.
  • Creative Commons images are also not a good idea, for the same reasons. A Creative Commons licence may solve your problem of copyright, but it's not making your classroom a creative space and, though it may provide a modest amount of pride in our search skills, is not providing the learners with any real sense of pride in their own project work — an essential ingredient of motivation ("We made all this!")
  • It's impossible (and counter-productive) to attempt to correct every mistake. One of the most frequently-asked questions I get: how do you correct all the errors learners make on places like blogs and Edmodo? The short, simple answer: I don't! As a teacher it's not primarily my job to correct every error that arises, as if errors were cockroaches to be stamped on. It's not my job to correct my learners' language, it's my job to make their language better, by providing help as much as "correction". Here's the long answer to the question.

As you can see from the illustration at the head of this post, these were originally notes handwritten on a sheet of paper taken from the trash bin. They were merely thoughts jotted down, here somewhat expanded, but never intended to be a complete list.

What have I missed, do you think…?

Amazing video on how to (not) motivate people

Here's a video of a TED Talk my daughter Isabel was telling me about.

The issues of motivation it raises are perhaps not directly related to language learning, though perhaps there is a connection between what is said and how you respond to what your learners say. If you don't respond to it at all, not even nod, perhaps you're suggesting (unintentionally!) that what the learner had to say was of zero interest to you…? And what effect will that have on their motivation?

With a fairly advanced class of adults (say, above FCE?), though, it might make for an interesting class discussion, which you might start by getting your learners to summarise and present what Dan Ariely is saying in his talk.

The talk is also interesting, I think, from a language teacher's point of view. How is our performance evaluated, by who, and what effect does that have on our motivation?