New content: Designed for tablets – Key exam and Technical English material

April 11th, 2015
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We have recently been asked by a client in the Middle East to design tablet-friendly supplementary material for Key exam preparation and Technical English courses at A1 and A2 level to be used in class in conjunction with the print books (Cambridge Objective Key, Pearson Technical English 1 and 2). The students will all have iPads on which they can access the material in class.

We have now published this material and made it available to all English360 members.

Designed for tablet use
There are many different task or activity types on English360. Many of these are suitable for tablet use as they make use of a tablets features such as dragging items, tapping, and zooming.

  • Dragging and dropping tokens: ordering words to make sentences, categorising words into groups, gap-fill
  • Tapping: matching, multiple choice, multiple answer, or highlight activities
  • Zooming: We used a lot of images, not only to make the activities look nice (and thus hopefully increase motivation), but also because learners can double-tab or zoom in an out of images to see more details if necessary.

There are also some short writing activities. Long texts can be challenging to write on a tablet. However, at this level, students only have to write short texts (words, phrases, short notes or email messages). Being able to write such short texts on tablets is a real-life skill, which the students might need in their jobs.

Each activity fits on one screen with no or minimal scrolling.

What does the material consist of?
Each unit is designed to last at least 60 minutes. Most practice activities are self-scoring and students work individually on these, which gives the teacher time to monitor and help where it is needed.

There is one short “public” writing task on each practice page. Similar to blog comments, these writings can be seen by the whole class, so that the students can read what the others have written, and the teacher can use easily monitor these and use them for extra activities.
The speaking tasks are mostly done in pairs, occasionally in small groups. They consists of information gap activities, role-plays and discussions.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 14.28.32

Purpose
The purpose of the supplementary material is to:

  • consolidate what has been learned / covered in each unit of the coursebook
  • motivate students to participate in class and thus hopefully learn better
  • help prepare students for the KEY exam (by mirroring KEY tasks / Papers).

Teacher-friendly
The materials are also designed to make integration of them into the lessons easy for teachers who are busy or who don’t have much experience with using technology in class. Everything the teacher needs is in the same folder as the course material. There are no Teacher’s Notes for each unit but one Teacher’s Guide for all the material (downloadable as PDF), which explains the purpose and the rationale of the tasks and using tablets, and provides practical help and tips on, for example, how to integrate the material and how to extend some of the tasks if there are early finishers or there is more time available for the whole class.

Rationale for using tablets
A little bit about the rationale of using tablets in class (There is more information on this in the Teacher’s Guide):

  • They allow for more variety in the lesson and thus hopefully motivate students to participate.
  • Teachers don’t need to book a computer lab.
  • Easier to integrate technology and the tasks into the lesson.
  • It gives teachers flexibility to choose when to use the materials: either integrate at different stages of the lesson (referring the reference table), or before starting a new unit, or even integrate some activities and have students do some at the end or at home.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 14.19.20

  • It allows for the integration of information gap activities, which are difficult to do in a computer lab, where students often sit side by side and can see each other’s screens.
  • It allows for mobility. Students can easily be reshuffled and allowed to work with different partners; they simply take their tablets with them.

Don’t have tablets?
You can still use the material in the computer lab, on regular computers or laptops, or students can complete some of the tasks at home.

Don’t use any of the course books above?
The materials can also be used without the print books or in conjunction with any other course book, the only limitation being that you cannot to refer to the reference table  to integrate the tasks in the lessons but would have to create your own table.

Want to find out more?
You can find the courses, including the Teacher’s Guide and Reference Tables here (in Resources):

Key (KET) exam preparation: Supplementary material [PART A]
Technical English A1: Supplementary material
Technical English A2: Supplementary material

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IATEFL 2013 Preview: No Flippin’ Idea

April 3rd, 2013
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What is flipped teaching? What is blended learning? What do learners do in class? What do they do at home?

These are some of the questions that, in my role as Learning Manager for English360,  I discuss with educators and the English360 team on a daily basis. My presentation at 2013 IATEFL Liverpool on Thursday 11th at 17.05 will share suggestions on creating individualised learning opportunities and shed light further light on the benefits of hybrid courses.

Liverpool Online

Increasingly, English language teachers are making their own content and their learners’ projects available outside the classroom. Not all learning and teaching is taking place at the same time, in the same place in a “classroom”. Teachers and learners are using web-based tools to share and connect during face-to-face lessons or after class, to expand horizons and to extend learning.  Whether using freely available informal web-tools or a dedicated LMS, together teachers and learners are turning traditional classroom roles, activities, coursebooks, and educational programmes upside down.

My “No Flippin’ Idea” session will showcase examples and briefly explore bottom-up co-created lesson ideas,  activities and jointly developed (non-linear) courses that are personalised and relevant to each specific learner.

I will highlight how the real “flip” in course design and delivery isn’t about new tools. I’ll show how it isn’t just about sharing a new video to watch before a face-to-face session or simply doing homework on a screen. Profitable, successful flips or blends depend on offering opportunities for discovery, co-operation, collective effort and interaction. It’s all about working together to develop knowledge, new levels of engagement and responsibility.

Cristian, Gaia and Giovanni - My third year English Language students at the Orientale University of Naples

Do you agree that making it flip not flop means valuing the humans at the centre of the educational process? How are you doing that? What are the challenges you have faced?

Please feel free to post your experiences as a reply here. Even better, come along to the talk and our stand (#50) to discuss in more depth.

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IATEFL 2013 Preview: Two approaches to ESP course design

April 1st, 2013
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This time next week, I’ll be on my way to Liverpool for the 2013 IATEFL conference. I’m really looking forward to it, not least because it’ll be a chance to meet up face-to-face with so many friends and colleagues from around the world.

liverpool Online

My own presentation, Two approaches to ESP course design is on Wednesday 10th at 16.25, as part of the ESP special interest group day.

ESP course design is one of my favourite topics – I could talk about it all day, but I’ll have to squeeze my ideas into half an hour. The talk is based on my experiences over three parts of my career: Firstly, when I was a teacher creating ESP courses for my own learners; then as Series Editor for the ‘Cambridge English for …’ series; and now as Editorial Director at English360.

In the first phase, I had my own way of designing courses, which I then refined and formalised while working on my books for Cambridge. It was very much a needs-based approach, with a strong focus on practical skills, functional language, situational dialogues and role-plays. I call this approach ‘English for‘, because learners are learning English in order to be able to do something specific.

I still believe this is a really powerful way of designing ESP courses, but in my time at English360 I’ve come to appreciate that it’s not the only way, or even the best way for all teaching situations. Very often, especially in academic contexts, learners need to raise their general level of English, say from A2 to B2. A pure ‘English for …‘ approach is great for practical skills, but isn’t ideal as a level-raiser. So a lot of good ESP teaching involves teaching English (and raising levels) in the context of a given ESP field. So I call this approach English through‘.

My presentation will explore how our choice of approach fundamentally affects everything we do in an ESP course, from the needs analysis, through the syllabus design and materials development, down to the actual teaching and assessment. Of course, many ESP courses include elements of both approaches, but I think it’s vital for teachers and course designers to balance them in an informed way, and to be aware that there are other ways of doing things.

Watch this British Council E-merging Forum interview (Russia Feb 2013) of me briefly describing the two approaches.

Anyway, I hope to see you at the presentation. I’ll also be at the English360 stand every day during the conference, so please come along and say hi.

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Mike Hogan on virtual meetings

February 23rd, 2012
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Are you using English360 in conjunction with real-time tools?

Do you have experience teaching in WebEx, Adobe Connect, or on Skype?

How can these virtual meeting environments be used with learners?

Our next Community webinar will be presented by Mike Hogan.

Mike is  a teacher trainer, author, and ELT consultant. He is experienced in virtual training using a range of synchronous and asynchronous platforms both with corporate clients and in teacher training sessions. He also moderates online workshops as part of the BESIG Online Team. Read more about Mike Hogan here.

Come along to our English360 Open Community Webinar to find out more on delivering lessons in real-time when learners are geographically dispersed or unable to attend face-to-face classroom lessons.

Register now to enjoy Mike Hogan ‘s expertise and experience of using virtual meeting rooms.

Send us an email to Register for the Community Webinar 28th Feb 13.00-14.00 CET

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Community webinars in September

August 12th, 2011
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Starting in September, you will be able to benefit from our Community webinars.

2nd Sept (16.oo -17.co GMT) English360 – the basics :

  • Browse content
  • Create course
  • Duplicate content
  • Use course with learners

Register for English360 - Community webinars in Webex,   on Eventbrite

13 Sept Sept (14.00 -15.00 GMT) English360  - Online / blended course design

  • basic guidelines
  • adding structure
  • allowing for flexibility
  • ongoing course design issues
  • folders and task patterns

Register for English360  - Course design in Webex,   on Eventbrite

29nd Sept (10.00-11.oo GMT / 12.00 – 13.00 CET) Giving learners feedback at a distance

  • negotiating correction strategies
  • monitoring performance
  • reviewing learner submission
  • giving feedback
  • feedforward strategies

Register for English360 - Giving feedback in Webex,   on Eventbrite

Before you join the meeting, please click here to make sure that you have the appropriate players.

For further information, please contact teachersupport@english360.com

Looking forward to meeting virtually!

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The Unplugged Conference, Barcelona

May 24th, 2011
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“Were you there for the first one?” people may well ask in years to come, when the Unplugged Conference has become a regular feature on the ELT conference scene, perhaps even the go-to event of the calendar.

Even before I’d touched down in the city where I trained as a teacher and spent the early years of my career, I had a sense that we might be in for something special. Organised by the IATEFL Teacher Development Special Interest Group (TDSIG) and sponsored and hosted by OxfordTEFL, we would start by observing a lesson using real learners of English from the local community, led by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, authors of the award-winning Teaching Unplugged. It would be a rare chance to see Scott and Luke put their theory into practice. We’d then have the chance to discuss the class with Scott, Luke and the learners themselves before an afternoon of small-group discussion organised around the principles of Open Space Technology. For those unfamiliar with Open Space (I admit that I was), it is an approach to organising events and meetings governed by four guiding principles and one law. The principles are:

1. Whoever comes is [sic] the right people.

2. Whenever it starts is the right time.

3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.

4. When it’s over, it’s over.

And the “Law of Two Feet” states: “If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.”

(For more on Open Space, get over to Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT for a great post.)

During my CELTA course, Scott came in to do a session on what he was then calling Dogme (Teaching Unplugged seems to be the preferred term now, but I’ve used them interchangeably in this blog post). The session stuck with me for two reasons: firstly because of a seemingly far-fetched anecdote that Scott told at the start of the session (that I’ve never forgotten but also never completely believed) about a teacher in Papua New Guinea who was forced to embrace materials-free teaching when the pack horse carrying all of the text books to the remote village where he was working fell into a ravine (or was it a river? Scott, please feel free to correct the details in my summary there; it’s been a long time since I heard the story!). To my chagrin (I should be more trusting), I’ve since learnt that the story is completely true. Secondly, I used the activity that Scott showed us in that session with many classes afterwards (it was based entirely around the contents of your learners’ pockets, and it never failed).

Looking back on it now, only two weeks into my teacher training and suffering from the input overload, lack of sleep, and adrenaline highs-and-lows of the CELTA, I think I made a critical mistake in my understanding of Dogme, a mistake that perhaps some of us continue to make: that it is all about what the teacher shouldn’t be doing. I came out of Scott’s CELTA session thinking that Dogme was basically just about not using coursebooks in your teaching. And I’ve since heard criticism leveled at unplugged teaching for the (mistaken) belief that it prohibits the use of technology as part of the learning process. But the Teaching Unplugged “guidelines” (for want of a better word) are not a list of what you shouldn’t be doing as a teacher. Rather, they are a set of useful principles based on the belief that the learner should be at the centre of what happens in the classroom: that lessons should be conversation-driven; that teaching should be “materials-light” (not, you’ll notice, “materials-free”); that lessons should focus on emergent language; and, as Luke put it on the day, that we should draw on “learners’ lives and learners’ language”.

When I later became a publisher, I followed the growing popularity of the Teaching Unplugged movement with interest (a lot of publishers do …). You might assume that ELT publishers consider unplugged teaching a threat to their business, but I didn’t see it like that. For me, the principles behind Dogme were a counterweight to my day job, a way of maintaining a balanced perspective. I could never be completely uncritical of Dogme, and I’m still not. But I couldn’t doubt its importance or deny that a lot of what it stands for appealed to me when I was teaching and still appeals to me now.

None of which is to say that I didn’t feel a *tiny* bit of trepidation about attending this conference. I’ve worked in publishing for longer than I taught. For a time I was in charge of a very well-known and successful adult general English course. I’ve written an ESP course book. My business card reads “Publishing Manager”. How would I be received by the other delegates? Would I be persona non grata? Would anyone else from the publishing industry attend so that we would have strength in numbers?

Of course none of the above turned out to be true (apart from the final point: there was no representation from ELT publishers — a shame, I think). The organisers and delegates welcomed me and showed interest in my perspective. And the more I reflected on it, the more I realised that I would have no qualms talking to a group of unplugged teaching advocates about what I do for a living. Apart from the fact that English360 isn’t a publisher (we’re a tool for teachers, a way for them to use and create learning content), I believe that what we do at English360 is very much aligned with certain elements of the unplugged teaching philosophy, especially in our “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” approach to materials development. At the root of what we do at English360 is the belief that learners and teachers know better than we do what they need most at this particular time, in this particular place, with these particular people. We can’t plan for every context that a teacher will end up in, but we can give them a tool to help them be better prepared for it: a platform for dynamic, flexible, personalised and localised course creation, a way of reinventing (dare I say “unplugging”) the coursebook.

But back to the conference. Scott and Luke did their thing, with the class of 16 learners sitting in a semi-circle, and forty-odd teachers watching attentively. To the students’ credit (and Scott and Luke’s), the large audience didn’t seem to affect the class dynamic. I won’t go into detail here about the class itself and the subsequent discussion and plenary (I’m sure great summaries of both will appear on other blogs), but it was electrifying to have the learners present for the post-class discussion, to hear their thoughts on being taught “unplugged”, to listen to them talking about their experience as learners.

A pause for a quick sandwich and a beer and then it was back to OxfordTEFL for the afternoon sessions. In the spirit of Open Space, it was up to us as delegates to decide what we’d like to spend the rest of the day discussing. We limited ourselves to six questions, each of which we would attempt to answer in a ten-minute presentation at the end of the day. I chose (unsurprisingly) to join a group discussing the question of whether the use of published materials could be compatible with an unplugged approach.

Despite being a small group (Principle 1: “Whoever comes is the right people”), the conversation ran and ran. We all agreed that the use of published materials was not at odds with Teaching Unplugged as such (in fact, it was, for many people, a reality of it): it just required an understanding that in teaching, as in all things, everything must be in moderation, meaning moderation in the use of published materials but also in the application of Dogme principles. When we presented our ideas to the rest of the delegates, we argued for this moderate, “non-dogmatic” approach to Dogme, and for a kind of eclecticism in our choice of materials and approaches. There are good published materials and bad published materials, just as there are good unplugged lessons and bad unplugged lessons. The key for the teacher is to know what will work best in this this context, with these learners.

Despite Principle 4 (“When it’s over, it’s over”), the day was over at exactly the time it was supposed to be, thanks to the organisational skills of Duncan Foord and his team at OxfordTEFL and the TDSIG. There’s an all-too-rare feeling you get as a group when you know that you’ve been part of something special, a kind of collective glow that sadly fades in the subsequent days. It reminded me of my CELTA, in fact. As the post-conference meal turned into post-conference drinks, we said our goodbyes and promised to come back next year and repeat the experience. (As an aside, Lindsay Clandfield made the excellent suggestion of using the “observed-lesson-followed-by-Open-Space-workshops” format as the basis for a “plugged conference” which would examine the use of coursebooks and technology in the same critical way.)

For me this was a benchmark conference, for its format, its content, and its participants. I left feeling energised and keen to deepen my understanding of Dogme, as a teacher, a teacher trainer and (whisper it!) even as a publisher.

Don’t miss it next year!

Some photos of the event courtesy of Graham Stanley.

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And the winner is….

April 17th, 2011
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Brighton Online
Thanks everyone for coming to the IATEFL workshop and for taking part in the raffle.
The workshop slides can be found here:

The winner of the top-prize (a six-month subscription to English360 for a teacher and their 6 students which  includes all 12 Grammar in Practice and Vocabulary in Practice titles from Cambridge University Press available in digital format on the English360 platform) is Femke Kitslaare.

Second prize goes to Giedre Budienne

Second prize goes to Giedre Budienne

Second prize (six Grammar in Practice titles) went to Giedre Budienne and third prize (the six Vocabulary in Practice titles) was picked up by John Arnold.

If you haven’t picked up your prize yet, please feel free to drop by stand 15 in the exhibition hall.

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Six Technology Things

April 9th, 2011
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Pete Sharma's plenary speech at EAQUALS Prague

Pete Sharma's plenary speech at EAQUALS Prague

Here’s Pete Sharma speaking at the EAQUALS annual conference for school directors yesterday. Pete’s plenary focused on Six Technology Things (with acknowledgement to Lindsay Clanfield!) – six statements, six technologies, six controversies and six practical ideas, including ideas for grammar, vocabulary and language skills. And ways in which learning management systems for language teaching – English360 in particular – were radically changing the way in which we teach and learn. In a show of hands, it was interesting to see that more than a third of the ninety people in the audience felt blended learning was the way to go, over face to face and purely online learning.

Annual Conference Prague 8-9 April 2011

Prague 8-9 April 2011

Yesterday, 8th April 2011, at the his plenary session on school management, George Pickering reinforced the message by saying bluntly that “English360 is fantastic!” His key message to school members present was that the secret of success lay “in customising the learning at low cost”.

An important conference theme  ‘Enhancing Classroom Language Learning: the Challenges for Teachers, Trainers and Managers‘, and many interesting questions being discussed one of which I’d like to copy and share here to get feedback from readers:

“What are the most useful and innovative resources available to learners to continue effective learning outside the classroom during and after their course?”

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News & Updates – managing “noise” online

September 9th, 2010
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With the constant stream of information that flows in on a daily basis managing this never-ending overload and carefully selecting what it is that you really want to read or find out about has become an important 21st century skill.  This applies whether you are keeping track of your social media feeds or are a teacher managing multiple courses online.

To help get more out of Twitter and channel the tweets I want to keep track of, I use Hootsuite .  With its powerful dashboard I can view the information I’m interested in more efficiently via tabs and  columns as well as check multiple accounts e.g vale24 or vale 360

hootsuite-dashboard

Other educators I know are keen users of TweetDeck which is also a “fast and easy way to experience Twitter”.  I also find Netvibes fantastic for collecting my favourite online content and accessing it all in one place from any web browser. I use it to aggregate news feeds, blog feeds, social bookmarks e.g. what my followers on Diigo are saving or talking about, secondary pop mail accounts I have and of course Facebook updates.

When using a web-based platform as an integral part of a teaching/learning programme, the same need arises. How can I be more productive and keep an eye on everything that is going on?

There is a lot to track when you use blended or online solutions for teaching; if you are overseeing or tutoring on multiple courses, you might need to access multiple course forums to post timely replies to learners. You might be receiving learner responses to your private feedback on their tasks or assignments and need to know whether comments have been added to pages that you have set up to increase learner interaction and exchanges. Obviously, going into each course to monitor this activity can be incredibly burdensome and time consuming for the busy educator so we are pleased to announce that we’ve just released a new widget on English360 which allows users to select their preferences for receiving these types of notifications.

For a school owner, that might involve tracking school memberships and new courses being created by school teachers. For teachers working collaboratively, receiving notifications on content that has been added, removed or published on the courses being designed can be extremely helpful in keeping everyone up-to-date on changes.

All users can modify and select their own preferences from their profile area by clicking on the Edit Notifications sub-navigation tab. The “News & Updates” notifications can be received directly on the platform from the Dashboard widget or via email.

notifications-settings

Select what suits you best and then enjoy your “News & Updates”. Let us know how you manage your streams of information, it’s interesting to compare notes.

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CC is for Customisable Coursebooks and Creative Commons publishing

May 18th, 2010
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Lindsay Clandfield over on Scott Thornbury’s blog in his guest post on C is for coursebook outlines what’s wrong with many coursebooks:

  • They all look the same.
  • They all follow the same syllabus.
  • The grammar is wrong or misleading.
  • Texts serve merely as a pretext to teach discrete language items.
  • Texts and topics are Anglo- or Eurocentric and/or promote a western consumerist ideology.
  • Texts and topics are safe, bland and vapid.
  • Coursebooks are too big.

The 50+ comments that the post has attracted to date have reiterated some of the criticisms being made by many educators around the world.

1.    It’s difficult even for a teacher to identify the aim of coursebook pages
2.    Learning is non-linear, by nature course books are linear.
3.    Language learning is a dynamic, idiosyncratic coursebook aren’t.
4.    Publisher-driven projects often have the wrong focus.
5.    Coursebooks are often artificial and a construct of “some other world”.
6.    Cost are often prohibitive.
7.    Sheer number of different coursebooks can be overwhelming.
8.    Content is very often inappropriate.
9.    Coursebooks can alienate learners from the process of learning English.
10.    Coursebooks often teach a fossilized form of English
11.    They can be overly prescriptive and descriptive (to the point of giving the learners ‘nothing’ to cling to).
12.    They are predicated on a linear and incremental progression through a (fairly arbitrary) sequence of discrete grammar items.
13.    Materials that have been devised for a global market cannot easily accommodate local – and personal – needs and interests.
14.    The whole process is very top down.
15.    Coursebooks are mostly written for teachers (for parents, and head teachers, and ministries and inspectors and exam bodies ) rather than student
16.    There’s a belief that ‘progress’ can easily be measured.
17.    Publishers are bound to produce what is authorised by the ministries.
18.    After 20+ years of market-led material people are tired of it.
19.    Don’t include enough unscripted dialogues featuring non-native speakers
20.    …. and the list goes on…..

    From the  50+ comments so far we can see some of the suggestions or ideas that need to be incorporated to make the ideal coursebook or course material/resources

    • The internet
    • More user-generated content
    • Make it authentic because it is set up such that the student creates the content
    • Adapt and change according to the teacher’s preference
    • Make it customisable
    • Allow teachers /students to add specific local content / their content
    • Integrate with self-publishing elements
    • Educators can work with major publishers rather than against them or outside of them
    • Throw educators’ support behind innovations
    • Push publishers to consider and incorporate more changes
    • Teach unplugged
    • Use the text book as a grounding and supplement it as is relevant to the learning styles and personalities of the learners

    At present the Cambridge University Press material in the system is All Rights Reserved with the setting others may use but not change. I would simply add, real shift is happening now as educators are sharing content too. It’s great to be part of a project that promotes Creative Commons (CC) and seeing authors or course providers selecting “Others may copy and change your work.”.

    English360 creative commons

    This is an important move forward and I hope more authors will come on board prepared to do just that so that the 360° degree perspective can evolve further.

    Material is currently being authored for the platform under the CC licence, that’s evolutionary I find!

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