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 (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.
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.
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?”
This is my first blog post for English 360 since I joined the team in the summer, but I plan to blog pretty regularly from now on.
Last weekend I attended the excellent BESIG conference in Bielefeld, Germany. BESIG, of course, being the Business English Special Interest Group of IATEFL. It’s always a great conference – my favourite of the year – and this year was no exception. The best thing about it, and this goes for all conferences, I suppose, is the networking. I’ve never been a great one for ‘rubbing elbows’ and mingling, but the nice thing about BESIG is that it’s so easy to make friends there. But in fact most of my BESIG friends are people I’ve met through discussion forums, blogging and social networking. (I could add tweeting, but I’m possibly the world’s least active tweeter … which I hope to rectify one day soon).
If you want to get involved (and meet some great people) I strongly recommend BESIG’s Yahoo group, which is always lively and useful. (You don’t need to be a member of BESIG to join, but you’ll need to set up a Yahoo! account, which takes minutes). BESIG also has a group on LinkedIn, which is a great way of building contacts. Finally, there’s also a BESIG Ning group, which is another way to get to know people. None of these will cost you any money – always an important incentive for me.
Anyway, I arrived in Hannover airport on Friday evening and was delighted to find I was sharing a car to Bielefeld with Mark Powell, the plenary speaker at the conference and one of my ELT heroes. I’ve just written the teacher’s notes for his latest book, Dynamic Presentations, so I felt a bit like royalty at the conference (not that anybody else cares about a lowly teacher’s book writer!)
We arrived at the conference just as the opening ceremony was finishing, so we missed the amazing news that English 360 had won the David Riley Award for Innovation in Business English and ELT. But the room was still buzzing from the news, and my English 360 colleagues were still grinning and a bit shell-shocked, I think.
The meal and networking event on Friday evening was excellent, and a great chance to catch up with old friends, meet some new ones, and even do a bit of business. If only there were such an event on the Saturday evening too – for me, this is what the BESIG conference is all about, but there just wasn’t enough time to chat to everyone I wanted to see.
Saturday morning started with an explosion of energy and good ideas from Mark Powell, who was talking about Lean Language: Streamlining Business English. In his new book, he mentions the importance of steak and sizzlein a presentation. Steak is the meaty part, the stuff that you learn and take away from a presentation. The sizzle is the excitement, the energy, the showmanship of a presentation. Think of the experience of a barbecue, where the smell and sound of the sizzling food is just as important as the food itself. A presentation that’s all steak will be boring. A presentation that’s all sizzle will be fun but ultimately not very satisfying. Needless to say, Mark’s session had plenty of both. The audience was roaring with laughter almost all the time, but there was also plenty of meat to get your teeth into (with aplologies to vegetarian readers). I strongly recommend watching Mark’s plenary here – the video’s not available at the time of writing, but I’m assured it’s coming very soon.
The rest of my day was pretty much mapped out for me – I attended the sessions I had a personal connection with. First I went to Mark’s second session , on presentation skills, which was every bit as brilliant as the first session. I also attended Nick Robinson and Mark Ibbottson’s session “From Marketing to Engineering: effective ESP teaching“, which was excellent. Nick and Mark have both written books for my series, Cambridge English for … (see image below), and they showed how to approach the same topic, high-performance electric cars, from two completely different perspectives, Marketing and Engineering, and how this illustrates some important principles in ESP course design – a particular interest of mine.
Afterwards, I went to Cleve Miller’s session on Performance-based Business English: Boosting ROI for both students and HR. This was also very thought-provoking: by focusing on particular performance events (such as an upcoming presentation or business trip), we can make our teaching much more effective. I won’t go into detail here – that’s something I’ll leave for Cleve to expand on in this blog.
My final session of the day was Ros Wright’s session on Nursing English: The Ultimate ESP challenge. (Ros is one of the authors of Good Practice, an excellent medical English course which is available on English 360). This is a field I’ve done a lot of work in recently (as editor and presenter, not, you’ll be pleased to hear, as an actual nurse). The topic was very similar to the things I was talking about at last year’s BESIG conference: the huge challenges facing nurses with low-level English in extreme situations. Ros focused on communication skills such as active listening and use of lay language, which can make all the difference in the work of a nurse. It seems that nursing is every bit as much about communication as a therapeutic skill as it is about medicine.
That was all I managed on the first day. My head was very much full as I tried to find my way back to the hotel. (Despite having a map in my pocket, I still managed to get hopelessly lost). In the evening, we had a nice get-together with the Cambridge University Press team and the English 360 team. It was nice for me to be in both camps: I was there as a Cambridge author, but it was also a good opportunity for me to get to know many of my English 360 colleagues, who I’d only ever met on Skype before. The global village we’re all becoming part of is wonderful, but there’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face.
The next day, Sunday, wasn’t very productive for me: I had my presentation in the last slot, 12.05, which meant I spent the whole morning preparing, practising, photocopying and generally getting stressed. I did manage to have some good conversations in the book exhibition, but I’m afraid I didn’t make it to any sessions.
My session seemed to go well. I was talking about Open-Source ESP, i.e. focusing on issues connected with sourcing authentic materials for ESP courses. It was a workshop, so I was delighted that the audience really got into the swing of things and offered plenty of good ideas of their own. I’ll have to write up my presentation in this blog in the coming weeks, so I won’t go into any detail now. But I will show a photo that Valentina took of me in full flow, talking about my diagramming technique for teaching contract-writing skills to lawyers.
Anyway, I’ll leave it there. It was a great conference, in terms of both professional development and networking (or rather, meeting up with friends). I’m really looking forward to next year’s event … in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
While at BESIG 2010 in Bielefeld, Germany, at Pete Sharma‘s Pre-conference event on “Business English materials in the digital age: what’s new?”, the English360 team are showcasing how to incorporate learner-generated content in blended learning programmes and demonstrating how Cambridge resources can be personalised.
Here’s a short video that explains the essence of English360 (made for us by the great folks at Atelier Transfert).
The International House 50th anniversary conference on “Biodiversity in ELT” got off to a great start today in Rome, Italy.
“2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity – established by the United Nations to increase worldwide awareness of biodiversity and its importance, and to enage more people in its conservation.”
During Margaret Horrigan’s great presentation on Biodiverse Teaching and her learning activities on the theme of “shoes” (see also her article on If I were in your shoes… from the IH Journal) she shared many super ideas on how to promote cultural awareness and sensitivity through respect for what is different among peoples.
The conference presentations will be shared on the IH wikispaces http://ihmanzoni.wikispaces.com/
I have also added mine to slideshare embedded here for your convenience
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
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.
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.
- 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.”.
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!
It seems Spring is full of conferences and as we reflect or share our thoughts on what makes a “good” conference, I know that for me it’s about the opportunity of meeting online “connections” face-to-face. There’s a great buzz from human smiles and human minds exchanging ideas. It’s wonderful to be able to bump into people you might otherwise never meet.
Although online conferences such as the Virtual Round Table – which has just hosted its second event - are powerful and save on travel time, there is less chit chat over morning coffee or time to sit down and speak to people individually.
At TESOL Spain, held in Lleida in March we bumped into Ken Goméz plugging his wonderful notebook, that was a meaningful start to a super event. Since then, I’ve kept in touch by email and would like to share an interview on the Enlano English Learner Notebook project that Ken introduced us to.
Valentina: What are the benefits for learners using English Learner Notebook?
Ken: The main benefit is that the students will have an organised and structured notebook, this will help immensely when revising for exams or when looking for specific material already covered. It also offers sections such as the vocabulary by topic spider diagrams which students may otherwise not bother doing, and which is an incredibly useful tool.
Valentina : What is the English Learner Notebook (ELN)?
Ken: As the title suggests this is a notebook for learners of English as a second language. The aim of the notebook is to help students take effective and organised notes. This is achieved by dividing the notebook into specific sections for the students to note down the relevant information using pre-designed templates.
Valentina: What are some of the ways in which the ELN differs from an “ordinary” notebook?
Ken: At first sight the obvious difference is that the English Learner Notebook is divided into sections each with its own pre-printed design and each page numbered. There is also a short reference section at the back (grammar glossary, verb tense overview, phonetics etc.) for students to consult.
Valentina : How do you see the English Learner Notebook fitting in with digital vocabulary learning aids e.g collaborative mindmaps or online flashcards?
Ken: E-learning is obviously here to stay and a very powerful tool which should not be overlooked even by the traditionalists. I see the English Learner Notebook complementing this process. The student has the opportunity to note down for future reference the most relevant information which they gain from the e-learning sessions, as in a traditional learning environment. The fact that the student has to physically write down information also helps with the retention of that information.
Valentina: Who is involved in the “Enleno” project?
Ken: Enleno is very much a personal project which I developed while studying a CELTA course at the Hyland Academy in Madrid. I saw the need for students to take effective notes and decided to do something about it. The content of the notebook is by Catherine Morley who was one of my tutors on the course. Some friends of mine, ZAC design, helped with the layout and design. I am now in the process of getting the product out into the market. The notebook was on show at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate at the English Language Bookshop and further details on the English Learner Notebook are available at http://enleno.com/
You’ll have an ELT teaching background, copy editing experience – previous knowledge of conversion from print to digital would be an advantage – an eye for detail and will be something of a perfectionist. You’ll need to be competent, confident and comfortable working in a Web environment as the work involves on-screen editing and online communication – we don’t work with proofs and we mostly talk to each other on Skype. The projects and number of hours can vary, so you’ll be expected to be flexible and happy to take on new projects at short notice. We have a dynamic and communicative English360 team that you’ll be required to co-ordinate with, so you’ll need to be comfortable communicating and being contactable online. As well as being an active team member, you’ll also need to be able to work independently and take the initiative when required.
The work is essentially copy editing and carrying out QA on ELT material that is published on the English360 platform. This involves ‘traditional-style’ copy editing (spelling, fonts, layout etc) as well as testing the interactive activities as a user (learner and teacher) to make sure that they work. Part of the editing process requires reporting any problems or issues promptly and clearly using the Web platforms that we have in place for this. You will also be required to document the work done and to keep the team up-to-date with project progress. Your role may also involve reporting on the quality and appropriateness of user-generated content. Liaising with the English360 team on all of the above is an integral part of the role. The work is freelance, with the number of hours dependent on the English360 workflow; however a minimum commitment of 25 hours per week is required initially. As the work can be done remotely, your location isn’t important – but a reliable, fast internet connection is.
Please send a copy of your CV and letter of application to jobs at english360 dot com – Closing date 1st May 2010.