Category: Uncategorized

On organizing ELT conferences and events

This is part three of a three part series on conferences. The first two parts looked at what attendees want and what what presenters want from ELT conferences. In this post I will share survey responses related to planning and organizing conferences or other events. If you click on the first post linked above you can find out about the background of this survey. Once again my thanks go to those who took the time to answer the questions (and he who helped created the questions). As might be expected there were less responses to the section of the survey related to organizing events. I hope and believe that the responses here might be of use to those planning events I share them with that in mind. Comments (including your additions) and questions most welcome.

As a conference organizer, how do you define your goals?

  • Forget about the “WOW!”, just get rid of the “Arrrrgh!”
  • Everyone should want to come back next year is one measure. Sometimes financial. Did we get enough people in to cover costs? But, ideally there should be a good vibe.
  • At the beginning of the process, I talk with the other planners about what we want to see as a result of the conference. Sometimes we start with problems or challenges that we see in our teaching environments. This helps us put together a conference theme and a list of possible speakers.
  • Looking at my aims.
  • With a team.

As a conference organizer, how do you determine how to allocate resources?

  • Get the basics (location / facilities / advertising / printing) covered and prioritise from there on the continuum from ‘Absolutely essential’ through to ‘Nice to have’.
  • According to regulations.
  • I look at budgets from previous conferences and then adapt them to the needs and the numbers of expected guests. The cost of the venue often determines how much room we have for other resource-demanding things.
  • Tough one. And one I’m not usually that involved in. Try to be fair to everyone as far as things like people who sign up commit early get get the spaces they deserve. But, also try to allocate some resources (presentation slots, features, etc) for people “on their way up” not only the “names.” But, you usually do need name “star” presenters too.

As a conference organizer, how do you evaluate proposals?

  • There are rubrics etc. but a lot of it comes down to a gut feeling at times. Usually have to deal with too many seemingly good proposals.
  • According to appeal and feasibility.
  • I create or borrow a rubric, which I distribute to the proposal vetting team, and when I am more organized, I also link to the rubric from the proposal submission form. Since I have never had a huge number of proposals to deal with, all of the reviewers give comments about all of the proposals. The comments are summarized and sent back to the presenters with requests for revision if necessary.
  • RRR – Recent, Relevant, Reliable: recent/new ELT info; relevance to the local ELT context; reliable presenters who are knowledgeable on the topic.
  • I wish I knew the answer…

As a conference organizer, how do you determine prices?

  • Always a negotiation. The past few years I have been on the side of “raise the rates” but that does have negative consequences too. In an ideal world, sky high rates for those who can afford them, but coupons, discounts or rebates to keep the community diverse.
  • We charge what we think people will be willing to pay. That is often determined by the prices of local conferences of a similar scope.
  • Estimate costs and divide by expected participants – compare with similar conferences.
  • According to cost and averages charges for similar events.

As a conference organizer, what, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge in preparing a conference? How have you addressed it (assuming it can be addressed)?

  • Sourcing great speakers.
  • Getting people to attend, promotion.
  • Getting help.
  • My biggest headache is fundraising because I hate, hate, hate asking for money. My second biggest headache is publicity because I am by nature much more talented at keeping secrets than shouting from rooftops. The best thing I can do with these challenges is work with a team. Either my teammates will compensate for my weaknesses with their own strengths or my fear of letting my teammates down will make the challenges seem less fearsome by comparison.
  • Getting the word out to as many people as possible, and even more so to the “right” people (people you want to have come who should be there but might not be if they don’t know or don’t know far enough in advance) as far ahead of time as possible, but not therefore lock everything down too far in advance. It’s a trade off.

Additional thoughts as a conference organizer:

  • No good deed goes unpunished. No matter what you do, people will complain endlessly, so once the opening words of the conference are uttered try to just enjoy it. There isn’t much you can do at that point to change the direction. But if you are enjoying it, others will too. Real actual issues of safety, execution, etc need attention, but try not to pay too much attention to the squeaky wheels. Much better to pay attention to someone, anyone else.
  • Have a nice day ~ : )

 

help with co-teaching

I would usually (if anything) put this sort of thing in the “Workshop materials” section of my blog (right there in the middle of the menu bar) but this time I figured I’d share it here. This main reason for this decision is my assumption more people would read it as a blog post instead of a page. Since I am doing this workshop tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to see if anyone had any advice or other problems to add. I will be sure to check for comments all day Sunday November 9th, 2014.  

I am not sure how much explanation is needed for these materials. Ha. I am not even sure exactly how (or even if!) I will use them but I imagine there is something about passing them around the room and changing roles as advice giver and advice receiver.  

 

advice

 

1) Dear co-teaching experts,

I need your help. I really want to change up my co-teaching approaches and try something different but I am not sure how to talk to my co-teacher about this. I think she might be pretty stuck into doing things the same way every time. I think I’d just like to experiment a little bit and try some new strategies. What shall I do? Thanks in advance for your help.

Bored in Boringdong


2) Dear co-teaching experts,

Hi! I am experiencing a problem with my co-teacher and I just don’t know what to do. Sometimes, well actually it is quite often, when I ask a question in class my co-teacher answers it! I guess he thinks he is trying to help but it is not really helpful at all for me because things I expected to take 10 minutes end up taking 3 minutes and then I am suddenly stuck for materials and activities. Of course the timing is a problem but the other problem is that students are somewhat robbed of the experience of trying to answer my questions. I am trying to elicit answer and activate schemas and all the things I am supposed to do as a good teacher. I don’t feel comfortable to confront him about this because I think it might hurt his feelings or cause a loss of face. What can I do? Any advice is appreciated!

Scared in Sueseong


3) Hello co-teaching experts,

I didn’t know where else to turn. I am writing to you about a problem I am having with my co-taught classes. My co-teacher and I get along very well and we have a great relationship. There is just one problem. My co-teacher often corrects me and gives me unsolicited feedback in the middle of class. It is so embarrassing! I am not sure I can take another day of this and I am afraid I might snap and cause our good relationship to fall apart. Any advice is requested.

Frustrated in Daegu


4) Co-Teaching Experts,

Please help me. I have a very small problem and I thought you could offer some advice. My problem is that I’d really like to try one of the 6 fantastic models of co-teaching I learned in an amazing workshop recently but I really cannot decide the right one for the right situation? What criteria should I use? What types of lessons are these models appropriate for? How do I know which model will be best for me? Which one is the best? How will I know? Please share some ideas with me and help me set some criteria for these decisions.

Cheers,
Enthusiastic in Seo-district


5) Dear co-teaching experts,

I have a sensitive issue and I need some help. I feel that my co-teacher does not treat me with respect. I feel like he is the main teacher and I am just a helper. I’d like to have a bigger role and do more to help the students but he seems happy enough to do 95% of the work. I don’t know how to approach him or what strategies to use to start the conversation but I’d really love to see a change here and to make a more balanced and hopefully productive classroom teaching situation. Please advise.


6) Hi experts on co-teaching,

I have a problem and need your help devising a strategy. You see, I am supposed to work as a co-teacher but I simply don’t have time to plan things properly. Ideally, I’d like to do team teaching with my co-teacher but I know this requires a lot of time upfront. What are some ways to make the maximum effect with a minimum of planning time? Also, do you have any advice on how to let my co-teacher know how busy I am without making it seem like I am avoiding him? I’d like to be a better co-teacher but I just don’t have time. Is there anything I can do in this situation?

Busy in Bokgu


7) Dear co-teaching experts,

I have a question. I am supposed to do co-teaching but I just don’t see the point in it all. It seems like a lot of extra effort without much payoff. I thought since you are the co-teaching experts you could fill me in on the benefits of this. What are the benefits? I am specifically interested in hearing the benefits for the students but I’d also like to hear the benefits for me as a teacher. If possible if you could tell me the benefits for me in terms of professional development as a teacher that would be great too. I hope you can help me see the advantages of co-teaching because right now I cannot see them at all.

Skeptical in Seoul


8) Hello co-teaching experts,

Everything I read about co-teaching says that one of the most important things I need to do is develop rapport with my co-teacher. I know what this word means but I honesty have no idea about how to go about doing this. Do you have any suggestions for me? My co-teacher is a Korean teacher of English and I’d really like to know if there are any ways that are generally good. I, of course, realize that everyone is different but I’d just like some tips to get me started. I’d like to develop a good relationship but I don’t think I know where to start. Please tell me your best hints.

Thank you,
Seeking jeong in Jung-Gu


9) Dear co-teaching experts,

I keep seeing and hearing this word “rapport” in everything I read about co-teaching. I know what this word means but I honesty have no idea about how to go about doing this. Do you have any suggestions for me? My co-teacher is a foreigner. A native speaker from _____. I’d really like to know if there are any ways that are generally good to develop rapport with native speakers. I, of course, realize that everyone is different and we are all our own individuals but I’d just like some tips to get me started. I’d like to develop a good relationship but I don’t think I know where to start. Please tell me your best hints.

Thank you,
Looking for Rapport


10) Dear co-teaching experts,

How are you? Things with me are generally great. I love my job. The only problem is that I don’t really know how to work well with a co-teacher. She is a nice person and is a hard worker and she seems to be trying to be a good teacher. The problem is that I don’t know when to intervene and help. Sometimes I think I cause a problem by not helping when he seems to want or need it. Other times I help when he looks to need it but he gets upset with this. I am just trying to help him and the students. I think the problem is that I am very much accustomed to doing everything for the students so I always do the same thing even if there is another teacher in the room. I can’t figure out the right moments to help and the right moments to relax. I am not sure exactly what my question is, co-teaching experts. Please let me know what you think about this situation and what I can do and what I can do with my co-teacher to solve this problem.

Intervening in Ilsan


11) Dear co-teaching experts,

I heard in a recent workshop that “One Teach, One Observe” is a good way to co-teach. This sounds interesting to me and I can imagine it being valuable. The problem is that I don’t know what to look for in the observations, and I don’t know what to ask my co-teacher to observe when I am teaching. Do you have any suggestions for this to get us started? I am really at a loss. Books or any tips at all will be received gratefully.

 

Live-ish Lesson Planning

All this talk of planning over on the #KELTchat  has gotten me thinking. It is nice to think about such things, I believe. These days, my schedule is such that I pretty much have only one class a week I’d consider to be an English class. My other courses are known as “seminars in simultaneous interpretation” (clicking here will give you some idea how these classes go). I also have some other courses that politely defy simple explanations but I will not mention them here, unless I just did. OK, back to the sole English class I have this term, then. It is called International Discussion and the general idea is a fluency focused course on local and global issues of importance.

The course is organized around topics. In practice this means each week features a new topic to discuss. I try to make sure students work with related vocabulary. Often (well 55% of the time) there are assigned readings (but rarely reading tasks) for students to read before class to help students frame the issues of a topic and to get them thinking about the topic. Around half the topics are chosen by me in advance of the course and the remaining topics are chosen by the group in one of the first lessons of the term.

I also try to focus on discussion strategies. This means that planning is often about marrying the topics to the the discussion skills. I have a number of discussion strategies laid out before the course and also get students’ input on what they need. Of course, I also notice what they need during the class and make plans accordingly.

My students are students in an English medium graduate school. They tend to be around upper intermediate, if you are into such labels. Sharing their opinions and having conversations on headier topics is not always easy for them. They tend to do very well with long turns. Interrupting (and other turn-taking strategies) and speaking without thinking time are challenges.

One important thing that often comes to my mind when thinking of these students is how they have no shortage of opportunities to use English but they do have a shortage of opportunities for getting feedback, or at least feedback in the sense of a teacher correcting and giving suggestions and such. The read and write and talk and have lectures in English but don’t have chances to get feedback on their production. The (only?) feedback they might outside of class get more is something like a classmate saying, “I don’t understand” in their daily English interactions. With this in mind I feel even more than I would in other classes that my duty is to give feedback on both fluency and accuracy. I feel less ok than I might otherwise be in other contexts in Korea to simply provide time and place for practice in English, as this is something my students tend to get quite a bit of, regardless of how loudly people say Korea is an EFL country or how perfectly they place it in the Expanding Circle.

Onto planning then. What follows is a mostly live account of my thoughts as I try to plan my class.

5:00 pm 
(Class time – 28 hours)
What shall we do in class tomorrow? I know the topic is North Korea. There has been a lot of DPRK in the news lately. How to slice things into manageable pieces.
I like the idea of explaining the situation to a well-meaning but clueless North American.
Imagine you meet a North American who asks you if you are North Korean and then asks you to talk about the differences.
A speaking task like this could help frame some of the issues and see where students are and where they need help.

Bz3Sw99IAAEiLBE

There he is. Photo via @W7VOA

5:05 
Am I really talking about lesson planning without mentioning objectives for the class.
Zero SWBATs so far? What will the neighbors think?

5:10 
Should I revisit my beliefs about lesson planning?
Should I make a shameless plug to a previous post about beliefs about lesson planning?

5:18 
I think one of the keys on my regular planning for this class is the balance between things like useful chunks for managing discussions, time spent on the topic of the week, feedback on English (including grammar, usage, pron and other stuff), and lexis (both old and newer) related to the topic. Last week I think we focused a bit much on lexis and not as much on the others. This week, I think there are some “go-to” terms related to North Korea and the whole situation they will need and want to know.

5:19
That KELTchat is interesting. Nice to see lots of people involved. I must admit it is somewhat distracting, however.

5:20
I remember one student getting a bit stuck when admitting he didn’t quite follow a classmate and attempting to ask for clarifications two weeks ago. I think he didn’t have much experience with this. I think this is something that we will have to focus on and play with in the next few weeks. That and interruptions.

When I think about interruptions I often get my brain a bit twisted around because I don’t want to say that the American way is the way to do it and nor do I want to insist that students interrupt each other all the time. On other hand I want to make sure students can interrupt as they wish.

5:29 
I suppose I could just choose all the topics myself or match discussion skills to topics earlier in the term. This would prevent this sort of day-before-the-lesson-concern. That said, I don’t mind it so much and I like the idea of some flexibility. I think it would be too much flexibility to have to worry about choosing a topic and the more languagey stuff each week.

5:36
These days I am very much into the idea of using material created by one class of students for another class. I toyed with the idea of trying to use some stuff created by previous students (this stuff) but I don’t see much value in it for tomorrow.

5:50
It has been 14 minutes since I thought about tomorrow’s class.

5:55
Planning, eh?

5:56
Dinner time. Yep, that is the ticket. I need to eat and then I can focus.

6:32
Ok, now I am ready. Surely my brain will work properly now. Time to focus. Let’s get down to business.

6:36
It is too quiet. What is on TV?
Oh, awesome. CSI. I love that show.
(Note: I actually don’t like it)

That Grissom is a clever fellow.
How would he handle this lesson plan?

Grissom.
Griffin.
Grissom.
Griffin.
Weird.

gilgriss

Griss.

7:04
This is silly. I need to get to work. The sooner I get to work the sooner I can relax.

7:15
Words and phrases and paraphrasing? Yeah I think so.
Strategies? Yes.
North Korea? Yes, for sure.
General questions? Ok.
Summarizing? Explaining to an outsider? Probably.
Mini 6 party talks? Nah.

7:20
When talking about teaching in Korea I have seen lots of advice like “Don’t talk about North Korea.” I think this might be fine advice in many context, but in mine with these student I think it is something they will need to be comfortable talking about.

7:32
Damned insert key messing everything up here. What am I to do?
I googled and nothing helped. I might have to restart the computer.

7:40
This used to be easier without blogging about it. Like last week.

8:20
I found some materials I used previously on this topic. Interesting stuff there including questions around the topic and some language.

8:23
Cool. I just remembered there is a new FlashmobELT lino wall from the recent KOTESOL conference.
For more information on FMELT you can click here.

8:32
I think I will put this planning on hold for 90 minutes or so.
Gosh, when I get back to it will be less than 12 hours to class time.
In the meantime I will be on ELTlive talking about…wait for it…lesson planning.

10:10
If I get into some deep psychological shit thoughts I can examine my procrastination. Maybe it is based on my thought class will likely be fine as there are limited disasters these days. Of course not every lesson is wonderful but things tend to work out reasonably well in the end. I think if I were faced with the potential of disaster I’d be more motivated at the moment.

That said, I do not believe that teachers instinctively know when their lessons or plans have gone well. I think it takes collecting feedback and measuring students progress to have much of an idea on this. And reflection beyond “that went well enough.”

10:15
Class is in less than 11 hours. This is the motivation I need.

10:16
*Checks notes from last week.

10:17
Ahh to hell with it. I will finish planning in the morning. Yeah, if I wake up early and plan it will be better. It will be fresh in my mind and that way I will actually be more ready.

10:28
I am nervous about not being ready for tomorrow.

10:33
I am glad my plans these days are neguices free but I wish I were a bit more focused. I will publish and close this.
I’ll let you know if tomorrow’s class is a disaster.

#ELTYAK: Talking EdTech with my students in Korea

On a random Wednesday at some point the last ten weeks I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do with a class of future interpreters, who are in the first year of a two year graduate program. As I was considering this question I saw an invitation to talk tech from eltjam. They listed some questions regarding tech use and I thought the questions might be a nice intro into discussions on autonomous learning and summer plans for improving English and technology in general. The good people at  eltjam listed 11 questions and before that there were some general discussion questions loosely focused on Sugata Mitra’s talk at IATEFL this year (and maybe the ensuing debate). Before starting with either set of discussion questions I cued up some Mitra with a few comprehension questions. It was starting to feel like a real planned lesson.

We talked about the following questions as a whole group (four students and me) after students had discussed them in pairs. It was a mix of me interviewing people and nominating speakers and a more free flowing discussion.

  • Do you like working without a teacher?
  • Would you enjoy working in a small group with a computer (ie a SOLE)?
  • Would you like English help from my Mum (ie a grandma)?
  • When do you think your English improves most: in class or outside?

Students liked the word mum vs. mom, by the way. They thought it might be nice to talk to random grandmas they didn’t know but also wanted language and teaching experts. For their field as potential conference interpreters they pointed to history and culture as very important things and felt random grannies in the cloud could be helpful for this. They also liked the idea of potentially cheering up or giving company to someone. There was some concern that the elderly might talk in old-fashioned ways or might not pronounce things accurately or quickly enough. There was also the worry grandparents might not understand the students well. The consensus seemed to be that discussion partners in the cloud might be good as a supplement but not as the primary way of learning.

As a group they were largely pro-teacher (and not, I believe, because I was the person asking). They thought it was good to have someone devoted to the task of helping them learn. They placed a high value on trust and reliability and thought maybe a stranger wouldn’t have these things. They liked the idea of having experienced and trained teachers.

The students thought the ideas of SOLEs was okay and said they already do a lot of work on their own in groups and are quite capable of choosing tasks they need to do. My impression of their take on the SOLE idea was that it was nothing new or revolutionary and the impression I got was they felt “Of course students can get together to do tasks with the help of technology.”

They came back to the idea of a teacher being helpful and important, in order to keep students on task and to provide expert feedback. They said it is too easy to be distracted when working in small groups without tangible goals or tasks. They also suggested it is very nice to have a teacher around when they get stuck or misunderstand something. It is nice to know if you are on the right track, they said.

I mentioned distraction above and this was very much a key issue for the students. They were worried too many apps or too many sources or too much going on might distract them from their goals. I got the sense that doing and using lots of tools seemed a bit scattershot to them and they’d prefer to work with just a few quality things.

My students said they preferred and believed in a mix of in and out of class learning. Some of the tools they mentioned as most useful were online dictionaries and apps, TED talks, NPR podcasts, lectures from EBS, and newspapers online (with and without accompanied audio). They preferred things that had a connection to Korea but said this is not necessary. They said they don’t like to pay for apps or materials because there is so much out there for free and they can find the free or pirated versions quite easily.

I was curious about smartphones being used for studying here in the most wired country on earth and they said they didn’t do so very often and neither did their friends or siblings. Smartphones are mostly for fun. The main educational uses were podcasts and dictionaries. They said they didn’t know much about apps for learning English that were made outside of Korea. This matched with my perceptions about not so many Korean students using apps for improving their English.

They were also not so hot on the idea of social media for improving English. Many of them had Facebook before they were asked to make an account for another course. They didn’t seem to see the point of social media for improving their English. I took a few minutes and shared who I think Twitter could be super useful for students in their situation. I saw some nodding but I think this would take a bit of nudging (or devoting class time to it.)

I enjoyed the conversation and got a lot out of it. I hope and believe the students did too. It looked like they enjoyed hearing the strategies and tools their peers employ. The class flew by and at the end I asked the students to answer some of the other questions from eltjam. Their (occasionally edited just for clarity and flow) responses are below.

  1. Apart from textbooks, what do you use outside of class time to help you learn English?
    Ted Talks, Good Morning pops (app). 
    Sometimes novels or short stories or movie scripts/scenarios.
    Watch TED Talks and speeches and EBS World News. Recently Freakonomics.
    Radio, apps (Ipad), newspapers.
    EBS programs. 
  2. What technology do you use to learn English when you’re not in school?
    Smartphone apps and computer websites.
    Websites-google to find English texts.
    Apps-Podcast, TED, Umano, dictionaries.
    Websites-Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal. 

    Googling, dictionary apps, EBS program, NPR, podcasts. 
  3. Why do you use them?
    Because they are more interesting than textbooks and more practical.
    Because speakers normally use good English. Basically I believe their English is good enough for me to learn grammar, words, and also for me to memorize because they are publicly giving a speech.
    The two websites (Huffpo and WSJ) provide both Korean and English scripts.
    Podcasts are good for listening to fun programs for free.
    TED is good for learning the structure of speeches and various information from various fields.
    They are reliable and I can access them any time. 
  4. How do you know if they are helping you learn?
    I don’t know exactly but friends’ or teachers’ positive comments are helpful.
    I sometimes find myself using the expressions I picked up.
    I can learn various expressions and use them in interpretation.
    Because Native Speakers teach or speak and the teachers are qualified and professional. I learn new expressions.  
  5. Do you use them in class?  What technology do you use in class?
    Oxford Dictionary (English-English), Nave Dictionary (English-Korean), Google Search (to find out appropriate collocations).
    Yes, we use Ted Talks sometimes and googling for translation.
    Yes, WSJ, dictionary and TED apps.
    English dictionary app or googling. 
  6. What language is your phone and things like Facebook set to?
    Korean.
    Korean.
    Korean.
    KOREAN. 
  7. What do you think about using technology in class?
    If properly used it would be very helpful but if too much is used it will distract you.
    I think it’s necessary sometimes. Since we are learning interpretation skills, we need more practice rather than apps in class.
    Sometimes good but usually some PowerPoint or screens make my eyes tired. I have to protect my eyes. And they are boring. 
  8. What English skills do you think technology can help you with?
    Listening. I often listen to TedTalks but I think face-to-face conversation is better to improve one’s speaking skills.
    Listening.
    Fluency and vocabulary (through dictionaries).
    Listening (especially through TED and NPR). 
  9. Would you like to do homework, or communicate with your class, on the train home?
    Yes. While commuting I listen to podcasts (Good morning pops app) or read some English materials.
    Yes, but not online. Face-to-face.
    I drive so I can’t do homework in my car.
    Class is enough. After class I have to review on my own. 
  10. Do you study English outside of class with other students?  If so, do you use any technology to do this?
    Yes, searching for materials and listening to dialogues or speeches.
    Skype and KakaoTalk.
    Yes, I use an Ipad to practice interpretation.
    Yes. Listening to TED or speeches together. 
  11. Is there anything you want to do with technology and learning English, but can’t?
    With technology including Skype or Facetime I can talk or converse with someone who speaks English. So, technically, I can. But, in fact, I can’t because I don’t have enough time.
    I don’t know what I need. If there is a cool app I would use it.
    No, I have a lot of stuff I have to study. 

It seems that their answers clearly show their specific interests, goals and challenges but I hope their answers are helpful on a more general level too. Thanks very much for reading. Please be sure to see the follow up post on eltjam about what students want from edtech. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask my students in the fall I will more than likely be happy to do so.

 

 

Celebrating my Twitterversary by Celebrating my PLN

At the 2011 KOTESOL International Conference I had the great pleasure to see an amazing presentation by Chuck Sandy.  You can see it here. I will wait.

As @JosetteLB details, Chuck spent a brief moment in time talking about Twitter in relation to community. He encouraged the audience to join Twitter. Because Chuck’s presentation was so powerful and I was so inspired by his talk about community I decided to give it a try. This experiment was done with the “healthy skepticism” that some people consider typical of me. I treated it very much like an experiment and gave myself a month. If I didn’t love it and get a lot out of it I would be done.

Well, here I am  a year (and 7,000 tweets) later and I am ready to say that I am a believer. I fully consider the experiment a success and I am thrilled with the results. I am now part of an amazing and dynamic community (or perhaps part of many communities) online. It has been a fantastic experience.

This is not to say that it was always perfect. I can say that I surely experienced my share of frustrations being on Twitter including things like:

  • asking a question and getting no response
  • feeling that my questions were belittled by others.
  • feeling that others didn’t fully read my thoughts before judging them
  • the tyranny of 140 characters
  • making crazy typos
  • the speed and chaos involved in Twitter chats
  • my phone battery dying as a result of too many tweets
  • lack of sleep as a result of playing on Twitter late into the night

Even with these mostly minor annoyances the experience has been overwhelming positive. I think the main reason is the incredible people I have met on Twitter since I joined. One day, while thinking about this amazing group of people that I have met I thought it would be fun to do a Pecha Kucha talking about some of the people I met on twitter. With some encouragement from others I finally decided to go through with it. The video is below. PLN, by the way, stands for Personal Learning Network. Rather than define it, I thought it might be helpful to just share some people in mine.

By choosing just a certain amount of specific people, this is necessarily limiting. That was not my intention. I think it is a bit crass/rude/strange to just choose a few people but I felt that talking about some people was better than talking about no people. I apologize to all the other wonderful people that I didn’t talk about. Another thing to keep in mind is that people listed are people I didn’t know last year and didn’t meet face to face before I met them on Twitter. Here is the video.

I truly hope I captured everyone and everything accurately.
I also want to mention that this was my first PK!

Some additional notes:

I feel like I didn’t do @ben_naismith justice because he never actually said that he was against ICQs. He just wrote a brilliant blog post about them. His post included what I think  is the best line I have ever seen in an ELT blog. You have to click here to see it (it’s the first line).

Hanieh (@haniehak) is pronounced /hʌnɪe/

I am sure I missed something else, so I apologize for that as well.

Thanks to everyone for making this such a special year.
#Gratitude

Special thanks to go @josetteLB for encouraging, recording, editing, posting and probably 10 more things.

Finally, for those of you that wanted to add people in the PK but didn’t quite manage to type out the handles, here is the list.

@breathyvowel
@AlexSWalsh
@AnnLoseva
@avafruin
@BarryJamesonELT
@Ben_Naismith
@brad5patterson
@MrChrisJWilson
@seouldaddy
@haniehak
@kevchanwow
@pterolaur
@teflerinha
@SophiaKhan4
@tonygurr
@vickyloras
@yitzha_sarwono
@chucksandy

“South Korea is an EFL situation”

Since Korea is an EFL situation I cannot use authentic materials. *

Since Korea is an EFL situation I have to use more authentic materials.

Since Korea is an EFL situation I must speak English in class as much as possible because I am the only source of English that students get.

Since Korea is an EFL situation it is imperative that I give grammar explanations in Korean.

Since Korea is an EFL situation I have to focus on mostly grammar.

Since Korea is an EFL situation I should’t focus on grammar.

Since Korea is an EFL situation my students can’t really use English.

That might work in an ESL situation but it wouldn’t work in Korea. Korea is an EFL situation.

I have heard similar statements numerous times from teachers in Korea. When I hear such statements I often can’t help but think that the speaker is showing off their hard-earned TESOL (jargon?) knowledge. I also can’t help but think they are making excuses or justifying the status quo or what they do or want to do.

In my last post we explored terms like ESL, EFL, TESOL, and so on and now I find myself wondering about all the truisms of “EFL” and how true they actually are.  It seems to me sometimes labeling the situation as “EFL” or whatever can sort of circumvent truly thinking about the students and their true  needs and abilities.

With the internet, movies, global travel, and all the Korean students that have experience living abroad as well as a multitude of other factors I am not sure how well all the statements above hold up to scrutiny. While I can agree that Korea meets the criteria usually applied to be an EFL situation I am unsure what that really means in practice, especially when considering the wide range of contexts that ELT professionals in Korea find themselves in.

*Here is the #KELTchat  summary on authentic materials

Confused about ESL ELT EFL TEFL TESL ESOL TESOL in Korea

Recently, when giving feedback on something written for English teachers in Korea I told the writer that it would probably be better to say “ELT” instead of “ESL” in a sentence that was originally something like “It is so nice to connect with other committed ESL teachers.”

A few days later I saw a blog post where a different author wrote something like, “If you want to improve your ESL lessons in Korea, you will need to get the right EFL books.”

Color me confused.

Ok maybe I wasn’t that confused.
(#ELTpics pic by @VictoriaB52)

Generally being a proponent of ELF (English as a lingua franca) and World Englishes I still had to wonder about the use of the acronym “ESL” for the Korean context. My understanding is and was that ESL (even if it is an outdated concept) still refers to countries in which English is the main language. Of course, determining such things can be messy and English is extremely important in Korea but I think people would be hard-pressed to call Korea an ESL situation.

The uses of “ESL” above got me thinking….

1)    Was I being pedantic? (This is a charge that I will willingly accept at times)

2)    Would readers judge the authors for using the term “ESL” in this way?

3)    What is the big deal anyway?

4)    Do these distinctions still matter?

I will leave the first 2 questions up the reader but I am not certain how much these distinctions matter much anymore. I am not saying that we would teach necessarily teach the same way or the same things in Seoul and New York City but I don’t know that making broad assumptions about students and “the way” to teach them based on this (false?) EFL/ESL dichotomy is the way to go.  Let’s consider some scenarios. Which of these sounds most “ESL-ish?”

Scenario A
The class is a conversational English class in a graduate school in Seoul and there are 10 students and 5 of them are Korean. The rest of the students are a mix of Chinese, French, Russian, and Swiss, One of the Korean students has never left Korea and another one went to high school and college in Canada. English is the main language of communication in the graduate school (meaning that all their classes are conducted in English).

Scenario B
30 Korean college students go to Boston for 2 intensive weeks in the summer. They mostly study TOEIC prep and vocabulary but also have some excursions around town. They speak Korean with each other for the majority of the time when they are not in class and don’t have much contact with the locals.

Scenario C
30 Korean college students go to an English camp in Korea where they study English all day every day for a month. The camp’s policy is “English Only” and students are given penalty points if they are caught speaking Korean. The main focus of the camp is “survival English” in order to live and survive in an English speaking country.

Scenario D
In Manila, 10 Korean students study in a class with 3 Japanese students, 3 Chinese students and 2 Vietnamese students. The class is mostly focused on conversation skills and vocabulary.

Are some of them more “ESL-like” than others? Is it just based on the location where the course is offered? Is there more to it?

Other questions include:

When would you use “ESL” and what would you mean by it?
When would you use “EFL” and what would you mean by it?
When would you use “TESOL” and what would you mean by it?
When would you use “ESOL” and what would you mean by it?
When would you use “ELT” and what would you mean by it?

(Please don’t send links about terms or inner-circle/outer-circle stuff…I am mostly concerned with how you would personally actually use the terms)