Monday, 14 April 2014

IATEFL 2014: Hugh Dellar (Twenty things in Twenty years)

I am still writing posts about the talks I got impressed by when following IATEFL 2014 in Harrogate online. One of the most vivid presentations in my opinion was that of Hugh Dellar. I have already used some ideas of his to illustrate my points in talking to people about teaching and learning English. That means that most of the ideas presented by Hugh Dellar  found support in my heart and I would like to share my impressions here.

I was lucky to meet Hugh Dellar face to face when he was giving his presentation in our city of Yaroslavl, Russia. I was grateful to him for his new coursebook which I was able to use in class and my students loved it. I started teaching using  the course Outcomes Advanced and it turned out to be just what my Advanced group needed. Hug Dellar's talks are always emotional, humorous, easy to understand. 

So let me introduce Hugh Dellar to those who haven't heard about this wonderful teacher and teacher trainer, though I believe there are not so many people like that. Hugh Dellar is currently based at the University of Westminster in London. He is the author of a number of course book including my favoutite Outcomes. He is the founder of Lexical Lab which he briefly described in his interview at IATEFL 2014. Hugh Dellar advocates the ideas of Lexical Approach which, in his own words, is an approach where teachers believe that English language "is more complex than just grammar structures plus words". This year at Harrogate Hugh Dellar was giving a talk "Twenty things in twenty years"  where he summarised "the limited pearls of wisdom" he managed to accumulate during twenty years of working as a teacher. He shared ideas and thoughts which he came to believe about language, teaching and learning. I will try to summarise his wonderful talk in several paragraphs here.

It turns out the Hugh Dellar "fell into teaching by accident" when he was 24 and to this day he keeps being asked the same question: " Are you still teaching?". Many people believe that teaching is not a real job but a temporary one which is just used to earn the living till a more honourable and profitable job appearson the horizon. in Hugh Dellar's opinion teaching  is the best profession in the world and I fully agree with that. One of the reasons is "falling into a me-shaped form" when actually being who you are is good, it helps to teach successfully. Teaching is the profession which offers creativity, freedom, a chance to recreate the world according to our own ideas, even if only in the classroom.

The second idea was summarised in the slide as follows:"Trouble trouble before trouble troubles you". Hugh was saying about developing our own way of dealing with learners and each teacher acquires it with time. It happens naturally without us even realising it but we do use the same methods we apply  in real life. Hugh has developed a "firm, friendly, slightly sarcastic, hopeflly slightly funny,possibly with a vague air of menace sort of way of trying to control things in the classroom". (I guess that my way of dealing with things in the classroom is very similar and probably that is why I enjoy Hugh Dellar's presentations so much). 

The next slide presented a wonderful catchy slogan: "Kicking the grammar habit". Hugh Dellar described the symptoms of "grammar anxiety" and what negative impact it can have on learning and teaching English. Everything started to get much better when Hugh  got cured of his "grammar anxiety" and "vowed to teach nothing that he would  never say or would never  hear said". He noticed right away that the speaking skills of his learners became better. The next idea is closely connected with this one and Hugh Dellar went as far as to declare that it is lies to think that "what makes learning better is fundamentally  to do with the study of descrete structures" which simply put means that "grammar is at the heart of everything we learn". That, in Hugh Dellar's opinion, (which I fully support) is not true.  I agree that the way we were taught grammar cripples our way of understanding language and it only adds confusion and lack of motivation. 

"There is no need for needs analysis".That was quite a brave thought to be expressed when that is actually what we, as teachers, are taught to do with our learners. According to Hugh Dellar it is ineffecient to ask students to evaluate their activity and describe exactly  what they want to get from English language classes because most of them (and I noticed that too) will answer that they need more grammar because they are infected by "grammar anxiety". In Hugh Dellar's opinion what students really need in General English is:
- repeated exposure to the most frequent words in context;
- they need a better understanding how those most frequent words work with other words and how they work with grammar;
- they need advice on how to best  go about learning all of this stuff;
- they need to read a wide range of graded texts;
- they need a chance to discuss their opinions and ideas;
- they need to be listened to, they need to be reformulated, scaffolded, shown better ways of how to do what they need to do. 
Students will never tell teachers these things during needs analysis and Hugh's suggestion is to stop wasting the first class of ours on needs analysis which won't show us anything anyways.

"Resistence is futile - but still remarkably widespread". Students enter the English language classroom expecting English to work in the same way as their own language and they try to fit their pre-programmed logic into learning a new language. It never works and it makes students frustrated. Sometimes students insist on still applying the same logic after being shown how inefficient it is. I see it in my practice very often so I clearly see what Hugh Dellar means. The stronger the resistence, the less the learning. So our task as teachers is to smooth this journey and bring our students towards submission. It helps to do it with a smile and agreeing that English is a weird language and many things work opposite to the logic that already exists in our learners' brains. 

The next point Hugh Dellar made just really warmed my heart because that is exactly what I am telling some of my students. "Input is more important than output". The desire of many students who come to learn English is just to chat, they object to doing exercises and  learning new things, all they want to do is to chat about different things. I fully agree with Hugh that such approach is not very productive because "students don't actually learn while sitting there in the classroom chatting using the language they came to classroom with". Practice is very important but it can be done now in so many ways outside the classroom. That is important to show our students that " we learn language from language" and the more language is shown, the more the input, the better the output in the long-run will be. So the materials themselves need to provide more input, it should be scafolded, graded, guided by us, teachers. 

Next Hugh Dellar introduces the idea that in our modern age of new technologies, methods are actually valued over language and language awareness. His idea though is not to involve sophisticated methods in teaching, but to use very simple basic ones to reach the objectives. Hugh Dellar suggests such a procedure: "ensure students meet useful language, help them to grasp is, help them to notice aspects of it, get them to practice it, get them to revise it and repeat".

In a course of time Hugh Dellar came to realise that the majority of mistakes that students are making aren't grammatical. The exercises themselves force students to make mistakes. It is true that very often when practicing grammar for instance students aren't given enough context, they are forced to bring in their own logic from their own language. It is always difficult to correct the mistake which has already been rooted in students' mind because it has to do with reprogramming the students' mind and showing them how language really operates. 

It is quite right to say that pronunciation is one of the most neglected areas of teaching in the classroom. Being able to pronounce correctly demands a lot of drilling and usually there is not enough time for that in class. The goal of focusing on pronunciation should be improving listening skills. As for me I came to realise that pronunciation is important for understanding and producing utterances. I came to understand that wrong intonation and pronunciation can really impair understanding of a foreign language. That is what I am trying to persuasively show my students and I see they tend to agree and eagerly practice pronunciation. 

For Hugh Dellar the ideas of Learning Styles, NLP and Multiple Intelligences seem "pseudo science","they hold no reality". He shows examples of how these approaches should not be given so much focus. 

Another idea I found fascinating in Hugh Dellar's talk is the thought that "the group is more important than the individual". I fully agree that the dynamic of a group is much more important than the individual. I believe in majority of situations studying in a group brings more results, it is more fun and probably more productive as it actually presents a real-life environment when we have to be able to deal with several different people. If you ask me, I love teaching a group, I really adore the dynamics, pace and fun which are all integral parts of group work. In group classes it is a major task of a teacher to find ways to emphasise commonality over difference.

Hugh Dellar's pet hate for a long time has been the myth of the difficulty of teaching phrasal verbs. It is true that phrasal verbs are badly taught in the classroom. There are several ways teachers do that but neither of them are efficient. They need to be learned, that is also the truth of life. There is actually no other way to deal with phrasal verbs then to memorise them.

"Skills based lessons are a complete waste of time". Hugh Dellar believes that students have to be taught more language. Skills should not be used outside context. 

Next idea is that in the digital world when a lot is done to introduce mobile learning and using a variety of different technologies into the classroom, 63% of people in the world don't have Internet access and still, teachers teach and learners learn. Being a teacher interested in using technology in class, I can't but agree with Hugh here. It is good to make the classroom more interactive and interesting with the usage of technology but we should not get obsessed with that idea. "Teaching technologically means ever more work for teachers". I absolutely agree with this. No matter how much is being said about the simplicity of using technology in class, it is not that easy. There is so much information we are bombarded by, it takes time to filter it and to find something worth using. Internet is just an "infinite amount of stuff" and for it to start bringing value, we need to give some meaning to this "stuff".

Being absorbed in the world of technology, many teachers forget that the works of great minds in the field of ELT is of major importance. Hugh Dellar recommends us to read more, not just blogs, tweets and other Internet materials, but the books written by bright minds in the sphere of language teaching.

Hugh believes that teaching is a craft, not a science or an art.It needs a certain level of artistry, wisdom and skill which are acquired by repeating the same tasks over and over again and reflecting on how we perform these sort of tasks until some level of perfection is achieved.

At the end of his talk Hugh Dellar claims that times are getting tough in ELT now and he gives a number of reasons. It is harder than ever to make a living as a teacher, to write and publish books, there is an incredible threat to the status of teachers nowadays. But no matter how tough everything is getting, we, as teachers, know that we have the BEST JOB IN THE WORLD. I sign to that and applaud to Hugh Dellar, his wonderful talk and his brilliant ideas.

Hugh Deallar's presentation from IATEFL 2014 "Twenty things in twenty years" can be found here




Monday, 7 April 2014

IATEFL 2014:Pecha Kucha Night

At last I found time to watch the recording of Pecha Kucha IATEFL event. It was brilliant as usual and immediately I decided that I have to write about it. For some time I really had no idea what Pecha Kucha was about. Last year when listening to Pecha Kucha presentations from IATEFL conference online I did not get a clear idea what it was about. Then I heard the term Pecha Kucha here and there and only this year I realised what it really means.I would like to share some information which I found for those who still have no idea what Pecha Kucha is.
Pecha Kucha is a short bright presentation which consists of 20 slides. The slides keep changing automatically and the speaker has 20 seconds to talk about each slide. First Pecha Kucha event was held in Tokyo in 2003 and was organised by an architect. Since then this style of presenting spread into different spheres including ELT. Lindsay Clanfield was the one who introduced Pecha Kucha into ELT world. The first IATEFL Pecha Kucha was organised in 2008 in Liverpool. Since then it has been a good tradition of IATEFL conference and is a scintillating, fun activity which brings teachers together and allows them to discover something new in ELT world while being relaxed and entertained. 

I would like to talk about several presentations which produced the greatest impression on me though frankly speaking all presenters were wonderful. Valeria Benevolo was leading Peacha Kucha event this year and she kicked -off with ther own Pecha Kucha which I found really heartfelt and beautiful. She used very expressive images to talk about teaching profession and then to introduce this year's speakers.I was quite happy to find out that one of the speakers this year is from Iran.I have a special feeling towards this countrya and people, so that is why I would like to begin by saying a few words about Pecha Kucha of a really charismatic and enthusiastic teacher from Iran Bita Rezaei. Unfortunately I could not see her slides because I was watching online and for some reason the slides to this presentation were not shown. Nevertheless, the presentation still produced a wonderful impression on me and some statements got imprinted into my mind. She was talking about the realities of teaching English in our world and all the examples she gave were so true to life. I couldn't but write down beautiful words about the profession of a teacher where she compared teaching to a "candle that consumes itself bringing life to others". How true is that! Teachers dedicate so much time, energy, passion to their beloved job in the process of enlightening the minds of their students. It is a tiring but still a  very rewarding job. Bita finished her Pecha Kucha saying that we should just remember to be happy, because happy teachers can give more light and our students feel that.

Sandy Millin gave a very memorable Pecha Kucha. She was introduced as someone whose presentation skills are brilliant and it could be felt. According to her own words,she probably was the only presenter who was not nervous before giving her Pecha Kucha. Sandy was talking about 19 things she had learned as an ELT teacher. From her talk I found out that she travelled quite a bit and has an experience of teaching in several countries. I won't enumerate all 19 things that Sandy Millin learned as you can watch the whole Pecha Kucha event in the video that you can find at the bottom of the page. I would like to mention just several ones which I remember most. 
1) Timetables are impossible.No matter how supposedly and seemingly ideal the schedule is, it will never be perfect,something will always be there to spoil it.
2) If you want to learn the local language- teach kids. Sandy learned that when she was teaching kids in different countries.They tend to say words in their local language a lot thus helping the teacher to master the language which might not be native for the teacher.
3) Stereotypes aren't always true. The example given was of teaching a group of Chinese schoolkids which Sandy thought would be the most quiet and obedient group she had ever had and they turned out to be the most noisy and wild.
4) Sometimes sterotypes are true.
5) Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sandy realised that while she is away from the UK she likes it more. When she is in the UK she tends to notice some negative sides of life but being away everything in her country seems almost ideal.
6) The next point is really important: listen to people around. Reserve no judgment, just listen. You never know what you can learn from just listening to people.
7) There's no point in stressing. Stress makes you nervous and that makes you ill. It helps to just chill, relax and see how much better everything will go.
8) Share. If you start giving, you will get things back. Who can know it better than us, teachers. Sharing is caring and truly our strength is in sharing. I noticed that in my work too, when I share I certainly get much more back.
9) Being connected changes everything. I fully agree with Sandy here. I started to gain interest in teaching when I started to connect with other teachers both in my city and all over the world. Sharing ideas, exchanging information, learning from each other- all of that makes teaching so much more exciting. 
10) We should remember that even though we are from different places, we have different opportunities and chances in life, we all want the same things from life. 

Cecilia Lemos talked about 10 commandments which can help us to get to ELT heaven. I really loved some of the statements I heard in her Pecha Kucha. I would like to quote the ones which seemed especially interesting to me.
"Keep calm and go to ELT heaven"
"You have to be a teacher all the time. You can't breathe without thinking about your students. When you hear a song, you think how to incorporate it in class".
"If David Crystal says:"Jump" you say "How high".
"If Nicky Hockly and Gavin say:"Use technology in class" you do that".
"Saturday's for work. Maybe half of Sunday you have for rest and relaxing"(I actually work on Saturdays,so that is so much about me!)

Well, it was fun. Do you want to watch it with your own eyes and enjoy it as much as I did? Here you are, you can watch the recording at Harrogate Online webpage or right here:

Sunday, 6 April 2014

IATEFL2014: Jim Scrivener (Teaching Grammar)


This year's IATEFL conference turned out to be really exciting for me because I got a chance to listen to presentations of professionals I really admire. This time I am going to tell you about the talk of Jim Scrivener. Before I describe my impressions of his talk I would like to give some background to my interest in it. I found two brilliant books by Jim Scrivener about two weeks before the conference. It turned out that his book "Teaching English Grammar" was exactly what I needed for my new group of students to whom I am teaching a course "Practical Grammar". I haven't had a chance to use many activities from this book yet but I am aiming at using it to the full. Another book which was recommended to me turned out to be written by Jim Scrivener as well, it is his very useful book "Learning Teaching". Now you can imagine how excited I was to find Jim Scrivener's talk on the programme of IATEFL conference and later to find the recording of it. I could not miss the chance to share my impressions, so here they are.

Jim Scrivener was talking about a new approach to teaching grammar in class. He gave practical ideas of making grammar lessons less boring and more useful for our students. Even though things that were mentioned seemed quite obvious and did not present anything completely new, Jim managed to summarise the ideas and exaplain them in a very understandable and logical way. He gave us  examples of how we teach in reality and showed us the way how to make our teaching more efficient and productive. Through a series of practical activities which the participants tried during Jim Scrivener's session, he showed the way to a new concept of "Demand High" approach.

The first idea mentioned by Jim Scrivener is that our course books don't really offer enough grammar practice.It is not possible to teach grammar just by using the examples which the course books have. Jim offers us ways to play with examples given in the course books and  using the suggested idea even with a few examples it is possible to achieve good results. Here is what should be done:
1) Read the example aloud.
2) Read it again but this time make it sound real: add intonation, stress and emotions. Listen to the teacher or to the recording before reading it. Then it is good to read the example with good intonation and emotions several times until the statement sounds convincing.
3) Substitute the words from the example with other words.This will allow to practice other grammar items and to revise the vocabulary.
4) Personalise the sentence, make it true for you. Here we move from form to meaning.
5) Use it in your speech.
So even when having just a few examples, playing with them brings the language given in these examples to life. It makes learning grammar fun and makes the language alive.

Another recommendation given by Jim Scrivener concerned the issue of going away from judging the students answers in the framework of "wrong-correct". So instead of thinking whether the student did it right or wrong, we as teachers might want to start thinking about how our students can improve, what they need to do to upgrade. Teachers can provide students with such upgrade steps helping them to improve instead of just giving unpersonalised feedback.

Next Jim Scrivener explained what PROUF means and said that this concept can be used as an alternative to drilling. P=Playful challenge. Make one small step up, not necessarily to have it done perfectly but to make just a tiny step forward which will  make you tangibly, audibly better in the language you use. It would be great to do it in a playful, light-hearted, fun way which makes the process of learning pleasant instead of making the learner feel embarassed or confused.
RO=Repeated Oppotunities. Can it be not once but repeated again and again till we get it perfect? So if the playful challenge worked great and the person got it right, could it not stop there but be repeated. That will give the sense of achievement and a chance to improve the language to perfection.
UF=Upgrade Feedback. Just to evaluate the student's answer as "Perfect" or "Well done" does not give the student much information about their performance. It is better not to give the feedback all at once, but to comment about one reachable,achievable step. Such feedback is possible in a number of likely ways:
- The teacher can model the sentence.
- The teacher can indicate the place where upgrade is possible.
- The teacher can indicate what can be upgraded, for instance intonation,rhythm,etc.
- The teacher can ask a question which will lead to the right answer.
- The teacher can use the imperative sentence which will give the student the instruction of what to do.
Accodring to Jim Scrivener PROUF approach will push students higher and higher up the stairs of learning and they will slowly but surely improve and their success will be tangible.

Another strategy to make this concept work in class is to give one-to-one focus within the class. So after the student says something the teacher works with this students for about 20 seconds or even up to 2 minutes. Some teachers have tried that and decided that it would not work well enough. Jim is sure that if the teacher approaches this way of dealing with students not with "wrong-correct" idea in mind but with the thought of how to give upgrade feedback to help the student,it will work better. When students see that the idea is not to tell them if they are right or wrong but to actually help them tangibly upgrade, they will be more willing to participate. They will realise that they are being helped to improve, their attitude will change to positive.

How can our students get more learning when checking exercises in class? That was the next question asked by Jim Scrivener. He gave the idea of how to mine the exercise for the purpose of finding gold in it. Here comes 3XP = Three Times Practice. Instead of doing an exercise once, it should be done three times. The first time the exercise can be checked the usual way, then instead of leaving it students can work on it further. Maybe they can cover the words and repeat them. The third time is to use the same material by adding information, using it in speech, practicing. After such work on the exercise the benefits are quite obvious. So Jim Scrivener and Andrew Underhill changed the famous song of Elvis Presley to this version: " One for the exercise, two for the learning, three for the English". This line expresses the idea in a bright and lively way. The first time an exercise is checked for the sake of checking, getting the right answers. The second time, it is done for the learning, in order to learn and remember some things. The third time, we add more reality to the exercise and do it for the English to be brought to reality.

So in conclusion Jim Scrivener goes back to the questions he asked at the very beginning and gives answers to them.
1)Helping each learner in class to improve - Upgrade Steps.
2) Instead of praising weak production- Upgrade Feedback.
3) Instead of drilling - PROUF.
4) Instead of doing an exercise and moving on - 3XP.
5) Instead of teaching the whole class as if it is one level- 1to1 Focus.

I hope you will enjoy the talk as much as I did and will find lots of useful information which will help to brighten your grammar lessons!
Here is the link to Jim Scrivener's " Upgrade! Demand high to bring a grammar lesson alive" at Harrogate Online or you can watch it here.


Friday, 4 April 2014

IATEFL: Barry Tomalin ( Networking)

I chose to listen to the talk by Barry Tomalin about networking because my own presentation at E-merging forum in Moscow this year was centred around a similar topic. Finding appropriate topics to discuss at first meetings, creating rapport, effective listening- these were among the issues I looked at in my presentation. Therefore, Barry Tomalin's presentation attracted my attention right away and it was really worth the time.

Barry Tomalin introduced himself as a former employee at International House and mentioned that at present he is working at The London Academy of Diplomacy. He caught the attention of the audience immediatly by his humorous quotation which I enjoyed immensely: "Guess what diplomats do? They go to cocktails, they also negotiate. They go to cocktails and they network" Sparkling humour of the presenter and interactivity is something I value in presentations at conferences. Barry Tomalin's talk had both characteristics.

He started his session with a little networking exercise when  people in the audience were asked to talk to their neighbour and find out something interesting about them. Then he introduced an activity which was aimed at the participants understanding what style of networking they had. The statements were quite informative and the participants were asked to raise hands if a statement applied to them.

Why is networking so important? It is the primary means by which people can get and maintain contact. When we talk to people that we don't know it creates a sense of identity. The fact that someone is talking to you, tking interest in what you are saying creates respect. Nowadays in our global world people tend to feel rather isolated so creating identity and recognition is of paramount important.  For a teacher of English it is vital to have business cards and  a web page because if we don't, "then we should ask ourselves if we exist".When hearing that I felt quite flattered knowing that I do have a business card and I am trying to write a blog, so these can be considered ways of identification. Now I might also think about creating a simple web-page saying who I am and what I do.

"Don't be interesting. Be interested!" That promotes effective listening and Barry Tomalin introduced a number of interactive activities which showed the participants what is important in networking and also presented good sample activities to be used in class. Cultural differences are of major importance in the situation of networking and we should always keep in mind that our interlocutor might have slightly different ideas about the same things than we do. Barry suggested looking at executiveplanet.com which gives rich material about business etiquette in different countries of the world. Effective listening means not only listening to WHAT people are saying but to HOW they feel. That is not so easy and has to be developed.

Barry Tomalin mentioned that Bill Clinton is a wonderful networker and he uses the F.A.C.E approach when talking to people. Then Barry introduced the activity which first showed how important active listening is and how frustrated people might get when their intelocutors aren't showing any reaction. Then the participants were invited to use F.A.C.E approach and notice how dramatically things changed.

Barry mentioned that gift-giving and hospitality are very important in networking and once again in this case special emphasis should be put on cultural and personal differences. Being attentive and sensitive to other people's differences is essential.

In conclusion, Barry Tomalin provided good examples of language to teach. I found the tips very useful. When teaching English to  Russian students I came to realise that very often they don't have the right idea about ways to ask questions and  to react to the answers. So the recommendations given in this talk are very useful.

So what have I learned from this presentation of Barry Tomalin? First of all, I really enjoyed the style of the speaker- humorous, involving, vibrant. I learned a couple of activities which can be used in class, I was given  a website which I am sure will prove to be useful in my teaching, I learned several book titles which I surely would like to check.

The whole presentation can be found at Harrogate Online or right here:

IATEFL: thoughts, feelings,emotions

It is my second time following IATEFL conference online and each year it seems like I am learning more and more about what is available online. It turns out there is a lot to watch online  and it is so great that those who aren't present at Harrogate are able to virtually be present at some of the conference events. The only problem I see is finding time because the list of talks I would like to listen is so huge and many of them are being broadcasted live while I am teaching my classes. I am so happy to be part of IATEFL online this year and being a registered blogger. Not only does it give me a chance to revive my blog and make it more lively, it also pushes me to learn more about blogging and to develop my skills connected with that.

 I enjoy looking at the photoes from the conference, reading comments on Facebook and Twitter, all that creates the atmosphere of presence. There are so many familiar faces at the conference. I have many colleagues from my city who managed to be at Harrogate and also very many amazing professionals who I only know online and those who I had a chance to meet face to face in Moscow when attending E-merging forum. IATEFL conference is an unbelievable source of inspiration and a real treasury of materials which can be accessed and used later. 

I'm now in the After Hours group discussion and it is really interesting and very useful to learn which talks produced the greatest impression and which interviews are worth checking. I am waiting eagerly for the live coverage of Pecha Kucha today. 

I really hope I will be able to attend next year IATEFL conference in Manchester. This year I realised once again how valuable and precious such events are. They give motivation, desire to continue improvement, a chance to meet new people and get new ideas. It is an absolute pleasure to be able to follow IATEFL conference online and I can only imagine how much more fun it is to be present there. 

Thank you very much to all organisers who made such event happen! 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

IATEFL: Nicky Hockly (Mobile learning)

I am so excited! I managed to find the recording of Nicky Hockly's talk "Teaching with mobile devices: choices and challenges". I am always excited about Nicky's talks. She has a unique ability to make everything she says sound very interesting. I am starting  using technology in class. My efforts are very timid and Nicky Hockly's advice on the choice of activities to use is always precious.
Nicky Hockly started her talk with the joke. It is amazing how she manages to interact with the audience and it is always logically linked to the talk that follows. Those of you who had a chance to listen to Nicky's previous talks probably remember about mysterious and sneaky Pacific North-West tree octopus, whom noone has ever seen but many English language teachers have heard about. This time Nicky brought good news for all BlackBerry users. According to Nicky Apple and BlackBerry combined their efforts in creating a new version of Smartphone. Fortunately or not it turned out to be an April Fool's joke! That was a bright beginning to Nicky Hockly's session.
Then the talk went about using mobile devices in class. That is a really vital topic nowadays.  No matter how popular mobile devices are among all groups of people, some teachers are still doubtful about the benefits of using them in class. I am sure all of us know of teachers who like to collect mobile phones of their students before class to prevent them from using Internet or chatting to friends during the class. Nicky's talk was about how to actually enhance learning of English using mobile devices. Mobile devices can be friends of English language teachers when applied wisely. Thinking about that, there appear a lot of questions which teachers have to answer:
- Should students use their own devices of class sets?
- How to make sure students stay on task when using mobile devices?
- What activities can be used?
-Should students use devices in or out of class?, etc.
Mobile learning can mean different things. Firstly, it means using mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets in learning. Secondly, it means learners being mobile, for example moving around the class or around the school when doing certain tasks. Finally, it can be learning itself that is mobile. In every situation there are different activities which can be used to ensure mobile learning.
Using mobile applications is one way to involve students in mobile learning. There are a lot of applications to choose from including British Council ones. Teachers might recommend students using some particular applications and it is actually a convenient way of learning on the go. Personally, I use mobile apps to learn German when I travel to work and back. Nicky Hockly considers  it the least interesting way of using mobile learning.
Next activity suggested in the session was the one where students were given 10 minutes  to move around the school taking pictures associated with a particular topic (Nicky gave an example from her class where the topic was Water). After students came back to class, they had to upload their pictures to Whatsapp and then there was a discussion where students had to justify their choices. The activity turned from just a warmer into a full-scale discussion activity. Nicky’s advice was to use mini-groups of not more than 3 people because of the size of the mobile phone screen during discussion.
Another activity mentioned by Nicky Hockly was a kind of Treasure Hunt using QR codes. Ten questions were turned into QR codes and students had to read them and walk around the school answering these questions. Each question included the instruction of what had to be done and what had to be asked. It was a good orientation activity for students who did not know the school quite well.
Nicky Hockly gave examples of activities which she used with her group of students at the intensive summer course at Cambridge. It was an international group and all students had access to technology in their own countries. In this group everybody had a device but actually same kind of activities could be organized with students sharing.Nicky Hockly gave some more examples of more advanced activities using geolocation and augmented reality which sounded quite interesting but would probably require more proficient users to take part in them. 
In conclusion, Nicky Hockly emphasised the point that using mobile learning in class should be a cooperative effort of both the teacher and the institution and, in case with young learners, of parents too. Her observations show, that there are individual teachers who are trying to implement mobile learning or using technology in class, but without support from institutions it might be quite challenging.  
So what is the right way to start using technology in class? Does it have to be done gradually step by step or by jumping in deep waters and getting involved in challenging activities right away? As for me, the first variant is more applicable. I started trying to use technology in class just recently. I can't say my adult students are very excited about using it. We are making small steps of using some tools at home and I realized that not all of them are willing to spend time learning how to use them. It turned out to be quite challenging. I am looking forward to the blog post that Nicky Hockly promised to write addressing all the questions of IATEFL participants concerting mobile learning. I am sure my questions aren't unique and I will find answers to my concerns in the blog as well. What do I feel after listening to Nicky Hockly's talk? I am inspired to find ways to incorporate mobile learning and using technology in class. It is challenging for me, but I am all ready to take this challenge. 
You can find the recording of this talk at Harrogate Online or right here:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Introducing IATEFL 2014 Registered Bloggers: Sylvia Guinan

This year registered bloggers of IATEFL 2014 started a "chain reaction" blog challenge. It was started by Adam Simpson and aims at getting to know the people who are going to blog about the event this year. He chose to interview several registered bloggers and introduced them on his blog. In turn those bloggers chose other  ones to be interviewed and introduced on their blogs. I had the honour to be interviewed by Gabrielle Jones, who was the moderator of the online course "Devceloping Business English Teacher" which I took in January this year at Electronic Village online. 
In my turn I would like to introduce Sylvia Giunan , who kindly agreed to answer my questions. Sylvia is a very creative professional and so she changed the questions a little bit to fit her situation better. Thank you very much, Sylvia.

1. Please introduce yourself.
I'm a teacher from Ireland who lives in Greece. I have four bilingual children. My background is in English Literature and I specialised in ELT after travelling and settling abroad. I've been teaching for almost twenty years. I decided to teach online after my twins were born as I knew that my teaching life would never be the same again.

2. Could you tell us why you are interested in blogging for IATEFL Harrogate?
I have many reasons to be interested in this. The practical reason is that I can't just hop on a plane to attend such events as my kids need me, so being an online registered blogger is my way of connecting from home. Other reasons are my love of blogging, and  the excitement of learning from the online coverage. I find that blogging about what we learn deepens the experience considerably. I also have a kind of reporter instinct and often interview other teachers, review their books or write about what they are up to. Finally, I believe that the British Council does a great job in bridging the gap between traditional learning and online education. I appreciate that a lot as more and more teachers are getting access to professional development online.
3.What areas of the conference are you interested in?All of the live plenaries have specialised in  important issues that affect my practical working life. As an online teacher I see socio-linguistics and the globalisation of language as an issue that concerns many teachers around the world, and one that is fraught with myths and misconceptions. David Graddol's talk on English and economic development should be an eye-opener. Kathleen Graves is discussing a topic close to my heart - curriculum planning and it's 'ecology'. I'm very interested in creative material design and the idea of nurturing the emotional development of students for deeper learning purposes, so I feel that her coverage of evolution and the learning environment will be fascinating. I certainly cannot resist Michael Hoey's topic of 'new perspectives' or Jackie Kay's 'the imagined land'. As a teacher who views learning through the eclectic prisms of psychology and the arts, I see these two topics as being crucial to bringing creativity back into the classroom. Finally, Sugata Mitra is a legend in online teaching circles and the future of learning is THE issue for online teachers who work independently on the cutting-edge of education and technology.
4.  How can your blog coverage benefit people?I think it's important for people to be able to catch the live-streamed events which will be embedded in my blog and shared all over educational social networks. They will also have a chance to critically consider the significance of the events and topics through the lens of a reporter who works on the cutting-edge and enjoys indepth analysis.
5. Could you tell us about your blog?My personal blog revolves around online teaching, creativity, and the psychology of learning. It's also very much focused on global community work and making a difference in education.It's official title is "Brainfriendly learning methods, tools, environments and communities."  http://www.sylviasenglishonline.org/blog/I also blog for the online teaching platform called WiziQ. I blog about educational technology, online education, MOOCs and collaborative professional development events on WiziQ. http://blog.wiziq.com/author/sylvia/
I'm looking forward to the experience of following everything from afar as I can't be there myself. I also enjoy what we are doing right now - which is connecting with each other through blog challenges. Adam Simpson, who started the challenge, is an educator I greatly admire. I think that we are playing an important role in helping professional development to thrive online where everyone can access the the speeches of leaders in the field.
7. Why did you sign up as an IATEFL registered blogger?
Apart from that I  write guest articles for other blogs and organisations, including the British Council.

6. What other aspects of the conference are you looking forward to?

I wanted to be a part of this great event and do my bit as an online educator. As a very busy mother, the only way I work and connect these days is online. This may also be a stepping stone towards the future when I'll be able to travel more and experience the best of both worlds. 

Monday, 31 March 2014

Harrogate Online 2014


Dear all,

I am really excited to be chosen as the Harrogate online registered blogger of the IATEFL conference this year. It is the first time for me to blog about such an event. Last year I attended sessions online and this year I am going to do the same. I will be blogging about the sessions I attend  online,so keep your eyes open and follow me! The conference starts today on April 1 and will last till April 5. This year it is held in Harrogate which, according to some research, is the happiest place in the UK! The-happiest-place-Britain-Harrogate-Residents-North-Yorkshire-town-satisfied-live.html
If you are unable to attend IATEFL conference in Harrogate this year, you can follow it online here: iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/
I am sure the conference is going to be a lot of fun! Let's enjoy!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Valuable advice from professional translators

Hello! I know I have not written for quite a while here and today I decided to dedicate this post to my students. I have been teaching future translators for almost two years now. Together with my students I’ve learned a lot of new things in the world of foreign languages and translation theory and practice. I entered the field of  Translation Practice which was completely new for me. It has  been very challenging and I have enjoyed it immensely. The first students  have recently graduated our new three-year course "Translators in the sphere of professional communication". I am very proud of those students who worked hard, dedicated their time and energy to mastering the art of translation. This post is dedicated to my students who have already finished the course, as well as to those who are presently studying.
I recently came across an interesting piece of information which I would like to share with you all. It consists of advice from professional translators for those who are eager to master translating and who are keen to do it effectively. I decided to translate it from Russian into English, summarising the key points. I hope this post will be useful. Enjoy!
1. Learn GRAMMAR instead of learning separate words.
Once you understand the underlying grammatical system you will be able to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words as you encounter them. Without knowing grammar perfectly it is impossible to translate correctly. It is far better to spend extra time revising tenses than to learn yet another unfamiliar word. Context will help you understand the word which might be new for you but without systematic knowledge of grammatical structures it will be very hard to understand the text let alone to render a valid translation.
2. Don't rush to look up an unfamiliar word in a dictionary.
Nowadays, with such an abundance of online translation tools, many people are addicted to Google and the like. Thus, instead of analysing the structure of a given sentence, many people prefer to type it into an online translator in order to get the answer as quickly as possible. The danger of this method is, of course, quite obvious. Words learned using this "express method" will be forgotten as fast as they are learned. Another thing to consider here is whether the text in question was selected according to one’s own level and abilities. It is impossible to grasp the overall meaning of the text by simply looking up every word in the dictionary. Instead, it’s a good idea to try choosing reading materials in which the majority of words are familiar or can be guessed from the context.
3. Turn off the subtitles.
Watching films in English with English subtitles is an effective way to enlarge one’s vocabulary. Bear in mind, however, that this method also has its drawbacks. When it comes to foreign languages, it is generally easier for the brain to understand written text than the spoken word. If you continue watching films in English with English subtitles regularly you will subconsciously focus more on reading rather than listening and as a result listening comprehension skills will not be developed. Instead, try watching films in English without the subtitles, listening carefully to all the dialogues. If you fail to understand certain parts of the film, it is always possible to check the transcript later on.
4. Try translating "blind folded".
Try to interpret the meaning of an abstract or a text without looking into the text itself. In order to do this, read the text once or twice from beginning to end trying to understand the main theme and memorising the key details. Following this, try to summarise the text by providing the general idea expressed instead of translating each word and phrase separately. Of course the translation may subsequently be modified and corrected as necessary; however, such practice will help you avoid loan translation (калькирование), which makes the translated text sound somewhat rigid.
5. Learn to love the Russian language.
If you really want to be proficient in translating from English into Russian (and vice versa) you should make an effort to appreciate both the beauty and the subtlety of the Russian language itself. Try to read classics and high-quality newspaper articles published in Russian. If you want to develop greater stylistic capabilities, then it might also be worth trying to copy abstracts from your favourite books. This will help you to develop your vocabulary and gain a better feel for the language.
Finally, I would like to mention once again that these recommendations are not originally my own; given their usefulness, however, I decided to translate and publish them on my blog in order that aspiring translators whose native language is Russian might access and benefit from them. To add to what has already been mentioned, I fully agree with most of the ideas presented. While working with a group of translator-students I myself realised how important it is to teach them grammar and, most importantly, how much better their translation skills become when their knowledge of grammar is more fully developed.

English is a wonderful language. Good luck improving it!