Sunday, 15 March 2015

Buzz words and memorable quotations of E-merging forum 5

What was E-merging forum 5 like? What will the participants of the forum remember about it? It was a magnificent event where we listened to the sessions, took part in discussions, were creative in discussion groups. We were taught to relieve stress, to teach very young learners, to assess in the right way, to use technology, to lead a healthy lifestyle and many more important things. We enjoyed singing, reciting poetry, making short videos, networking with fellow teachers, making notes and taking photos, tweeting, answering and asking questions, getting prizes, winning the lottery and doing plenty of other exciting activities.  I have tried to collect the most memorable quotations of the forum. I hope you will find the ones you enjoyed and they will remind of good times during E-merging forum. Social networks posts, my notes and photos taken during the forum were used to compile the list. Feel free to add more quotes in comments. Let’s start.

What were the buzz words of E-merging forum 5? I have counted just several and the winner here is the name and ideas of Vygotsky. His name was mentioned and the reference to his legacy was made in every other sessions during the forum. Blended learning and Flipped classroom have definitely been among the most frequently used words at the forum. The terms “digital visitors” and “digital residents” have come into use now instead of notorious “digital immigrants” and “digital natives”. Very young learners, grammar, pronunciation, assessment – all these words were heard here and there during the forum. And what are your top ten buzz words of E-merging forum 5?

And now let’s recollect some precious moments of E-merging forum 5 while reading the most expressive quotations used by plenary and parallel sessions speakers.
1)      “What a child can do with assistance today, she will be able to do by herself tomorrow”- Vygotsky (used in the plenary session of Malgosia Tetiurka).
2)      “The best time for learning a foreign language is between 2 and 12” – Critical Period Hypothesis (from the plenary session of Herbert Puchta).
3)      “Humans are unable to learn a foreign language to a native-speaker standard after the age of puberty” Critical Period Hypothesis (from the plenary session of Herbert Puchta).
4)      “Language learning is about risk-taking,”-Herbert Puchta.
5)      “Storytelling conveys values, not just content,”-Herbert Puchta.
6)      “Young learners learn by doing,”- Malgosia Tetiurka.
7)      “Learning L2 should be fun, though it does not always equal engagement,”- Malgosia Tetiurka.
8)      “Teachers should aim for engagement of their learners, not just “fun for the sake of fun”,- Malgosia Tetiurka.
9)      “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine - should be”,- Sir Arthur Clark (used in the plenary session of Malgosia Tetiurka).
10)   “It turns out … that engineers show, philosophers argue, biologists find and linguists suggest” Hyland (used in the plenary session of Steve Kirk).
11)   “Assume that your students know something and allow them to use what they know, engage students as ‘real’ people”,- Jack Scholes.
12)   “Every person has the innate need to tell stories”, - Svetlana Kuznetsova.
13)   “Digital stories are mini-movies”, - Svetlana Kuznetsova.
14)   “21 century will be the century of the humanities or there will be no such a century at all”, - Claude Levi-Straus (used in a plenary session of Vera Zabotkina).
15)   “We don’t stop being Russian when we write in English”, - Vera Zabotkina.
16)   “We need to teach language in context, not in co-text,”- Steve Kirk.
17)   “There is nothing more suspicious than a foreigner speaking your language the way you do,”- Svetlana Ter-Minasova.
18)   “Cultural mistakes are never forgiven,”- Svetlana Ter-Minasova.
19)   “ ‘Asian’ has bad connotation, ‘European’ has good connotation, but that is not fair either historically or traditionally…We are now more disliked by Europeans and more liked by Asians,”- Svetlana Ter-Minasova.
20)   “I had two thoughts at the same time and now I lost them both,”- Svetlana Ter-Minasova.
21)   “It’s an admirable idea to teach people about their own country,”- Svetlana Ter-Minasova.
22)   “There is no learning when you are relaxed,”- Vygotsky.
23)   “When we learn with emotion, we tend to remember best,”- Jack Scholes.
24)   “4 billion people use smartphones and only 3,5 billion people use a toothbrush,”- Rimma Chaldymbaeva.
25)   “You can and should laugh when learning,”- Jack Scholes.
26)   “You learn more when you are relaxed and have calm mind,”- Jack Scholes.
27)   “I don’t hate Russia. I don’t hate Russians. I love them,”- Jane Allemano.
28)   “My blackberry isn’t working”. - a hillarious video used in the panel session of Alla Nazarenko. 
29)   “Not a sage on the stage but a guide on the side” – the role of a distance learning teacher,” – Alla Nazarenko.
30)   “A teacher is a guide who inspires, motivates and excites the students,”- Alla Nazarenko.
31)   “The average life is approximately 28 000 days,”- Brenda Roche.
32)   “Exercising has a huge impact on mental health,”- Brenda Roche.
33)   “We are what we repeatedly do”,- Aristotle (used in the webinar of Brenda Roche).
34)  "The only thing that really matters in your life are your relationships to other people,"- George Vaillant (used in the webinar of Brenda Roche).
35) "Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least,"- Goethe (used in the webinar of Brenda Roche).
36)   “If you are a stunning teacher, you’ll be loved by every creature,”- Young Learners group presentation.

It was an amazing E-merging forum. Many nice memories! Will be waiting for the recordings now to be able to bring back nice moments of the forum while listening to plenary talks again. 

E-merging forum 5. Anna Loseva "Flashmobelt"

Before coming to E-merging forum 5 I came across this blog post of Anna Loseva . The idea seemed very interesting and I decided to learn more. It was my luck that the topic of Anna Loseva’s E-merging forum 5 session was about Flashmobelt. 

So what is Flashmobelt and how can it be used by teachers? It is a collaborative project for teachers from all over the world to share their favourite activities and to use the activities offered by other teachers. There are a few rules that should be followed for the activities to be considered acceptable for Flashmobelt. They should be generalized and adaptable for various contexts. They should be easy in terms of preparation and technology and easy to model, explain and use. Ideally they should be short and shouldn’t be centered around specific materials. The idea is to provide opportunities for sharing and networking between teachers in different countries. It is usually said that teachers feel isolated and might get depressed when left one on one with their problems. Reaching out and communicating with fellow teachers, giving a helping hand and trying out something new – all this can be achieved by participating in Flashmobelt. However, this project is not only about sharing and using the activities, but also about reflecting on how they went in this or that classroom. Reflections on the activities can be written as blog posts on the blogs of the participants. Flashmobelt is aimed at bringing teachers closer and thus motivating them to be better teachers and in a way making their life easier.

In her workshop at E-merging forum 5 Anna Loseva showed several activities from Flashmobelt in action.
1) Love or hate. The teacher asks the students to make pairs and choose the person who will either love or hate the suggested objects or concepts. After the decision is taken, the teacher gives the topic. In the workshop the first discussion point was March. So a person who chose either to love or to hate March should be speaking for a minute and giving reasons to prove their point of view. Then it goes on and the students switch roles. This activity provides students with the stimulus for freer speaking practice. It is interesting, motivating and fun. During the workshops the list of points for discussion consisted of these: March, March the 8th, Friday, Friday the 13th, etc.

2) Writing now. The next activity which was demonstrated was connected with Writing practice. The teacher divides the class into groups and gives the beginning of the sentence to complete in as many ways as possible. At the workshop the sentence was “English teachers in Russia….”. The students work for 1-2 minutes writing their variants and teams with the most creative answers get points. Usually teachers prefer to leave the Writing tasks for homework. This activity is not very time-consuming and is simple enough to be done in class. It won’t take up too much of classroom time.

Anna Loseva gave some statistics concerning Flashmobelt. There are three boards with activities now including 40 activities shared by 40+ teachers from all over the globe. 8 blogs have been written so far reflecting on the classroom experience of using Flashmobelt activities in class. The Lino board with activities looks like the board with stickers of different colours. A teacher can choose a yellow, green, red or blue sticker, write their activity anf stick it to the wall. 

At the end of the session Anna invited all the teachers to share one of their favourite activities which can be included in the project. The description of Flashmobelt and the link to the Lino board can be found on Anna Loseva's blog. I am going to explore it and possibly to take part in it and you?

Friday, 13 March 2015

Jack Scholes "Teaching the whole person",#EMF5, Day 2

The minute I saw Jack Scholes I knew I had already seen him somewhere. Little by little came understanding that he was once a speaker in Yaroslavl some years ago and his talk was a hit back then. 

This time there were so many people willing to take part that the Hall just couldn’t fit them all in. Jack started speaking from the back of the hall. Why? At the beginning of the talk we didn’t know. But later on we found out that one of the tips Jack gave to teachers was to "do things in a different way, break away from routine" which was nicely illustrated at the beginning of the talk. I expected to be having fun but I couldn’t even imagine how much fun this talk was.

 Contrary to the ideas of Vygotsky about ZPD where “learning can’t take place when you are relaxed” Jack Scholes argues that “you learn more when you are relaxed and have calm mind”. I think different approaches work for different people but the practical activities that Jack showed in the session persuaded me that his ideas were probably right. 

One minute meditation was just what was needed. We were asked to close our eyes, to focus on our breath, notice our sensations, calm our mind and meditate. A nice exercise here can also be “breathe in what you want and breathe out what you don’t want”. It was very nice.

 I learned about a method of ”think-pair-share” when a student is given a question and asked to think for a moment, then to talk about it to a person nearby and then share the findings with the group. Such method makes sharing ideas less stressful. 

There were a number of activities shown in practice by Jack which were interesting and it was not possible to stay outside of it and not to participate. The activities demonstrated involved a kinesthetic element. Usually I find it difficult to come up with kinesthetic activites and so this was a nice example. For instance, asking the students to stand up or raising a hand when the answer to the question is"Yes" and stay seated if the answer to the question is "No". Physical activity should be included in the class because we all lack it in real lives and because it adds fun to learning.

What can I say in conclusion? This session was like a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would like to thank Jack Scholes for being such a charismatic speaker! The slides to the presentation can be found here. (as promised by Jack Scholes)

Eye-opening experience of Day 2, #EMF 5

During the second day of the forum I made a number of discoveries which I am eager to share here.

   1) Online coverage. I was a strong believer that if I am at the conference I have to stay in the main hall and see the speakers live. It does not matter how many people are there in the same Hall or how far from the speaker the seat is. I believed I should strive to be in the middle of the crowd. My first experience of watching a plenary speaker through an online coverage while actually being at the event proved me wrong. It is much more convenient to be comfortably seated in a not so crowded hall and listen to the talk while seeing the speaker on the screen at a close distance. It does not make it less exciting, I would say on the contrary. That was a surprising discovery of Day 2.

    2)Tweeting is exciting. I have never really grasped the idea of using Twitter and it seemed to me that I am a Facebook fan. It was at E-merging forum of previous years that I came to realize that it actually is quite useful at the events like this. I am an active Twitter user only during the days of the forum and tweeting helps me to remember the information I hear better. It bottles the emotions and thoughts on the spot and it is possible to go back to the post later in order to recollect the highlights of the event. It actually is the way to meet new people at the forum and get to know them. Tweeting at E-merging forum can get you a prize provided you are active enough. So now I am an advocate of Twitter. #emf5

    3) Practical ideas and personal stories make the talk vivid and memorable. There is so much to absorb at the forum that it is next to impossible to remember everything. What stays in mind is what makes an impression. Something practical and something personal in a talk is always valuable. That is how I chose my favourite sessions of Day 2 – those which were practical and contained some personal life stories are my choice. 

E-merging forum 5, Day 2

Being a registered blogger of E-merging forum 5 is not such an easy job. Even though I went to bed quite late I had to wake up early to write my impressions of Day 2. It was packed with emotions and information, charismatic speakers and fun at the evening event. Even though it was Friday 13th, the atmosphere at the forum was quite cheerful and energetic. 

My day started with the plenary of Svetlana Ter-Minasova “Teaching language issues in today’s Russia: to think about”. Each and every plenary and parallel session is different and this one was unique. First of all, because it was delivered without any slides and I found it quite refreshing. It was possible to focus on the speaker catching every word and phrase being said. I was listening to the session in Hall Fantasia where it was broadcasted online. It is only natural that there were no seats available in the main hall of the event. I never regretted my decision to watch this talk online because I could see the speaker very well and the quality of online coverage was perfect. 

Our brain has a tendency to remember what seems bright in every talk. Looking back at the plenary session by Svetlana Ter-Minasova I remember that I was having a lot of fun. It was a pleasure to be listening to the speaker which such extraordinary storytelling skills. I am not sure I remember all the ideas given in the talk but some of the statements can rightly become aphorisms. Let’s look at some of them. Now this is when I wish there were slides, they are quite helpful when one needs to remember what the talk was about. 

She started off by sharing her personal story of the influence of British Council on her life. And then a wonderful quote which I have been using in my classes so much because I had already been to the talks by Svetlana Ter-Minasova and her ideas are always very useful. “Don’t be afraid to show that you are a foreigner. There is nothing more suspicious than a foreigner speaking your mother tongue the way you do”. We learned from the talk that “cultural mistakes are never forgiven” unlike language ones which just makes us look humane to the native speakers of English. “It is impossible to master a foreign language to the level of a native speaker” and maybe it is also unnecessary. Cultural identity should still be present. Personally, I refuse to stop learning because I am greatly enchanted by the process of getting to know new things in English. 

It is enough to just love one thing – either the students or the subject, if a teacher loves both it doubles the effect. Maybe that is what an ideal teacher should be like? Even though Svetlana Ter-Minasova is against perfectionism and she gave good examples of how it can hinder the ability to communicate in a foreign language. 

“It is an admirable idea to teach people about their own country”. Being absorbed in getting to know  foreign languages and foreign cultures we tend to forget how precious the history and culture of our own country is. It should not be forgotten! So the conclusion is that I am definitely going to listen to the recording of this session again because it was so enjoyable. A real treat for the participants of E-merging forum 5!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

E-merging forum 5. Day 1

I am more productive in the mornings that is why the post about Day 1 of E-merging forum is coming up in the morning of Day 2. A long awaited event in the world of ELT has started and I am always amazed at the number of talented, enthusiastic teachers eager to learn something new, who come to Moscow from various cities and towns of our country. The only downside in this case might be the lack of seats due to the interest in sessions. My colleagues and I were lucky enough to be comfortably seated during all sessions, it definitely added positivity.

Day 1 started with two plenary speakers discussing the issues of teaching young learners and very young learners.Some of the ideas highlighted were an eye-opener. I really liked the answer of Herbert Puchta to the questions about the ideal age of starting learning a foreign language. It turns out to be from 2 to 12 years old which creates a quite a long period of time and can be comforting to those who strongly oppose to teaching children a foreign language at a very early age. The idea that learning a foreign language at an early age does not impede but actually “contributes to the young learners attitude and motivation, which later ensure good proficiency” was nice to hear. That can be the argument to give to speech therapist who are strongly against children starting to learn a foreign language at a young age. It is obvious that teaching children is very different from teaching teenagers and adults and according to the second plenary speaker, Malgosia Tetiurka, those who are able to educate young learners will be able to do so in case with teenagers and adults but not the other way around. Teaching children demands patience and creativity. The results are not immediately obvious therefore neither parents nor teachers should be discouraged at the beginning of the process. Children live in the world of imagery and fantasy, they are able to switch back and forth between the real world and the imaginative world with ease. So the best way to teach young learners is through storytelling, embodied interaction, including trial and error methods and lots of repetition.

I have never been interested in teaching very young learners so I decided to let specialists teach my children English. My daughter started the process at the age of 5 and my son has started attending the group “English with Mom” at the age of 3. They both were very excited about going to English language classes and it couldn’t but made me very happy to see their interest and involvement.

It was a tough choice to decide which parallel sessions to attend and even though I was going to join the session of Vera Bobkova “What’s your favourite song to teach English” mainly because I know what a wonderful speaker she is and I enjoy using songs in teaching English, but I ended up going to a different session. This year parallel sessions are shorter than previous years and sometimes it feels like there is the lack of time for the speaker to get the message across and for the attendees to get the full picture of what was to be said. However, Tatyana Skopintseva managed to give lots of useful information about teaching pronunciation to Russian EAP/ESP learners. Her experience sounded very persuasive. Notes and photos were taken and now it will be time to explore the essence of the talk in more detail. Tatyana started by giving a number of typical difficulties Russian learners of English have with pronunciation and highlighted the areas where these can impede communication. At the end of the talk she gave the list of pronunciation features which are vitally important for Russian learners to avoid fatal miscommunication in important work situations.

Evening plenary sessions were dedicated to EAP. A lot was said about academic writing. The differences in structure and register in Academic Writing in different cultures was mentioned by Vera Zabotkina. It is interesting to notice that at E-merging forum 5 a lot of comparisons are given between cultures of different countries thus making the teachers and learners aware of how important these things are. The name of Vygotsky was mentioned several times during the day, which was also quite interesting to notice. Steve Kirk in his session “Teaching ‘EAP’:Enabling Academic Participation” was answering the question which has been puzzling teachers and students for a long time – whether to use “I” or “WE” in academic writing. The answer is as usual “It Depends”, it depends on the purpose, the focus of the writing and the science in which the writing is produced. The highlight of the evening was probably the quote given by Steve Kirk in his talk: “It turns out…that engineers show, philosophers argue, biologists find and linguists suggest”(Hyland,2009) According to this linguists have the most difficult task as they are studying something ethereal and difficult to define, which is almost mystic and magical. I enjoy this thought.

The end of Day 1 was festive. I got a prize for the most interesting tweets about the event. I am very excited about the sweatshirt from Oxford University Press which I was given. It just happened that I use a lot of course books by OUP so it was quite symbolic not to mention that it is just very cool. Welcome reception was great as usual. It is a nice place to network with other teachers, to discuss new ideas and make new friends. The UK Ambassador in Russia Tim Barrow came to welcome the participants of the forum which made the end of Day 1 even more memorable.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Why E-merging forum?

Tomorrow starts the event which I just can never miss - E-merging forum in Moscow. What makes it so special and why am I so attracted to it that I can't miss it? I would like to write what E-merging forum means to me and what makes it so special.

E-merging forum is a major event which aims at connecting English teachers from Russia and all over the world. It takes place every year in Moscow for the fifth time and it is my third E-merging forum. Since I attended my first E-merging forum, I can't but register again and again, looking forward to participating every year. I attend a lot of different conferences, webinars, seminars both face-to-face and online and I still consider E-merging forum very special and the place to be. So what makes it so special?

1) Plenary speakers. Every year there are five content areas which differ slightly from year to year and there usually are five plenary speakers who introduce each content area. This year is very special because for the first time in the history of E-merging forum there are ten plenary speakers, which means that each content area will be represented by two of them.  It doubles the excitement and the amount of valuable information attendees of the forum will get. I am very thankful to E-merging forum for useful contacts I made during the previous years.

2) Contests. I have never seen so many different contests and competitions at any other forum or conference. E-merging forum offers very many opportunities for people to get involved. It is the place not only to sit and listen to the sessions but also to actively participate. Facebook, Instagram, Vkontakte, Twitter - all these social media are involved in covering the event and there are contests to participate and win prizes. I am going to tweet, I always do that at E-merging forum. It is a chance for me to explore Twitter which I never do other than at this event. Last year I won the prize during the first day of the forum for being active on Twitter. The feeling is hard to describe and this year I will definitely take part in some of the contests too. Will you?

3) Online coverage. There is a chance for all people to get involved. Even those who can't make it to the forum can still enjoy the plenary speakers being broadcasted  online. Later on we can access the recordings and the materials of the forum which provide valuable memories and food for thought.

4) Pub Quiz. I think it is the highlight of the forum, frankly. There is so much excitement and energy during this event. It can't be missed! Last year our team from Yaroslavl were the winners! It is a must for everyone and something that makes E-merging forum different and special.

5) Dicussion groups. It is a chance to share what was learnt at E-merging forum, to contemplate and exchange thoughts and ideas.  Presentations from discussion groups are always a hit. When seeing other fellow teachers being so creative, so talented and full of ideas, I feel proud to be part of this community.

E-merging forum is the place to be! I am packing my bags tonight and will see you all in Moscow. You are still contemplating whether it is worth your precious time?  I have no doubts it is worth every moment! You can still become part of this excitement! See you in Moscow!