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Finding your tribe

One of the most enjoyable and inspiring books I have read this year has been Sir Ken Robinson's "Out of our Minds"  and my ref...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Real writing

Why get your language students used to navigating web pages which are largely populated by native speakers of the language they are struggling to comprehend? Isn't the use of techncial language and the culturally specific content only going to confuse them?


But don't forget, many will be very familiar with finding their way around a website, they will have the contextual understanding to work out which button does what. And they can and will help others. Encourage some exploration.

You never know what they may discover and it is all happening in real time!

I have used the French jobs portal ANPE as the starting point for a very real work related vocabulary activity and for a deeper dive into the skills necessary for students wanting to prepare themselves for life in the real world. The short video clips such as this one may be linguistically challenging but they are well sign posted for key words and the similarities between French and UK jobs clear. This opened up their minds to considering placements abroad  and these students had the equivalent on GCSE level French. 

Collecting shopping vocabulary using a supermarket site makes a lovely homework task, you can rest assured that browsing in French will continue longer than the usual 5 minutes! Use the Pointless quiz game metaphore and see who can bring back the item that no-one else found. 

So don't assume that all language your learners come across has to be carefully pre-screened. Our brains are hard wired to work out language, we may only bother if the task is real and sufficiently relevant. 

Ayez confiance!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Content - a deposed king

Choosing my regular blog for this response to #rhizo15 week 3. Dave's post raised questions around  content in learning. I have several different angles to bring to this. 

Firstly a discovery I made shortly after I started to work in an HE teaching context. I discovered that my colleagues teaching language undergraduates consider themselves to be content experts. This is distinct from those of us who are language teachers on Institution-wide language programmes teaching undregrads of subjects other than language (maths, politics etc). This really confused me. Surely they, like I and my colleagues were teaching language - just with a slightly different focus. I was certainly unaware of this distinction when I was an undergraduate studying French. I was clear I was learning the language whilst using sociological or literary sources. I completely accept that they are more up to date on the detail of social trends or literary criticism according to their research focus, whereas we focus on approaches to learning and metacognition - skills acquisition. 

Secondly, the saying when commercialisation of web first came about was content is king. Marketting was all about creating interest in your brand, finding interesting content to integrate in your website that would attract visitors. Companies paid big money to buy from content producers and associate it with their brand. This was "click bait". This was described by Steve Wheeler on his blog post ...context is king

Steve always has a knack for getting to the root of the issue. This post  was the pointer to making content open - he says "In education, if all learners receive is content, content, content, then they will be... well, discontent."  If content matters in education, what matters most I believe is that it is open. Open educational resources can lead to all sorts of unexpected (and usually positive) things. Those who find it can repurpose, remix, share and build new learning, contributing to the constant evolution of their Community of Practice. Creatve Commons licensing will be crucial to this. The rhizome in action...

Finally for the reason for me that content is the deposed king and context rules, again I am returning to another post from Steve. As educators we can find content, we can select and curate the best of that content but what really matters is the context we provide for learning. This is where great teaching happens. Get that wrong and essentially learners are finding their own way (or not, you may have lost them). 

I am grateful to Steve that he is an Open Educational practitioner, all his posts are available CC BY or CC BY SA. If you are an educator and that means nothing to you take a look at Education Creative Commons You need to know. Don't let content to be bought and sold, learning, like the web must be available to all. 

"Content is people" says Dave. Content in the contexts above is just stuff - a document, a book, a video, a "learning object". Used by managers as this is something they can measure. Does a course have content? Yup, 3 book chapters, 12 videos and a set of quizes. Lets not assume that access to content = great learning experience. That is clearly style over substance. The interactions we have - the context - is clearly more important.