Humanising educational technology

Where have you bean_

Now, this article about educational technology is definitely worth a read whether you are pro-tech or anti. The author (Paul Emerich France) begins with an analysis how individualisation provided by tech at schools can lead to limited interactions between students and deprive them of ‘points of convergence‘ in the classroom, the human dimension of learning. He goes on to look into possible reasons for our over-reliance on technology, and his conclusions are not very flattering. Perhaps it is easier for us? The article ends with a set of questions which we should ask ourselves before introducing technology into the classroom, and the final question goes like this: does this technology enhance human connection? I don’t think it can get clearer than that, do you?



The book begins…

book-first page

Here’s a post describing a structured procedure for a reading lesson: from quick reading to reflection, there are all kinds of interesting stages that are meant to help students read authentic literature. Yes, the lesson is based on real fiction, the first pages of well-known books. What a treat!

As the author says, it could be particularly useful for Cambridge exam preparation, but I know quite a few people who think it their mission to develop a love of reading in their students (whispering: we know who we are…). So, what are you waiting for? 🙂


The meaning of organic


Here is an insightful post that can be equally applied to business and lesson planning: organic means many things, and not all of them are good. The author makes a clear distinction between the brainstorming and ideas-forming stage, and the rest of the process, when the ideas need to be supported with careful and thoughtful planning.

Thinking about teaching now. To extend the author’s metaphor, my favourite ‘flexi-stages’ are like flower beds or vegetable patches in the sea of orderly concrete buildings (that’s how I like to plan, yes.). How organic are your lessons, and are you happy about it?

Development all around


There are countless articles and blog posts online about all the great opportunities for continuous professional development for Internet-savvy teachers. Lana’s post about ‘no size fits all’ CPD begins with a similar idea – yet there is a very important difference: she stresses the downsides or ‘pitfalls’ of each development path, e.g. online courses should be used selectively, reading won’t help if you don’t get rid of your hidden biases…

Very useful, especially when you start to panic that there is too much learning out there and no time to do it all!

Knowledge before skill?


Which is more important in language learning, skills or systems? I’m sure most of us would say: of course, there must be a balance – must be, but is there?

I’ve started thinking about this again after reading this great post by Doug Lemov. There’s also an interesting example of how all inference skills in the world cannot help understand a passage in the text if the reader has no relevant background knowledge! (As a translator of many years, I can particularly relate to this: when you read a book in L2, you might think it’s incredibly easy, but just start putting every word into your own language with all the shades of meanings…. and you’ll realise that you actually have to look up some of the meanings. And don’t get me started on allusions!)

So, dictionaries first?

P.S. If you find the topic interesting, you might want to check out two similar posts on my blog: Whatever happened to direct instruction and Is inquiry bad for novice learners?


A bumpy path and educational choices

bumpy path

Here is a great post by George Couros which encourages us to think how we can make things happen even if there are a lot of obstacles on the way. Some schools, or teachers, or simply people, give up, others keep trying – “somebody, somewhere, is doing the exact thing you say you can’t do”. If you scroll down a bit, you will see a fun decision-making flowchart which begins like this: is your education decision best for your learners? If the answer is ‘no’, simply don’t do it. But if the answer is ‘yes’ yet there are barriers, work on finding solutions and make it happen anyway.

Really inspiring, isn’t it?


Can we measure what we value?


What do teachers value? Good relationships with colleagues, a positive atmosphere in the classroom, learning success for the learners? And how do we know if we have achieved this? Which metrics can we influence by our actions, and which are beyond our control? All good questions, and some answers in this post at TeacherToolkit. Could be useful for those development plans!



The Corson technique for asking questions


Thomas Frank  writes in his great study skills blog about the Solution Finder mindset: when you’re stuck, don’t hurry to ask other people for help, grapple with the problem for another 15 minutes. He also mentions a technique popularised by Corson, a professor of engineering and president of Cornell University: if you have a difficult text to read, do it one sentence at a time, and ask yourself: what is it exactly that I don’t understand? Then, and only then, can you go and talk to your professor 🙂

I think it’s a great idea for learner training: when we want to give adult learners more challenge, but don’t want them to complain that the lesson was too difficult for their level;  when we want to help our young learners develop perseverance, grit, growth mindset, whatever you call it. What do you think?


Name tag, you’re it


Why do I always take a stack of A5 sheets to each new group? To me, the best way to learn the students’ names is to have them make name tags, or name plates – depends on how they fold the paper really. I don’t often go further than that though, yet Cristina from CristinaSkyBox has a lot of extra ice-breaking activities for you to try, complete with links to printable samples. And if you’re in a more serious mood (or teaching an EAP course), this post by Tyson Seburn can be a great inspiration. I didn’t expect pieces of coloured paper to evolve into academic reading, writing and revising so quickly!

Prime your classes with Flipgrid


Here is a wonderful article by Michael J Shehane about using Flipgrid in the language classroom. The advice he gives is invaluable: for example, what pitfalls of making Flipgrid videos are the most likely and whether it makes sense to discuss them with students; how you encourage students to do their Flipgrid homework without any conflict or contention; how exactly Flipgrid videos can help you achieve the learning objectives. The best I’ve read about Flipgrid so far!

Could be worth exploring this kind of ‘priming’ for teacher training – what do you think?