Friday, July 08, 2011

Looking back on 2011...Dogme ELT & Interactive Whiteboards

As usual, time flies and blog posts that I'd intended to write don't get written. However, now that summer is upon us and I have more time...

So, looking back...

One of the most interesting dates for me was the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG's PCE (Pre-Conference Event) , where a whole day was spent looking at IWBs from all angles. I have already written a post about the event on the iTILT website, but here I want to take a closer look at the discussion led by Luke Meddings on Dogme ELT and interactive whiteboards.

This post has also been prompted by, and is a response to Gavin Dudeney's recent blog post about "the increasingly blurry-edged DOGME which is mutating into something to please everyone". I've written a version of the following as a comment on Gavin's post, but want to expand upon it here...

Luke Meddings didn't run a workshop on IWBs  at the IATEFL LT SIG PCE. It was a discussion on 'Dogme ELT and IWBs' and I invited Luke to lead it. The reason why I did so? We'd invited Scott Thornbury to speak at the Unconference/PCE in Harrogate and this was a follow-up to this.

Scott's part in the PCE had gone down so well, it struck me that we could do something similar the year after, and so I tentatively proposed this to Luke at the 2010 IATEFL conference, and he said yes. I have to say, he had his reservations, and I did wonder if he'd feel the same way when I approached him months later to have his confirmation. I'm happy to say that he is a man of his word and he agreed to lead the discussion.

On the actual day, Luke took the pen of the SMARTBoard (for the first time in his life) and led the discussion. The notes he took on the board can be seen here.

I'd like to applaud his bravery for accepting my invitation. Aside from the discussion, I was also very impressed at his participation during the PCE. He attended the whole event, was an active participant in the other sessions and took part in the panel discussion at the end.

He was also true to himself and his approach to teaching. Like all fine educators, he approached the day with a very open mind, and although I don't think he left with the idea of teaching with an IWB, I think he was more able to see the ways that a teacher could use the tool to promote emergent language, and could see some of the benefits that using an IWB for this type of teaching (the ability to record everything on the board to look at later, for example).

I really think we need more of this. I for one have had enough of the 2 warring camps and the 'Tech vs Anti-tech' argument - I think we really have moved on. It's no longer a question of whether language teachers should use technology, but that teachers should use it judiciously and only when it advances the language learning in the classroom. There have been a number of posts (by myself, Nicky Hockly here and here, Sue Lyon-Jones) on this.

I also think that more teachers need to do what Luke did. Too much at conferences you see the same presenters talking to the same audience (preaching to the converted) about the same things. One of the reasons why the LT SIG got Scott and then Luke in to talk at the PCEs was to break this cycle - we should all be open to new ideas and to learning about what other 'special interest groups' can offer. This is also one reason why I went to the excellent Teaching Unplugged conference in Barcelona - I think the Dogme ELT approach has a lot to teach those of us who are interested in using technology in the language classroom, if we are open to listen to what is being said.

Update: Luke Meddings has also written a post about this.


  1. So, what this boils down to is teachers being able to justify what they do in class in terms of how it helps their learners. Is dogme anything more than this?

    As far as I'm concerned, technology has always had a role in realizing the above statement and will continue to do so. There are many occasions - in my classroom at least - in which the tech route is the best route to go, equally there are times when use of tech would be merely for the sake of it.

    Discerning between the two is what good teaching practice means and is at the heart of dogme.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Adam. For me, I think Dogme can offer teachers who choose to use technology in class a useful lesson. The idea that whatever materials you choose to use (be they coursebooks or something on an IWB) should be chosen because they advance the learning first and not because of 'edutainment' reasons, which is (I suspect) how many teachers approach technology.

    I also believe that you can use the IWB in a much more reactive way - the iTILT approach is to think of it as a digital hub. The tool means teachers have at their fingertips access to far more resources and ways of teaching than ever before. This requires the teacher to think carefully about what they are going to do next and make a choice about what they decide to draw upon in their class.

    This increase in choice of resources means that it is often tempting to use something new because it's there or because you can. However, in many cases, the time spent in setting something up in class may not be worth it - I think it's often better to think of how something can be done without technology first and then weigh up the benefits of using tech.

    Some questions to consider include:-
    - Will it add anything to the learners' understanding?
    - Will it save time?
    - Will they 'get it' more easily?
    - Will they be more motivated if I do it this way?
    - Will it be more memorable?
    If the answers are 'yes' to any of these questions, then using technology is valid.

  3. Hi Graham and thanks for this explanation of how the PCE discussion came about.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph, not only in regards to IATEFL's SIGs and PCEs but to conferences in general. Too many times when it comes to choosing which workshop or concurrent session to attend, I hear people make their decision based on 'relevance' to their own context. This leads to them sitting through a session nodding away thinking 'yes, yes, agreed' rather then having their beliefs challenged or learning something new.

  4. It is safe to say that whiteboards have advanced since my days in school. In fact, I can remember having the dull blackboardm, which was limtied to white or yellow chalk if you were lucky! Then came the dry wipe whiteboard and now the IWB! The IWB is good for every environemnt imaginable and can improve meetings and seminars endlessly. It may seem like a lot of money to invest at first, but trust me, the benefits far outweight the costs!

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  6. Graham - The answer is yes to all the questions.
    1. Absolutely!

    2. It saves time - with a bit of a system you can have ready lesson plans or parts which can be used over and over again when needed for revision.

    3. Will they "get it"? Yes especially where grammatical points are concerned.

    4.Motivaation - Well, yes, lots of pupils want to interact with the exercises presented on the whiteboard, and the whiteboard motivated me as a teacher to change my way of teaching. The last few years of my teaching life before retiring were made a lot more pleasant thanks to my IWB.
    5. More memorable. Who would not remember a youtube film to help with grammar, vocabulary or facts about English speaking countries. Everything I have access to from my laptop can be shown including films and music of course.

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  9. Thanks for the post, seems like 2011 was the year of dogme. ELT is constantly changing and it's hard to keep up with everything. Technology helps, though it's also frustrating because there's so much info out there.

  10. Hi Graham

    Thanks for this interesting and informative post. I've quoted you over on on my post 'Digital Dogme' - hope ok with you.


  11. Interactive Whiteboard.... i prefer infocus by computer, using slide show.. but that idea is nice...

    Regard from Indonesia,

  12. Interesting article. Our school is planning to install interactive whiteboards in the next year, and I am certainly looking forward to getting the chance to use them.