Showing posts from 2013

How well are the people of the world speaking English?

I recently attended the launch of the EF English Proficiency Index 2013  ( full PDF report here ) in Montevideo (left), where participants were told that Uruguay is still in the 'low proficiency' bracket and has dropped in points (from 53.42 to 51.49) since the EPI was last published in 2012 . It was not included in the first EF EPI published in 2011 . The 2013 edition of the EFP ranks 60 countries and territories by adult English proficiency, was produced with data collected from 750,000 test-takers and is a report that attempts to rank average level of English skills amongst adults ( Wikipedia ).  Most of the data is collected by EF from the free placement test taken by people on their website .  As such, the report has been criticised for a lack of representative sampling in each country . As such, this makes the EPI  an online survey rather than a statistically valid evaluation  ( Wikipedia ). When we asked about the data at the launch in Montevideo, EF were open abou

Ceibal English blog posts

The Ceibal English  ( Ceibal en Ingl és ) is a project involving  language teaching via video-conferencing in Primary schools throughout Uruguay.  The British Council Uruguay is managing the Ceibal English ( Ceibal en Ingl és )  project for Plan Ceibal and I was working as the project manager. ( update: I am now Country Director for the British Council in Uruguay ) As it develops, expanding from 500 to 1,000 classes a week in 2013, and doubling again to 2,000 classes a week in March/April 2014, I am recording and relfecting on different aspects of the project.  This page lists all of the blog posts I have written about the programme. Start here: Ceibal English interview  (British Council podcast and transcript) More information:   Remote Teaching for Success Ceibal English - Invitation to feedback session for forthcoming chapter Remote Teaching, distance learning, team teaching or blended learning? (updated) Interviews with Remote Teachers on Ce

Frameworks for effective technology use: SECTIONS

When adopting or adapting technology for effective teaching and learning, it often helps to use a framework. One such framework, produced by Dr. Tony Bate s, Research Associate for Contact North , is SECTIONS , devised by the University of British Columbia , and mentioned in Planning for Effective Teaching with Technology ,  part two of the great series of articles Understanding the Building Blocks of Online Learning . SECTONS stands for:- S - Student needs E - Ease of Use C - Cost considerations T - Teaching and learning (your  approach to) I - Interaction for students (desired level of) O - Organisational support needed N - Novelty factor S - Speed with which the technology or materials can be adopted/adapted Rather than just designed to be used at a teacher or classroom level, this framework has been devised "facilitate decisions with regard to choice of technology at both the strategic and the tactical level". How to use the framework: 1

Use of L1 in Ceibal English Remote Teaching

One of the issues we have been discussing in the Ceibal English project is the use of L1 by the two teachers- the CT (classroom teacher) and the RT (remote teacher), and after observing a great number of classes, I can see this varies a lot. Teachers attitudes to using L1 in the classroom varies a lot. I remember when I first started my teaching course, I was told that this was to be avoided at all cost, but when I started teaching young learners I realised that some use of L1 was necessary - mainly to save time and for classroom management reasons. There are some very interesting posts about this. In particular, I encourage you to read what Scott Thornbury wrote on his blog about translation  (and the comments!) and the response by Isabela Villa Boas . In particular, I think the following points are most relevant to the Ceibal English situation: Use of L1 interferes with the development of the L2 system Dependence on L1, at the expense of the learner constructing an indepe

New British Council podcast - Ceibal English interview

Earlier this month I was thrilled when asked to be interviewed by Rob Lewis about the Ceibal English project for the new British Council English Agenda podcast for teachers. It was an honour to be part of the first episode and a lot of fun to do. The result can be listened to here:   1. You’ve been in Uruguay for a few months now – can you tell us about the project you’re managing?  Ceibal en Ingles (Ceibal English) is a project the British Council won after a tender was issued by Plan Ceibal for English language teaching via video-conferencing in Primary schools in Uruguay. You will have heard of Plan Ceibal as the organisation that has succeeded in the OLPC initiative.  It started five years ago, and now each state school child in the country has received a laptop. With English, however, there aren’t enough qualified and experienced English teachers to be able to offer primary ch

Short and Sweet - Kieran Donaghy

Short and Sweet - Kieran Donaghy  The Image Conference , Brasilia 25th October 2013 This was Kieran's first conference presentation in Brasil. Here on a flying visit (the lack of sleep didn't show!), Kieran spoken about how best to use short films in the ELT classroom, presenting ideas that he has made popular through his ELTon award winning website, Film English . Kieran thinks that today's Internet culture, has led to more short films these days, and especially the rise in use of mobile deviceshas seen a renaissance in watching short films. For these reasons, the time is ripe to take advantage of this in the classroom. Why use short films?  The main reason is that they are short! This means  you can show them several times and do different activities with each viewing. You can also show learners a complete narrative, which means it can be more fulfilling for students than showing excerpts of films. The form is also usually innovative and so it is o

Carla Arena - Transforming sins into virtues in Design for Learning

Carla' session at the Image conference, Brasilia, was all about showing some common sins when designing digital resources and thinking about noticing the power of good design to enhance learning and power up the visuals in the language classroom. Carla Arena is a great believer in design when it comes to every stage of teaching or teacher training, taking care of details such as posters to attract teachers to training sessions.  Back in 2005, Carla believed she was a good designer, but now, looking back and sharing with us a presentation that she created that she is now horrified with what she created. Design for learning from sins to virtues from Carla Arena Some years ago, during an online course, she decided to change, and she shared her sins and how she changed with us during this presentation: Her first sin was...greed Crowding everything onto one slide, using lots of different fonts and animations. She changed to a more simpler approach - one

the Image Conference, Brasilia

The Image Conference, Cultura Inglesa, Brasilia 25th October 2013 You can't imagine how excited I was about attending this Braz-TESOL event in Brasilia, and so very pleased for Kieran Donaghy to see him here too. The First Image Conference was held earlier this year, in June, in Barcelona. I was first contacted by Kieran, the teacher behind the ELTon award winning Film English site , who asked me to present a the conference in Barcelona back in April, but then a week earlier he called me to say the event would have to be cancelled because his University said they were not prepared to take the financial risk. It was such a shame as Kieran had done 80% of the planning of the conference already: he'd lined up an impressive list of speakers, had arranged for sponsorship from major publishers, presented a preliminary budget, costed the refreshments and meals and talked to people about technical Support, etc.etc. Fortunately, I was able to suggest that the IATEFL LTSIG

What's wrong with giving Josh +1 for teamwork?

Next Thursday,   Paul Driver   is taking part in an online discussion at  #AusELT chat  about gamification that promises to be very interesting. In preparation for this, Paul has written an article, Well done Josh +1 for teamwork: Gamification and Crabs which outlines his stance on this new(-ish) trend that has started to enter the ELT classroom .  Paul makes some very valid points about gamification, which is often defined as  the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity . He doesn't sit on the fence when it comes to saying what he thinks of it, implying that gamification is " at best, an over-hyped and misguided fad, and, at worst, an evil and manipulative strategy for getting people to do things they normally wouldn’t want to. "  It's not the first time that Paul has spoken against the trend. In 2012, he wrote on his blog, Digital Debris that " in the maj

There's video-conferencing...and then there's video-conferencing...

Before I started working at Plan Ceibal , when anyone mentioned video-conferencing, I'd think of Skype . There was that other way of doing it, but I assumed that was for corporate meetings in big businesses. I did wonder before I started working here why they were installing expensive video conference systems and high speed fibre-optic cables in schools all over Uruguay and insisting on it being installed in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines (where the remote teachers are based). Why didn't they just use Skype or another similar system? I asked myself. Now, after helping with installation and testing of equipment, observing classes and working here for over three months, it is clear that part of the success of this project is because high definition video-conference equipment is used and not the low quality, low-cost solutions that are fine for most people's domestic use (and sometimes business) use. Having to depend on Skype myself to contact friend

Reform Symposium 04 (#RSCON4) presentation on Ceibal English

I was happy to be invited to present at the Future of Education´s Reform Symposium 04 (#RSCON4) and have decided it was a good opportunity to talk about the kind of teaching that is happening via video conferencing on the Ceibal English project . Here are the details of my presentation: Remote teaching, distance learning, team teaching or blended learning? I n Uruguay, due to a lack of qualified and experienced teachers, English is being taught in almost 1000 primary classes across the country via video conferencing, using teachers from elsewhere (other parts of Uruguay, Argentina, the Philippines, Colombia and Mexico). Because there are two teachers, the classroom teacher (CT) and the remote teacher (RT), a new type of methodology is being developed that combines elements of distance learning, team teaching and blended learning, but which is also requires a unique approach.  Day/Time : Sunday 13th October  12.00-13.00 (UTC/GMT) 10.00-11.00 UYST This online c

Distance learning? Remote learning?

In  Jeremy Harmer's recent blog post  reflecting on his observation of a class taking place in the Ceibal English ( Ceibal en Ingl és ) project, he writes about the project using ' distance teachers  who teach English remotely' At Ceibal, we talked about this label and how the term  remote teacher  had been adopted instead and that we didn't think  distance teacher  was the appropriate term. From the time of piloting the term  remote teacher  has been used throughout the project internally. In the  paper written by Dario Luis Banegas  (2013), he briefly explains the teaching situation of Ceibal English in this way: 'Plan   Cei bal   seeks to demonstrate that lessons delivered by remote teachers (RTs) via videocon- fe re nc ing   with   sup port   from   cl as sr oom   te achers   (CT s)   wi th   li ttl e   co mmand   of  Engli sh   can   facilitate   successful   learning   outcomes   in   learners,   including   effective interaction with the   R T , CT an

3 months of Ceibal English

I've now been working in Montevideo for Plan Ceibal for just over three months now and still can't get over the fact that it feels like I'm in a very special place at a very special time. Three months isn't a very long time, but it feels like I have learnt a lot since I've been here. As the British Council's project manager for Ceibal English ( Ceibal en Ingl és ) in Uruguay, I took over from Dario Luis Banegas , whose article ' ELT through videoconferencing in primary schools in Uruguay: first steps ' is an excellent introduction to the pilot and first stage of the project.  The introductory project video (below) gives another good overview of what is involved. Shortly after I arrived, the project expanded from 500 English classes a week to just under 1000, with classes being taught in multiple locations across the country by remote teachers from various institutes in Montevideo, the British Council in Colombia and Mexico, AACI and other insti