Category Archives: Teachers

Social Media in ELT reminds me of Don Quixote and his windmills

Under the post “Can we change education?”on her blog, Nancy A. McKeand wrote this :

Computers don’t and won’t automatically change education. It will take teachers who are able to open up the world to their students through using them to make a real difference.

So one of the questions that came up to my mind was : Why do teachers lack training in online resources? Are they afraid of online tools? How far has proper training gone into their professional consciousnes / responsibility? Are they really interested in what the new types of media have to offer for educational context?
I guess we are all (or almost all of us) interested, not exactly as David Warlick exclaims at the end of this blog post:

What we lack is both time and support. Time to sit down in front of the PC and try new tools to see what happens and support from the “big heads” from Educational Areas of different governments (in the world, because that lack of support is not exclusive from one country) to accept that to enhance education means to enhance teacher quality, quite neglected in my country -a shame really-

Perhaps the fact that Web 2.0 tools haven’t been designed just for educational purposes -but to meet different needs – is another key factor that, along with the lack of time and work load teachers in general undergo, contribute to struggling for or against the use of Social Media in ELT. Enthusiactic open minded Teachers eager to use all sort of online resurces without serious training and planning may terribly afect desired changes in education

In addition to the message behind the pic above I invite you to read an excerpt from a 25-year experienced teacher who says “NO” to computers in class.

Sad…but true.

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”

“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”

I sometimes think teachers in this century are too much like the protagonist of the novel written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Then I go back onto my thoughts and remeber that “Don Quixote is the most influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age and perhaps the entire Spanish literary canon.”, as the Wikipedia explains.

That is the exact moment when the facts presented on the paragraphs above do not look so sad to me.

Related post : How to set up a new Internet Lab at School

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EL Teachers in danger of extinction?

Yesterday I found a real bit of food for thought on the SMIELT blog

quite shocking

I was so interested in organizing ideas about it that I got a summary to be posted on one of the microblogs that I run. I generally do that when I want to (think in a loud voice???) reflect on some published posts that I read.

Surprisingly enough I realised that there hadn’t been so many comments on such a claim -Only Sarolta wrote something and her comments triggered some serious reflections as well .

English Village in Second Life

I strongly believe in Argentina we are still a very long way from the worrying situation presented. It is true that English is taught as L2 from an early age but rarely have learners become so proficient in the past decades. With this I do not mean that students in general haven’t been able to boast on a good command of the target language but I guess (have never read statistics on this)the percentage of students with a high performance in L2 is extremely low if we compare it with the percetange of students who started learning English at an early age. I’ve been in EFL for about 20 years and all this time has shown me that students who start learning English at primary school are very likely to give it up at secondary school. They start neglecting it as a school subject simply because that’s the way they do with most subjects or simply because they are fed up with it. They are not interested in the learning of that L2, especially as they consider the standards required for English at Secondary School match the knowledge they already have of English. EFL syllabuses at common schools are completely different from studying plans and methodologies followed in specific language schools / institutes. A common saying in this country is “If you really want to learn English you ought to attend special lessons / go to an EFL language school / pay a private EFL tutor” as English at ordinary schools does not fulfill great expectations. “If you want to aim high at English, then study it privately”

From that perspective English Teachers will still be highly regarded by people interested in graduate / post graduate courses in their respective careers. Generally when University students graduate they take up EFL courses of different sorts as they feel the need to deal with that L2 to raise standards in their respective fields. And there is a common feeling of regret : If only I hadn’t neglected / given up my English courses when I was a teen! What sometimes happens is that since they have had this experience they do not want this to happen to their own kids in the future so the little ones are made to study and, in most cases, forced to continue learning despite their lack of interest -“It will be useful for you later”, the saying strikes in the young ears now.

That said I guess EL teachers will probably work less at University levels or in adult courses ….but in several decades’ time! When the young generations having been “forced” to learn the L2 are already grown ups. However, other young kids will have to be taught. And English will probably be more important as generations go by.

Obviously more training for EFL Teachers will be demanded. It is already. The moment you stop training the moment you are left behind. It’s a kind of race. As a teacher, you have to jump , at least, onto the last wagongs of fast trains to catch up with young generations needs. This is, from my view, one of the most difficult things. But it is a common problem in education. Classic though it may sound, the use of new online tools in education is a very good example of the constant training teachers require.
In relation to the inequality among people as far as education is concerned, I couldn’t agree more with Sarolta’s words

What I really worry about is the fact that by allowing English become just another essential skill we will be contributing to greater inequality among people and cause marginalization of millions of young people who would have better chances in life had they had the opportunity to study in their own mother tongue. Education in one’s mother tongue is every person’s right. It is meant to open doors for development and prosperity of individuals and societies. Education systems should not create obstacles for those who don’t speak foreign languages.
However I feel this inequality has been on and on for a very long time, at least in my part of the world . But this has to do do with politics and social contexts that invite further debates in our world complex realities.
More to do with real teachers in my part of the world? Gabriela’s post on her wordpress blog is a perfect description

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