Tony Gurr

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Some THUNKS on Giving a Conference Paper (from GUEST BLOGGER Laurence Raw)

In Adult Educators, Conferences, Guest BLOGGERS, Research on 23/10/2014 at 5:33 pm

What if 06

One of the essential aspects of any academic (or educator’s) existence is the need to give papers at conferences.  This not only demonstrates a commitment to research, but provides an opportunity to share one’s insights with others in the field.

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Unfortunately things seldom work out like that.  I have been to many events where academics and graduate students simply come in, deliver their papers as fast as possible, answer a few questions and then leave.  One more notch on the résumé; another step accomplished in the search for a better job.

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Best way to be BORING (Voltaire quote)

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Even if delegates do stay, their style of presentation often prevents listeners from understanding precisely what they want to say.  Even in these days of unlimited technical innovation, the majority of presenters still choose to read aloud from printed sheets of paper and/or the iPad without actually looking at their audiences.  They also fail to grasp the fact that a paper written for academic readers is fundamentally different from a conference paper; in a conference the watchword is simplicity of style, enabling the interlocutors to understand precisely what the presenter is saying.  While reading a paper aloud is quite permissible – especially for those who are unconfident about speaking in public – but it should be read in such a way that listeners can understand what the writer is trying to say.  Gabbling one’s words just induces boredom.

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For the last few years or so, the popular vogue amongst presenters has been to summarize their arguments on PowerPoint presentationsFair enough; but care needs to be taken as to how they are constructed.  Each slide should have as few words on it as possible, and such words should be printed in a font that enables everyone to understand them.  Images should be simple yet powerful, and support what the presenter is saying; it’s no use simply summarizing the content of one’s presentation on slides, and expecting audiences to understand it.

Death 028

I could go on at length about the so-called ‘guidelines’ for conference presentation, but I’d rather prefer to turn the argument round and look at the issues facing anyone confronted with the need to present their work in public.

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Yesterday I had to give a piece to an audience of learners and senior faculty members.  My voice is not really powerful enough at present to project to the back of an oblong-shaped hall, so I used my microphone – or enhancer – as an aid; I feel rather like one of those presenters on a television quiz show, with the microphone hanging over my ears and the speaker close to my mouth.  Entering the hall at eleven o’clock gave me a few butterflies; I had to entertain an audience of fifty-plus people with an age-range from the late teens to retirement-age, all looking at me (or not looking at me) in expectation.  The only means I had to sustain my attention were my voice and a few images (if I wanted to use them).

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I experienced the feelings shared by every conference presenter at every event: how can I cope with the forthcoming ordeal?  The only way I could deal with this was to imagine myself like a high diver jumping off the board into a swimming-pool (or creek) several feet below me; I had to jump and subsequently trust in my own abilities to land safely.  If I failed, I would hurt myself (mentally, at least).  This was precisely what I did: armed only with a small notebook with a few ideas scribbled down, I began to talk.  To try and maintain audience interest, I kept looking at them; my head moved from side to side, then to the front and back of the hall.  If I saw someone’s eyes moving away from me, I made my best efforts to rescue their interest by glancing briefly at them.  Sometimes the technique worked; on other occasions I knew the task was beyond me.  Or maybe I was wrong: someone once told me that people’s listening strategies are often very different: when they seem outwardly uninterested, they are in fact taking note of what is being said and trying to make sense of it.

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Twilight Zone 01b (TG edit).jpg

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As I warmed to my argument, so my confidence grew.  I departed a little from my prepared script and illustrated my speech with anecdotes.  Some of them worked (in the sense of drawing a reaction from the audience); others fell flat as a pancake.  Nonetheless, I kept going; whatever my audience thought of my presentation, I was enjoying myself.  I had dived into the pool and was now swimming happily.

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The presentation ended, and the audience applauded.  There had been a few laughs; indeed, some of the audience had exchanged banter with me, which proved most satisfying.  At least I had appealed to their sense of fun.  I was sweating with excitement – I felt beads of perspiration on my brow – but at least I had done what I was expected to do.

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What did this experience tell me about delivering papers? 

I think I realized once more that audiences react in unpredictable ways: when they appear not to be listening, they might be interested; when they look at me, they might be thinking of something completely different.  To deliver a presentation not only involved speaking abilities but body language too: looking at your audience is of paramount importance.  Hence I’ve avoided reading papers verbatim for several years now.  If you, as the speaker, feel you’ve done your very best to communicate your enthusiasm for the topic under discussion, then your paper has been a success.

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REFLECTION 06 (Socrates quote)

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Enthusiasm” is an important term here:

…just doing a conference paper for the sake of it is a waste of time!

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And, above all, if you can try to deal with your inevitable nerves and realize that conference papers should be FUN, for yourself and for your listeners, then you’re well on the way to becoming a good speaker.  At least, I hope so anyway.

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Laurence Raw (aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)

Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

The DNA of GREAT Teachers – 3 “listicles” you have to read!

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Schools, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 18/03/2014 at 9:59 am

Last week, allthingsLEARNing offered a bout of bloggery from guest-blogger Steve Brown (Is it all in the Genes?).

Today we have a follow-up guest-post from Cas Olivier (all the way from Harties“, a small resort town in the North West Province of South Africa). I never actually got to Hartbeespoort on “my walkabouts” around South Africa – but now I have a reason to do so…next time.

Cas (guest post slide) 01

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The story of how I bumped into Cas in the blogosphere is a funny one!

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About 8 months ago, I was desperately looking for some new images to “steal” for one of my own posts on “GREAT TEACHers”. Yes, I know…some of you “hate” this phrase – but, come on – who among us all does not want their students to say something like – “Tony Hocam is a GREAT TEACHer”?

go on, tell the truth now!

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Well, I was at a total loss – couldn’t find anything new to steal…sorry, “inspire” me! I had got totally fed up of using “brains” and “mirrors”!

I had lunch with my big, little girl and told her what was going on (actually, she wanted to know what all the “swearing” was about…the foul language that had been pouring out of my study all morning)!

Expletive (four)

I mentioned that I had overdone the whole “brain” thing – but I (still) liked the notion of “organic” TEACHing! She looked up and said “Dad…what about DNA – that’s cool”!

I jumped up…kissed her…and ran back to the study!

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Not five minutes had passed…and the wave of obscene expletives began againbloody Google had spat out Cas’ book The DNA of GREAT TEACHers (spat it out straight in my eye it did) and I hated him almost immediately…with a passion!

Expletive (sixteen)

Hey, I am human – get over it! Least I’m honest…

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You see…the same thing had happened to me when I “invented” (yes, I also “steal” ideas from me daughter – I am THAT daddy!) the term ASSESSment Literacy back in 2011 (I still “hate” Richard Stiggins…not really!) LEARNing, CURRICULUM and EDUCATIONAL Literacy, however, are still “mine” (and my big, little girl had nothing to do with them…that time it was “Dexter”, my dog…who will soon have a blog)!

I calmed down…and started “stalkingCas via his website-cum-blogLEARNingDESIGNs – could he be my long-lost brother (my dad had spent time in Cape Town, Durban and the Free State in the late-40’s), acaba?

Cas Hocam – I know you were born in the Free State…but, when exactly WERE you born? I want a date…and a pregnancy calendar!

 

I fell in love with the sample chapters that Cas was so generously sharing on his blog – I liked the complex simplicity of his THUNKs…and the common sense those thunks were screaming at me!

I forgave him (!)…got in touch via mail…and, his first act of cyber friendship was to send me a copy of his book. 

Paying It Forward is alive and well…in the “Harties”!

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Cas and I started chatting about him doing a follow-up to Steve’s post – and although neither of us are fans of “listicles” (TY – Kevin Stein aka @kevchanwow in the big, bad Tweetiverse) he thought it might be fun…to do THREE of themin one post!

So, over to Cas!

DNA Question (for Cas)

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The DNA of GREAT teachers are described from a plethora of vantage points and they all have merit.

My vantage point is my latest book: The DNA of Great Teachers in which I use the ‘DNA-concept’ as metaphor to explain teaching paradigms and explain how teachers’ genetic teaching make-up influences their mindsets and teaching practices.

Once I started to “decode” teaching-DNA, I began to understand more and more about what made GREAT teachers so GREAT!

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 01

Let’s start with beliefs – and my first “listicle”:

 

The 10 Beliefs of GREAT TEACHers

  1. Teaching means to facilitate learning.
  2. Lesson planning means converting the curriculum into learning challenges.
  3. Their main tasks are to guide and support students.
  4. Are firstly followers and then leaders.
  5. Teaching is like developing new medicine. It must be based on patient needs and not the design preference of the manufacturer.
  6. The momentum of great teaching is maintained by questions asked by both themselves and the students.
  7. When students are not learning as expected, they change their approach.
  8. They cannot teach learners anything, but can make them think.
  9. Learning always starts from the known and progresses to the unknown.
  10. Lesson must cater for ‘short-legged’ and ‘long-legged’ students.

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As Tony might say – have a THUNK about it.

How many of these reflect your understanding of your own DNA? How many of them are beliefs – that walk-their-talk in your classrooms? Are there any in there that you might disagree with? Why / Why not?

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 02

The second of my “listicles” is more focused on the classroom (I’m not that sure if that term is growing on me or not)!

Before you read mine…What would your own Top 10 List include?

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Questions (Joseph O Connor quote) Ver 03

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The 10 Things That GREAT TEACHers “DO” in the Classroom

  1. Determine the learning status of students and then become leaders to guide their learning.
  2. Manage their classes through good relationships.
  3. Deviate from their lesson-plan to enable students to gain quick learning-wins.
  4. Provide learners with scaffolds to work out their own answers.
  5. To achieve productive silence in a class, they ask questions. To achieve productive noise give students an activity to do.
  6. Use at least 5 teaching methods.
  7. Never give answers to questions. Rather provide students with scaffolds to enable them to work out their own answers.
  8. Ensure learners are acknowledged and feel clever.
  9. Ensure students master logical, critical, creative and big picture thinking skills.
  10. Encourage learning risk takers to speak their minds.

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How many were similar to your own listicle?

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 03

List 03now, this is one of my favourites.

None of us are “perfect”…we all have room to grow. But, GREAT TEACHers often take their DNA…and turn it into an “art form”:

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The Top 10 Things that GREAT TEACHers “do” to Improve

  1. Discuss their teaching with colleagues.
  2. Learn from any source to improve their teaching.
  3. Appreciate positive and negative critique on their teaching.
  4. Do not take critique personally.
  5. Keep on looking for better ways to engage students in more creative and challenging learning.
  6. Open to advice.
  7. Willingness to change.
  8. Remind themselves that they should not be the main source of information during lessons.
  9. Keep on looking for ways students can discover and create their own answers.
  10. Keep abreast by reading about teaching.

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Now, here’s a thunk or 2 (again, to “steal”…sorry, to be “inspired”…from Tony)!

How many of you work in schools that give you the “space” to do these things? Schools that create the conditions for “DNA mutation and adaptation” to take place – through LEARNing conversations between LEARNing teachers

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 04 (with cover)

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Cas Olivier   –   www.LearningDesigns.co.za   –   casper@mweb.co.za 

Is it all in the Genes? (from GUEST BLOGGER – Steve Brown)

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 05/03/2014 at 8:25 am

Today’s bout of bloggery is from Steve Brown (aka @sbrowntweets on Twitter).

I first came across Steve when I was pointed in the direction of his blog post “21 Questions for Language TEACHers”. I have to admit I had not stumbled upon Steve’s blog – the very-easy-to-remember(The) Steve Brown Blog” – until Mike Griffin gave him a nod in one of his posts and I kicked meself for not seeing it earlier.

I loved his questions so I decided to stalk his blog pages a wee bit more. When I came up for air, I told him (via Twitter) that I was sorry I had had not recognised his “bloggery genius” earlier – and then asked if he’d be interested in answering a question (rather than just helping us thunk over his – he has just done another wonderful “quiz” for all us teachers, too…take a look)!

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He agreed – and here we are this morning!

THUNKers Wanted (for Steve)

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When Tony asked me to do a guest post on his blog I was flattered, then excited, then a bit scared.

I got (really) scared at the point when he “suggested” I try answering this question:

DNA (LEARNing TEACHer) Blog ver 01

Freakishly scary, right?

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I mean, where do you start? This question isn’t just about what makes a good teacher, but what (if anything) is hard-wired into a person that predisposes them to effective, reflective, developmental teaching.

At least I think that’s what the question is!

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So, let’s start with a definition of a LEARNing TEACHer.

I would suggest that this is a teacher who continues to LEARN throughout their career. Someone who recognises that completing a teacher training qualification does not make you the “finished article”. Someone who realises that there is no finished article.

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Parker Quote (for Steve)

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Someone who constantly seeks ways to…

improve,

develop and

enhance their skills & talents.

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If this is our definition of a LEARNing Teacher, maybe we can identify what qualities such a person needs to have.

They need to be able to take new information on board, to respond well to feedback, to pick up new information and ideas, and to have the technical skills to put them into practice.

LEARNing Quote 01 (Steve)

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Of course, much is made of such qualities in the world of ELT teacher training courses. Trainees are expected to make steady progress from observed lesson to observed lesson, absorbing new information from input and feedback sessions then putting it into practice at the very next opportunity.

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But all that stuff is LEARNable!

Adams Quote (for Steve)

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You can LEARN how to manage a class, how to give instructions, how to do effective boardwork, how to clarify language, how to correct errors. This is what the ancient Greeks called poeisis – the implementation of techniques. You learn what needs to be done, then you do it.

Is that all that teaching involves though? Is it just a matter of following set procedures, using tried and tested techniques?

Sure, you need to be able to acquire those technical skills, but you also need to know when to use them.

Best TEACHers (new ver) TG

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Teaching is an essentially human activity; you’re working closely with real people, and these real people will respond in very varied ways to the techniques you implement.

A sensitivity to these responses and an ability to react appropriately are therefore crucial. This is more like what the ancient Greeks called praxis – action that is informed by a wider context, taking into account the moral, socio-economic or political consequences that your teaching might have, beyond the classroom.

I mean the impact on the students’ lives, and the resulting consequences for society in general.

Resnick Quote (for Steve) TG ver

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In terms of what goes into a teacher’s DNA, therefore, the skills themselves are less important because they are LEARNable. What is more fundamental is an inherent AWAREness of the “implications” of employing these skills.

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But the question isn’t just about a good teacher; it’s about a LEARNing teacher.

So as well as an awareness of what you’re doing, there needs to be something else in the DNA that “drives” you forward, that keeps you “wanting” to LEARN more.

Resnick Quote TG ver

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I would suggest that this requires FOUR qualities:

Interest

You can’t LEARN how to be interested in something – either you’re interested or you’re not. So you need to have an interest in the subject you teach, and you also need to have an interest in the whole “business” of teaching and LEARNing.

Motivation

Again, this has to go in the DNA because you can’t LEARN how to want to do something. Desire to take action comes from somewhere very deep down. 

Inquiry

I suppose you could argue that this is very closely related to motivation, but it’s not exactly the same. While motivation is a desire to take action, inquiry is a desire to find things out. You can have your interest piqued or your curiosity raised, but I think that a constantly questioning approach to life, or a reluctance to just accept everything as it is, is something you either have or you don’t have.

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Tolstoy Fish Quote (new ver) TG

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Humility

In order to get better at something, it is important to be able to recognise how bad you are at it. In fact, failures or shortcomings need to be welcomed and embraced as opportunities for development.

We tell this to our students, so we need to demonstrate these qualities in ourselves as well. Humility is certainly something that can be developed, but the ability to equate failure with opportunity is something that some people find very difficult, and others find impossible.

LEARNing and ADAPTATION (Steve)

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I’m not sure I’m doing very well here in describing what the DNA of a LEARNing teacher looks like, though.

Can we visualise it?

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Apparently, regular DNA looks like this:

DNA (Steves Ver)

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You’ve got the four chemicals Adenine, Cyostine, Thymine and Guanine, surrounded by sugar and phosphate.

Maybe the DNA of a LEARNing Teacher can look pretty similar.

Replace the four chemicals with Interest, Motivation, Inquiry and Humility, and surround it all with…AWAREness!

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What if 06

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Of course this is incredibly “unscientific” and I apologise to everyone who actually knows something about DNA. I would welcome any comments from such people.

Trying to answer Tony’s question has raised three related questions for me, which I think I can answer now:

Steves ANSWERS

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Steve Brown

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Why are Academics (still) NOT Blogging? (from GUEST BLOGGER Laurence Raw)

In Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Research, Teacher Learning on 25/08/2013 at 1:01 pm

Dummies (Academic Blogging) Ver 02 TG

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While reading Ana Cristina Pratas’ very generous review of the book ADAPTATION AND LEARNING ,2013) that I co-wrote with Tony Gurr, I was reminded once again of the ways in which blogging is still viewed with considerable suspicion by many academics – especially those with an interest in furthering their careers.

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To BLOG or NOT to BLOG

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A blog lacks the respectability associated with a scholarly article; it will neither help you to increase your research profile, nor contribute to your institution’s output for a Research Assessment exercise.  Professorships will never depend on the number of hits your blog receives.

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Yet perhaps this is missing the point.  Five years of blogging about radio drama, and education has taught me a great deal about the act of writing; the need to make one’s point quickly and concisely so as to sustain reader’s attention.  As a member of several editorial boards, I have lost count of the submissions I have received where the writing has been quite simply execrable; repetitive, long-winded and woolly-minded.  A blog helps to eliminate such deficiencies; if readers can’t get your meaning in the first two paragraphs, they’ll simply go on to another page.

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Blogger (crap blog)

As we argued in ADAPTATION AND LEARNING, blogs also attract immediate responses.  Writers do not have to wait months and months to receive feedback in journal reviews; they can find out what their readers think and respond in any way they wish.  This process can help to encourage dialogue, as well as helping writers refine their work for subsequent publication, either online or in print form.

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Blogging is also a democratic form of communication.  Readers do not have to spend time searching for articles in obscure journals, or browsing sites such as JSTOR for material; it is available to everyone, irrespective of their disciplinary specialism.  My Radio Drama Reviews blog attracts professionals – actors, directors, technicians – as well as enthusiasts from all walks of life and from all parts of the globe.  Blogging is also wonderfully democratic; there are no distinctions to be drawn between ‘academic’ and ‘non-academic’ readers and/or writers.

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This provides a wonderful opportunity for bloggers to disseminate their work to a wider audience.  In personal terms, this can help to advance their reputation (as well as increasing the range of possible opportunities for further writing and/or research projects); in institutional terms, this process of dissemination might provide the basis for innovative, transdisciplinary modes of research involving individuals from different walks of life (or disciplinary specialisms).

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Creativity (Matisse quote 01)

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Blogging represents freedom.  I do not have to spend time planning and/or researching something; I can write down what I think and receive an immediate response. I can write on my netbook, my iPad, or sitting at a desktop (or on smart phone).  I can write in the office, at home, or sitting in a coffee-bar.  The American dramatist David Mamet once claimed that writing in restaurants offered him the greatest creative opportunities; I wholeheartedly agree.  Above all, blogging helps to stimulate creativity; I am not constrained by academic conventions to produce pieces of a certain length and according to a particular scholarly format.

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blogger

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Blogging should not be seen as a potential threat to more established means of communication (such as the scholarly article). On the contrary, it provides an ideal means to try out new ideas, which might subsequently appear in printed form.

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Blogging (guest bloggers welcome)

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There are some really good pieces on this topic online: look at these, for instance:

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Also, take a look at one of Tony’s earlier posts – it got him a bit of “hot water”:

Holy Trinity in HEd (Ver 02)

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BLOGGING – the “secret weapon” that is (finally) helping TEACHers “trump” SCHOLars!

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Laurence Raw (aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)

Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com
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In Praise of CREATIVITY (Pt 02 – from GUEST BLOGGER Chaz Pugliese)

In ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 17/08/2013 at 5:40 pm

Creative ADULT (Le Guin quote) Ver 02

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In the last post from Chaz, we looked at the concept of creativitywhat it is, where it is and its role in the classroom.

Chaz pointed out that, given the right type of motivation, everyone can be creative. But creativity doesn’t  just happen like that; it needs to be embraced, invited, nurtured and encouraged.

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Creativity (Sir Ken quote 01)

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In this second post, Chaz talk about three stimulating strategies he uses to boost his own creative potential. For each of these he provides a short outline and an example to illustrate how it can be implemented in the classroom. He also describes an activity teachers can use themselves to overcome blocks and fears and to unleash their own creativity.

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Strategy 1: Simplicity

Keeping things simple in the classroom involves focusing on the learner rather than on the materials to be ‘covered’. Most importantly, to teach more simply is to teach more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. If necessity is the mother of invention, then frugality definitely plays a big role in boosting our creativity.

The simplicity strategy can be spectacularly applied in the language learning classroom – in activities that require little or no preparation time and which are designed to use the students as our primary resource. What you need, to put this strategy into practice, is some knowledge of who your students are as people, what they like and how they like to learn.

The rest is down to some thinking, some work and, to a lesser extent, some inspiration.

Creativity (Emerson quote 01)

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Blind portrait (a warmer)

Level: Any

Preparation: Have some pencils and A4-size sheets of paper ready.

Method:

  1. Put the students into pairs and make sure they have a piece of paper and a pencil each.
  2. Ask them to draw each other’s portrait without ever looking at the paper.
  3. When they’ve finished, ask them to compare their portraits (this inevitably triggers laughter).
  4. The lesson can now start.
  5. Alternatively,  and especially if the students don’t know each other very well, you can ask them to draw the same object in the classroom – again, without looking at the paper.

Comment

Over the years I have found that using a touch of humour in the classroom is a great tool to diffuse tension and relax the students (and, often, the teacher).

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Strategy 2: The ability to “play”

Think, if you can, of a life deprived of play. You give up? I don’t blame you.

The ability to play is the capacity to have serious, purposeful fun. This is seen by many creativity researchers as an important step in the creative process. In the words of psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, ‘there’s no question that a playful attitude is typical of creative individuals … but coupled with its antithesis, a quality of perseverance and endurance’. As early as the 16th century, Erasmus and Montaigne both recommended games as mnemonic devices, and recently Guy Cook has explained how play has a cognitive function that supports and fosters creative thinking.

A playful attitude is important in the classroom because it helps the teacher create a stress-free environment, and is essential because it allows us to pay heed to the child within us that is still longing to be creative and playful. We can approach self-expression with a greater sense of balance and, in some cases, with renewed enthusiasm, making it easier for our creativity to flourish.

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Lingo Novo

Level: Intermediate and above

Preparation: None, as such, beyond keeping an eye open, as always, for the best time to do it.

Method:

1.Ask the students to work in pairs.

2.Tell them they have ten minutes to invent a new language. This language should include:

  • a greeting
  • a farewell
  • expressions for:
  • thank you
  • please
  • sorry
  • why and because
  • if
  • a positive comment (I like the weather.)
  • a negative comment (I’m not Jean Jacques.)

3.When they are ready, ask the students to form new pairs and to teach each other their new languages.

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Strategy 3: Risk taking

Risk taking is about getting out of one’s comfort zone. Charlie (‘Bird’) Parker is one of the most influential jazz musicians who ever lived. The first time he played in a jazz club, he got booed off the stage, and the drummer even threw a cymbal at him in sheer anger. Parker’s sin had been to venture into new territory: he wasn’t interested in playing mainstream music, and that’s the risk he chose to take. He persevered and contributed to the birth of a whole new chapter in the history of jazz. Bird was prepared to be wronghe had the guts to challenge the establishment, and that’s perhaps the lesson for all of us: creativity takes courage.

Risk-taking (quotes)

Taking risks doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us; it makes us feel uncomfortable and edgy.

This comes from a fear of being wrong. As children, we feel free to experiment with reality and we don’t care about the results. By the time we are adults, we lose that capacity and become frightened of doing things differently. This is largely because we stigmatise mistakes. So, what we do, according to Sir Ken Robinson, is to ‘educate ourselves out of creativity’.

However, there is only one alternative if you don’t want to take risks, and that is to play it safe – to give in to the sirens of routine, an approach which never really pays dividends. Risk taking in the classroom is about assessing the situation, daring to try different approaches and entering the discomfort zone. The outcome won’t be spectacular at first, but taking risks is a necessary step if one intends to engage oneself seriously on this path.

Creativity (Scott Adams quote 01)

Picture this

Level: Intermediate and above

Preparation: You will need a set of pictures of works of art.

Method:

1.Put a collection of pictures of works of art on your desk. Invite all the students to come up and pick one picture they’d like to do some work on.

2.Ask them not to show their pictures to anyone.

3.Put the students into pairs (A and B). Explain that the As are going to describe the opposite of the picture they’ve chosen, and that the Bs should draw or write (see the Comment below) the opposite of what they hear from the As. Thus: If A says: ‘In this painting there’s a cat sitting in a tree’, B may draw or write: ‘The monkey’s eating a banana’ or even ‘There’s a dog sleeping on the sofa’.

4.Give them a good ten minutes for this. When they’re ready, ask them to check B’s picture or description against the original. How close did they get?

5.Invite the students to exchange roles.

Comment

The idea of an ‘opposite’ is naturally very subjective, hence there’s an element of creativity that makes the activity more engaging. It is important to provide the students with options. Some may prefer to write a description, others may like to draw. By giving them a choice, hopefully the activity will more inclusive.

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Overcoming blocks and fears

Not a single person I have met finds it easy to nurture and unleash their creativity.

As teachers, we have to deal with all sorts of fears that may keep us from being creative, including fear of change, fear of accepting failure, fear of rocking the boat, fear of standing out, fear of disappointing and fear of uncertainty. Working in an environment that doesn’t value creativity is another huge mountain to climb.

Creativity (Matisse quote 01)

Having worked with hundreds of teachers on creativity courses, I know from experience that discovering that we can actually begin to create is the real trigger. There are no magic wands and no easy tricks, but please try the activity below. It is easy and powerful, and it should get you started.

Remember two thingsthat there is no such thing as right or wrong and that you need to trust the process.

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Comment:

The same exercise can be done using pictures. Visualise a picture you’re familiar with and, when the image is clear, change its colours, add or eliminate features, etc. Remember to experiment and to let your imagination run free. It is the process that matters: you may feel particularly proud of the end product – or not!

The same exercise can be done using pictures. Visualise a picture you’re familiar with and, when the image is clear, change its colours, add or eliminate features, etc. Remember to experiment and to let your imagination run free. It is the process that matters: you may feel particularly proud of the end product – or not!

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The music of change

1.Take a few moments to relax, unwind and ‘gather attention’. Feel every muscle in your body relax and let your breathing become even and deep.

2.Now visualise a piece of music you like: anything, a song or an instrumental piece. Play it in your head. Play it loudly, as if someone were performing it in front of you.

3.Focus on the details. When the image is clear, change just one feature of the music. For example, change the tempo from slow to fast or from fast to slow.

4.Now change another feature in your imagination. For example, hear different instruments performing the music.

5.Keep changing the music as ideas spring to mind until you hear a whole new different piece of music, something neither you nor anyone else has ever heard.

6.Be as daring or as subtle as you wish, but allow your mind room for something new each time.

7.What does the creative experience feel like? Take some time to think about this.

8.Make notes and share with a partner or discuss with your colleagues – according to the possibilities of the situation you are in.

Change (Margaret Mead quote) Ver 02

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If you want to learn more about creativity, why not take a look at Chaz’s book – “Being Creative: The Challenge to Change in the Classroom” (DELTA, 2010).

Chaz also recommends the following “bedtime reading”:

  • Cook, G – Language Play, Language Learning OUP (2000)
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M – Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention HarperCollins (1996)
  • Robinson, K – Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative Capstone (2001)

Creativity (Sir Ken quote 02)

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ALSO, in case you want a bit more BEDtime READing – check out Tony’s CREATIVITY Library! Now, tell me if you can’t find 3 (or 6) books there to keep you going!

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Tony’s CREATIVITY Library

In Praise of CREATIVITY (Pt 01 – from GUEST BLOGGER Chaz Pugliese)

In ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 17/08/2013 at 5:12 pm

Am I creative enough (TG ver 01)

We’ve all asked ourselves that question, haven’t we?

I know I have…still do – every day!

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Today, we have a guest post from Chaz Pugliese, a teacher-trainer and musician (he plays a mean blues tune or twobased in Paris. Chaz and I met in Istanbul a few months ago and when I learned his “passion” was allthingsCREATIVITY – I just had to ask how he felt about allthingsBLOGGING!

I’m glad I didTake a read – feel free to contact him at chazpugliese@gmail.com.

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He’ll be back soon with “Part İki”

Creativity (Niebuhr quote 01)

We live in a culture that doesn’t encourage us to be creative unless there’s a chance we are going to strike it big with a commercial hit. Creativity, like so much else in our world, has been co-opted into consumerism and its worth calculated by how much money it generates.

The teaching world is no exception: the big pull is towards standardization, exams, regimented syllabi, a senseless don’t rock the boat attitude, intellectual shortsight that will do nobody a favor. The Victorian art critic John Ruskin, when asked why he was teaching factory workers to draw, said:

“I’m not teaching them to draw, I’m teaching them to see”.

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Isn’t learning a language, too, a way of learning to see anew? I would venture to say that enhanced seeing and feeling are the real reasons to create, whether it is an exercise, a song, a haiku, or a brand new thought.

Creativity (Angelou quote ver 03)

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A creative teacher knows how to get his/her students’ attention. and help them keep it. A creative teacher knows how to teach in ways that are meaningful to the students. A creative teacher will always find ways to make her lessons stick.

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Creative teachers can do all that.

Creativity is not an optional extra for a teacher, but rather the foundations to base our practice upon. Think of the word creativity and images of imposing Renaissance men or 20th century iconoclast physics will come to mind. Well, luckily for us common mortals, the story is a little more complex than that. If you’re after a genius type of creativity and you’re wondering whether this article will make you attain the heights of a Leonardo da Vinci or BachI’m sorry to say that, no, it won’t. But please read on, there’s hope. If we talk about an everyday type of creativity, absolutely everyone can be creative.

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In this post we will tackle a few important questions such as:

  • What is creativity?
  • Why should I bother?
  • How can I become more creative?

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What is creativity?

But what are we talking about when we’re talking about creativity? There are as many as 125 different definitions of creativity in the literature.

Creativity (Sir Ken quote 03 definition)

One thing is certain, there’s more to creativity than just thinking outside the box (or divergent thinking as it is called by creativity researchers). In fact, there seems to be general consensus that rather than just a single trait, creativity is best thought of as a cluster of skills used to produce an idea that is novel and culturally appropriate or valued.

There’s another definition I have always liked by professor Robert Sternberg, perhaps the world’s leading researcher in the field. For him, creativity is a decision we take. Wanting to be more creative is the main drive, the rest is up to hard work.

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Why should I bother? 

Creativity (Einstein quote 01)

A few years ago a few hundreds school kids in the UK were asked to name the qualities they thought a top teacher should have. What came first was ‘originality’, followed by ‘fairness’. This is hardly shocking news: great teachers have known all along that you can’t teach anyone anything if you haven’t managed to get through to them. And the best way to get our students’ attention is through a surprise: yes, kids like to be surprised (but don’t we all?), and anything that smacks of routine is bound to fail. So, a surprise gets us attention.

Interestingly, this seems in line with neurobiology research findings on the quality of attention: one of the four factors that has an impact on attention, and gets the students in a state of mental arousal is novelty (the three others are a perceived need, meaning, and emotions). Without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to come up with any surprises. Without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to cater for the great diversity of our classrooms: mixed levels, mixed intelligences. And without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to inject new life in the coursebook, either.

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How can I become (more) creative?

Creativity (Scott Adams quote 01)

The idea that creativity is a gift bestowed upon a few select ones by the gods above is one of those myths that tend to stick around for a long time. Just like intelligence, creativity is not a fixed, unitary trait, and can be in fact developed. But creativity needs to be invited, welcome, embraced. There is a myth about the creative soul that if you don’t feel inspired, you don’t have it.

I’ve been a musician for 30 years and if I had to depend on my inspiration every time I picked up my guitar, the guitar would stay mute. I’ve experienced every emotion imaginable when I play—from abject terror to sheer frustration to feeling absolutely nothing—and through it all like a recalcitrant mule, I have plodded on.

Creativity (Steve Jobs quote 01)

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There’s no quick fix, no magic recipe, but  below are just a few things that may get you going:

  • Cherish the company of creative people around you. Engage them in conversation, ask questions, tease them.
  • Seize the moment. Always keep a notepad and a pencil ready. When an idea strikes, don’t EVER brush it aside thinking you’ll remember it later. You won’t. That’s not the way our brain works, once that synopsis is gone, it’s probably gone forever.
  • Is there a time of the day that seems to be conducive to better thinking? If so, try to stick to it.
  • Don’t be disappointed if what had seemed a great insight doesn’t lead to much. Put it on the back burner, you’ll come back to it later. Sometimes an idea needs a good incubation period. Nurture it, take it apart, play around with it. Play, play and play.
  • Take baby steps. You’re not out there to blaze new trails, or revolutionize the ELT world. Just keep telling yourself that every little bit helps. Fail, but fail better each time, to quote Beckett.
  • Value feedback, but believe in what you do and persevere. Charlie Parker was mercilessly booed off the stage for playing something new. Negative reactions didn’t stop him from pressing ahead and become the greatest jazz musician who ever lived.
  • Take sensible risks. Remember: learners like to be surprised, but they certainly don’t like to be shocked.

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So here’s what I’d like to see:  creativity training in ALL Teacher Training programs, from the newly-initiated or the inexperienced all the way up to MA level!

Creativity (Matisse quote 01)

LEARNing to Cope with Exams (Guest Post from Laurence Raw)

In Adult Learners, Assessment, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities on 24/07/2013 at 3:04 pm

Assessment (David Boud quote) Ver 02

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Many learners from all over Europe will have taken exams this summer; the results might yet not be known.  My fourteen-year-old niece had this experience, and unfortunately she did not do so well.  I realized that the results bore little or no relationship to her intellectual capabilities; she obtained a poor grade on account of what might be termed TESTaphobia.  As I listened to her, I recalled my days at school and university, when I was so scared of exams that I used to imagine myself suffering from chest pains, so that I could go to hospital and obtain some kind of tranquillizers.

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I read recently that British Education Secretary Michael Gove insisted that “exams matter because motivation matters … Human beings are hard-wired to seek out challenges … the experience of clearing a hurdle we once considered too high spurs us on to further endeavours and deeper learning”

But what if the need to jump that hurdle prevents learners from achieving success?  What happens to those whose wires are configured in different ways, and might need to discover alternative means of achieving “further endeavours and deeper LEARNing?”  Many websites offer advice as to how to deal with this condition (by learning from experiences, devising a realistic revision schedule, taking time off or relaxing), but they’re actually missing the point.

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Assess Lit 03

The only way to change attitudes towards exams is to change the LEARNing cultures in which they take place.  Learners have to understand that passing exams is not simply about “clearing a hurdle,” but rather providing an opportunity for them to express what they have learned.  Educators should help them to approach an exam in a positive frame of mind; rather like an actor giving a performance in front of the camera, they need to perform to the best of their ability.  And even if they do not do as well as they should, exams are not the be-all and end-all of their educational lives; what matters more is that they should feel they have achieved their own personal goals through the courses that they have taken.

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Assidere (original meaning) Ver 02

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Perhaps it’s time to go back to first principles; to understand that any program of study is not primarily concerned with the exam but with the experience of LEARNing.  This can only be achieved through negotiation; the working out of a series of mutually shared goals that educators and learners alike feel happy to pursue.  As the course unfolds, so everyone should be encouraged to reflect on its usefulness; this might be achieved through discussion, or by encouraging everyone to keep a journal to record feelings and experiences.  Learners can use this as a means to develop their self-esteem, to discover for themselves what they have LEARNed.

In this type of model, the exam functions as an extension of the journal, enabling learners to expound at greater length what they might have already recorded in their journals, and (in an ideal world) thereby manage to deal successfully with their fears.

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However this can only be achieved through educator support.  This is one thing that Gove and his fellow-mandarins in politics will never understand: learners can only develop themselves when they feel that they are part of a community.  A piece in The Guardian written by a practising  educator asks whether there is a line to be drawn between ‘helping’ and ‘hindering’ learners; whether too much support for learners taking exams is not counter-productive: “What do they learn about self-motivation and independence?  If we want them to become lifelong learners, don’t they at some point need to learn how to teach themselves?

I think this is a comment of mind-blowing fatuity, implying that there is some kind of distinction to be drawn between “TEACHing,” and “LEARNing.”

In a LEARNing community in which everyone participates and helps one another, the problem of developing motivation simply doesn’t arise.  Learners might have to take exams, but they can approach them in a positive frame of mind if they are supported by their peers as well as their educators.

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Assessment (fattening pigs)

The question here is one of shifting focus, of understanding the psychological reasons why learners fear exams, and restructuring the course of study to help deal with them.  However I fear that no one will be too interested in this solution, especially those politicians who believe that standards can be improved through quick fixes.  At the classroom level, however, I think that improvements can be made, or at least I’d like to think so.

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Laurence Raw
(aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

Personal Reflections on MOTIVATION – Guest Post (by Laurence Raw)

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Learning & Parenting, Our Schools on 11/06/2013 at 3:53 pm
I have decided to take the day off – to allow you all to ponder my last couple of posts.
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We have been looking at the issue of motivation - and the current challenges across canım Türkiyem have been causing more than a few of us to reflect on our lives, our work and our families.
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This guest post is the result of both these processes.
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Laurence (guest post header 04)
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The question of how to motivate learners is a difficult one.
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I was talking to my fourteen-year-old niece last Sunday, who is contemplating changing schools, as her current institution is “boring” with its incessant focus on exams and knowledge-based education.  I asked her what she would like as an alternative, and she quoted her father, who had previously described her as “a creative person.
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A good education in her view should help to stimulate creativity.
Creativity (Maya Angelou quote)
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However “creativity” is a slippery term.  Entire schools exist in universities devoted to “the creative industries;” despite the positive-sounding nature of the term, many of their members are caught in the educational treadmill of producing papers and/or research, or finding outside funding for projects, so as to ensure their futures.
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Failure (failure zone)
It would be great if we could adopt alternative visions of “creativity”for example, by encouraging our learners to rearrange what they know in order to discover something they do not know.  Maybe we need to remember what the fourth century BC philosopher Mencius once said: to promote an atmosphere of creativity we need to remember how “great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.”
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I told my fourteen-year-old niece of how I used to amuse myself; as an only child, I didn’t have many friends and learned how to play on my own.  I used to make up stories, using my soft toys as characters; and subsequently wrote them down on an old typewriter.  Through this activity I learned how much I liked to write; I continue doing so to this day.  In other words, that “childlike heart” within me still blazes, even though it’s a long time since I played with my soft toys.
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A genuinely creative classroom values the “childlike heart” in all of its members, learners and educators alike.  It permits experiment; lets people take risks; and does not place any stigma on failure.  As Tim Harford once remarked, success always starts with failure as individuals learn from their mistakes and are encouraged to creative something new and different.  They can only achieve this in a mutually supportive atmosphere, once which recognizes that all of us, whatever our age and/or experience in life, have that childlike quality within us.
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Learnacy ZONE
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This is a far more important motivation for LEARNing than any of the rulescurricula, syllabi, and exams – that govern the most classrooms.  Thomas Edison was once asked by one of his laboratory attendants: “Mr. Edison, tell me what rules you want to observe?”  The great inventor replied crisply: “There ain’t no rules around here.  We’re tryin’ to accomplish somethin.'”  Exactly what that “somethin'” might be in the classroom should be determined through collaboration between educator and learners.  If everyone listens to each other, then they will learn to value their “childlike heart.”
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Risk-taking (quotes)
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None of these ideas can make my fourteen-year-old niece’s search for a good education any easier, as she decides whether to find a new school or stay at her existing one.  But at least by listening to her “childlike heart,” she might sustain her motivation; if she can find like-minded people to work with in any type of institution (the home, at school, in a private course, or wherever), then perhaps she can recognize the value of LEARNing.
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LEARNing vs TEACHing 02
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Maybe we should all recognize the importance of this.
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Laurence Raw

(aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

The LISTENing Educator…

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities on 21/12/2012 at 2:38 am
GUEST POST
by Laurence Raw
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Listening (doggy ears)
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It’s amazing what can be learned from isolated conversations.
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I was talking to three separate sets of LEARNers this week in different departments, as well as from different educational levels (under- and postgraduate, as well as trainee educators).  All of them had plenty of work to complete for their courses – assignments, lesson-plans, assessments and the like.
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Yet many of them admitted to finding such tasks extremely difficult, chiefly because they did not quite understand what was expected of them by their “educational peers”.  Did they have to produce ‘scholarly’ pieces, using examples taken from secondary texts; or were they expected to give their own opinions on the material?  What kind of criteria did educators use to distinguish a ‘good’ from a ‘bad’ submission, and how could LEARNers work towards meeting them?  And what kind of feedback could learners expect, apart from being given a grade?
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The question of assessment is a complex one; too complex, in fact, for a short blog-post.
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However I got the distinct impression that no one was actually listening to one another.  That term “to listen” is a complex one: it doesn’t just involve decoding words and sentences, but rather participating in a process described thus by Richard Sennett in a recent book: “though we may use the same words, we cannot say we are speaking of the same things; the aim is to come eventually towards a common understanding.”
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It is that “common understanding” that is conspicuously absent from many classrooms.
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The CLASSROOM - weapons of mass instruction
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How can we improve the listening environment?  The public speaking consultant Lisa B. Marshall offers three effective solutions: 
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1.       Tune In.  Make sure you give listeners your undivided attention.  Turn off your “mind chatter” and look at how they react to what you say.  If you feel they haven’t understood a point you have said, then try and clarify it.  Or better still, find another means to explain it – for example, by writing it down.
2.       Show You are Listening.  This is something many educators find difficult, especially if they are accustomed to monopolizing the learning environment.  The key is to concentrate on the words you hear and – perhaps more importantly – understand the body language signals you see.  Are learners smiling?  Are they talking amongst themselves? Are the words and body language congruent?
3.       Understand What You’ve Just Heard and/or Seen.  Educators need to translate and interpret their learners’ reactions.  They have to decide what they mean.  We all create meaning based on our own experiences, but sometimes that’s not enough.  We need to ask open-ended questions to confirm our understanding, and try to eliminate possible miscommunications.
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21 TOBB Seminar (05 July 2012)
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Such steps might seem rather obvious (aren’t all educators supposed to listen to their learners?) but it seems that their significance is frequently overlooked. However difficult it might be, we need to pay less attention to content, and concentrate instead on how we can communicate better.
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Guy Claxton believes that this is the key to acquiring “learning power” for educators and learners alike.  By listening to others, we can learn how to ask better questions, and thereby learn how to co-operate with one another.  This is essential to learning: in this kind of environment, everyone can ask themselves what they don’t understand and why.  If they can’t understand something, they ask more questions – not only of themselves, but also of other members of the group.
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What we’re (really) talking about here is a redefinition of the relationship between educators and their learners. Effective listening means treating learners on equal terms; to ask questions of them, as means to help them develop the confidence to ask questions themselves.
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Wouldn’t it be great if more educators could shed some of their pride in their knowledge and/or status and actually initiate this process?
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Laurence Raw
Baskent University.
Department of English, Ankara, Turkey.
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
www.radiodramareviews.com
@laurenceraw (Twitter)

The “LEARNing Academic” Vs. The “LEARNing Publisher”…

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning on 06/12/2012 at 1:00 pm

LEARNing DUMMY

…and never the twain shall meet?

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A few days ago, one of my favourite “guest-bloogers” (actually, I’m begining to think he has become a permanentsquatter” on the ‘ole blog) – Laurence, did a great post for me.

The post was entitled – Going to the Dogs!

Now, this was probably all my fault…because I had suggested (in an earlier post) that he might enjoy the company of those wicked, wicked “ELT dogmatistas we hear so much about these days.

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Laurence is not an ELT expert per sebut he works with groups of “future ELT Teachers”…to improve their speaking and communication skills. I have seen him in action – he does a grand job!

In his guest post, he did a wonderful job of reflecting on how his own philosophy of LEARNing and TEACHing “mapped” onto many of the tenets of Dogme ELT – as personified in Teaching UNplugged (by Luke Meddings  and  Scott Thornbury  – 2009).

However, what was really interesting came a bit later

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A “publisher”! 

Yes, a “real” Sith Lordcalled Tim, read the post and added a wonderful comment.

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Now, I’m sorry – but who the hell would take a Sith Lord called “Darth Tim” seriously?

Dark Side (vaders cookies)

I would…now!

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Both Laurence and Tim talked about the “A-ah” moments they are experiencing…no, “living” – as LEARNing takes a bigger, and bigger role in how both of them “do business”.

Tim, for example, noted:

Discovering the ethos of Dogme and how it puts learning at the centre of its thinking has altered my perception as a publisher well and truly.

Even Luke….sorry… Scott  picked up on that juiciest of comments and a few of us had a little tweet-fest!

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Eureka (TG blog ver)

I also had a little “A-ah” moment…of my own!

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I wondered (acaba)…what would happen if I put this LEARNing Academic and this LEARNing Publisher together…in the same room!

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Red flag and Bull

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BUT…I had a wee problem!

Those of you that know the blog…and Laurenceknow that he lives and works in Ankara.

Like me – he is a hanım köylü!

Tim, on the other hand…while being very involved in H.Ed projects for the Turkish “market”…is based in Cambridge – and is very much the sert erkek

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Wot to do?

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What about if we put them in a virtual “coffee shop”with a strong cup of Turkish kahve (“sade”, of course)…I thunked to meself.

Would it turn out like this:

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…or would something “beautiful” happen? 

Judge for yourself!

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GUEST POST 

by

Laurence Raw & Tim Gifford

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Time to LEARN

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Laurence: I’m intrigued that we should be meeting like this. I’ve not actually met an ELT publisher before; my stereotype of them is that they’re more than happy to sell their existing materials to unsuspecting customers, but less willing to listen to them – unless, of course, they happen to be big names who can sell books. But it’s nice that we’ve got together to discuss the Dogme movement, even though I’m still not sure exactly what it signifies. Any views?

Tim: … in a way the Dogme movement could be described as being like a cup of coffee: it’s rich and invigorating. It offers both stimulation and comfort to the educators that enjoy it. But it’s also prone to being branded and commercialised by “my kind” as another edu-commodity when in fact everyone’s preferences and contexts are different. Imposing educational ‘tastes’ doesn’t benefit anyone, in the same way that assuming how people like their coffee isn’t going to get great results.

Laurence:  Only if publishers use the name all the time, without actually investigating what it signifies.  Since writing my last post, I’ve been mentioning Dogme to both learners and educators; their initial reaction is one of mystification, as if it were some new kind of technique or strategy that departs from prevailing approaches to language teaching.  But when you get down to it, we’re not really talking rocket science here; just a re-emphasis on learning and collaboration, rather than an overreliance on textbook learning.  Perhaps you’ve got a different view?

Tim: That’s what I’m getting at. My past experience of ELT publishing has been the “mass production” approach which entailed including gratuitous references to assessment frameworks or developments in education within our products in order to make them more attractive to teachers and directors. There was very little consideration given to actually understanding what these materials or concepts were or what they’d mean to the student sitting at their desk in a classroom halfway around the world. But that was “how it was done”.

Laurence:  Which strikes me as exceptionally intriguing. In my youth, I always assumed that a textbook was there to help learners find out “how it was done” – whether it was learning French, doing comprehension exercises, or finding out about biology (a subject I was never very good at).  It seems that, from the view of conventional publishing, a textbook is rather like the Emperor’s New Clothes; so long as it looks good, and draws on prevailing – some might say modish – frameworks, then it might sell and hence prove suitable for publishers.  This is why I am so against the idea of textbooks per se.  They are often an impediment to, rather than a resource for learning.  But I’d really like to know: what is it about Dogme – or the strategies associated with it – that proves so attractive for you?

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LEARNing not a newspaper

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Tim:  What struck me as I started reading about Dogme was that there was a learner involved in this arrangement who was having assumptions made about their learning needs and behaviours without them being consulted at all. The textbooks, materials and references we were piling into these learning environments weren’t doing anything to assist the student in their learning journey, and were in fact perpetuating the “course book is king” principle.

Laurence:  But isn’t that what publishers need to do in order to ensure a profit? What interests me above all about dogme-inspired learning approaches is that they are “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” in conception.  Your term “piling into” is a significant one, suggesting that in some ways publishers are trying to impose from the top, rather than listening to the views from the bottom. I’m not being critical of these policies; it’s what all publishers do, whether they’re involved in ELT or any other branch of learning.  So, how do you think you can accommodate Dogme-inspired principles into future publishing strategies?

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UNcover LEARNing FQs

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Tim:  It’s essential that publishers “walk the walk” alongside the teachers and directors they publish for as well the students that are, ultimately, the end users in this educational process. Rather than creating and selling content and components to shore up a brand or to “glamify” the annual sales catalogue, they need to immerse themselves in the realities and motivations of the learners they are going to be in contact with via their materials. The key words here are responsibilityresponsiveness and respect; publishers need to recognise and fulfil the responsibility that their position requires, and appreciate that their involvement in the process doesn’t finish once the order has been delivered.

Laurence: I think it’s necessary to go beyond these terms, to be honest with you. I really believe that publishers, just like many educators, have a sketchy grasp of the “realities and motivations” of learners in different contexts, chiefly because they don’t want to listen. “Responsiveness” only comes about if everyone is prepared to be responsive to everyone else in a communal situation. I’ve attended so many conferences where publishers’ representatives exist solely to sell books to teachers, and don’t really take the trouble to listen to what is being discussed, especially in informal discussions. The publishers I really like working with are those who take the trouble to listen, to criticize, to negotiate, and thereby reshape the ideas of those that they try to serve. Sometimes this can lead to what diplomats call “a full and frank discussion” but at the end of it, both readers and publishers end up having learned something about themselves, their approaches, and the validity of what they are doing. In other words, we’re back to what I believe lies at the heart of Dogme learning principles – negotiation and cooperation are useful in themselves as ways of advancing knowledge, understanding, and more significantly, LEARNing – a question of adapting oneself to changing educational conditions.

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Learnacy ZONE

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Tim: Absolutely, and that’s LEARNing that can and must happen for all involved, I think.

Laurence: So we are on the same page! But, I have to ask – as a publisher – what do you think “Dogme-inspired” materials should “look” like?

Tim: Ahhh, now there’s a question…

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Questions (O'Conner Quote) NEW

…to be CONTINUED…

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