Tony Gurr

Why on Earth Do We Need Teacher Training?

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 28/04/2015 at 5:52 am

Adams Quote (for Steve)

I have had intriguing tidings from some of my final year learners recently.  They are currently engaged in their second semester of “school experience,” where they spend one day a week under the tutelage of their mentor educators in local high schools.  In theory they are supposed to watch their mentors in the first term, and gradually be allowed to assume responsibility for teaching their classes in the second.  In the end they are asked to teach one, perhaps two entire classes on their own.

 Thinkers wanted (blog ver 02 TG)

The idea sounds a practical one – it’s often best to learn the rudiments of teaching from a professional.  In practice what has happened is this:  learners spend most of their time sitting at the back of the classroom watching their mentors undertake a series of repetitive exercises involving little or no language practice – gap-filling, cloze procedure and the like.  They are easy to mark and require the educator to undertake little or no extra-curricular activity.  It’s an easy way to pass the time in class.

Consequently many learners have complained of wasting their time on “school experience.” Not only do they have little or no involvement in classroom activity, but they are introduced to the jobsworth mentality in which educators do the minimum amount necessary to keep their learners amused and collect their salaries at the end of the week.  When the learners are given the space to teach their own classes, they are told to do the same gap-filling activities, as their mentors cannot be bothered to think up anything new.

 21C LEARNing Culture (TG ver 02 upgrade)

I am not in any way suggesting that this state of affairs prevails at every high school; I have encountered many enthusiastic educators willing to challenge existing approaches to pedagogy.  But what proves particularly disconcerting is that this jobsworth mentality is allowed to prevail at any institution.  It suggests that all the teacher training initiatives spearheaded by the British Council, the book publishers and other institutions have little or no influence on the way in which educators handle the day-to-day business of working with their learners.  Resources are spent to little effect – except, perhaps, to encourage institutions to spend more money on glossy textbooks and thereby increase author royalties.

Is there any possibility for change, or at least create the conditions for change?  Institutionally speaking, the prospect is a pessimistic one: many educators are so imbued with the jobsworth mentality that they perceive little or no reason to change their methods.  Even if they wanted to change, there is little or no incentive to do so.  Personal development assumes less significance than the monthly pay-check.  Even if individuals want to change, they will have to negotiate with their superiors, who might disagree with their views entirely.  Why rock the boat when things are going fine?

 Hocam will this be on the test

Perhaps the only workable solution is to begin from the ground up: to find ways outside the institution to set up initiatives dedicated not to teacher training per se, but to investigate methods of learning, both virtual as well as face-to-face.  This might require us to rethink the way institutions work – perhaps technology needs to assume a more important role in facilitating communication between educators and learners.  Much of the teacher training I’ve encountered has been fundamentally top-down in approach; follow the example of the trainer (like the mentor educator), and you too can learn how to work in class.  I’d favor a flipped approach, in which educators tried to listen to their learners and reshaped their classroom strategies accordingly.  Undergraduate learners could be made part of the collaborative process; the insights they have acquired in the three years of their university curricula might prove invaluable in creating new learning strategies.  While jobsworth educators are difficult to shift, there are still opportunities available to create new generations of educators with a genuine and lasting commitment to listening to and learning from their learners.  Who knows – even the learners might want to become educators in the future.

 Creativity (Einstein Quote ver 03)

Yet time is running out: frustrations increase.  My fourth-year learners have a disillusioned view of their chosen profession.  For them it is not a matter of learning about the way people think and react, but simply a matter of rehearsing time-honored drills practiced by their mentors.  Perhaps the teacher training institutions and the publishers need to rethink their approach to working with institutions; rather than trying to foist their products on their so-called ‘customers,’ they might be better advised to take a lengthy time out and listen to what people want, especially those at the lowest end of the pedagogical scale.  Otherwise we are simply reinventing an educational wheel which will very soon come off the axle that drives it.

Laurence Raw

Ankara, Turkey – 27 Apr. 2015

The 2014-15 EDU, EDTECH and ELT/ELL Conference Calendar for Canım Türkiye Ver 3.2 (…the Çanakkale “Upgrade”)!

In Conferences, News & Updates (from the CBO), Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 16/01/2015 at 8:32 am

I’ve decided to make a few tiny, tweeny-weeny changes to this year’s Conference Calendar!


Betting against canım Türkiyem (1915)


Yes, that image is the first one – heck…if Warren Buffett can say something outrageous about the States (and 1776), I thought I’d just borrow his words a wee bit (and apply them to our conferences here in canım Türkiyem)!

“Bizim konferanslar”, here in Turkey, have been getting a pretty good reputation over the last few years…and this year is shaping up to be the same!


The second change is that I am not kicking off with the International “big boys” this time around. Yani, those conferences that are far too far away (and too expensive for most of us to get to) …unless we work for an EDUorganisation that sends all its TEACHers on an “international jolly” (while all the administrators / managers stay back at home to look after the “shop”)!

You can find all the major international events at the end of this post.


The third change was not really up to me!

With the events this year (well, the ones that have been confirmed thus far) we are starting to see a bit of a “shift” towards…more and more joint events (this is good…cool even!) and a lot more EdTech Conferences (but not as many online or UNconferences as perhaps we should).

For this reason, ’tis no longer just the ELT/ELL Calendar

…but rather the EDU, EDTECH and ELT/ELL Calendar!


As usual…big, bad İstanbul dominates the calendar but word has it that a couple more are in the pipeline for “mother Anatolia” (a few schools are still being a bit coy about publishing their dates) – I’ll update this post as and when we get more information on these…I think we got up to Version 6.2 last year!

So, without further ado…here we go:


  • I. Eğitim Kongresi (1st Education Congress – Turkish) – 21.Yüzyılda Bir Eğitim Felsefesi Oluşturmak Ve Özel Okullar
  • Antalya, Turkey
  • 28 – 30 November 2014
  • INTCESS15 – 2nd International Conference on Education and Social Sciences
  • İstanbul, Turkey
  • 02 – 04 February 2015
  • 11th ELT CONFERENCEA Portrayal of Great Teaching
  • Çevre College – İstanbul, Turkey
  • 28 February 2015
  • LIF2015 (Language in Focus) – Contemporary Perspectives on Theory, Research, and Praxis in ELT and SLA
  • Caddadocia, Turkey
  • 04 – 07 March 2015
  • GlobELT 2015 – Teaching and Learning English as an Additional Language (with Hacettepe University)
  • Antalya, Turkey
  • 16 – 19 April 2015 
  • edtechİST 2015 – International Educational Technology Conference in Istanbul
  • İstanbul, Turkey
  • 18 – 19 April 2015 
  • AGUSL15Blended Learning into Autonomy
  • Abdullah Gul University (AGU) – Kayseri, Turkey
  • 24 – 25 April 2015
  • 5th BİLGİ ELT Conference  – The Post Method Era in ELT
  • İstanbul Bilgi University (Santral Campus) – İstanbul, Turkey
  • 09 May 2015
  • ICEFIC 2015 (International Congress on Education for the Future: Issues and Challenges)
  • Ankara University (Faculty of Educational Sciences) – Ankara, Turkey
  • 13 – 15 May 2015
  •  UDES 2015 (1st International Symposium on Language Education and Teaching)
  • Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli Üniversity – Nevşehir, Turkey
  • 28 – 30 May 2015
  • 6th T-PLUS Event – The Impact of Training and Development
  • TOBB Unıversity of Economıcs & Technology – Ankara, Turkey
  • 12 – 13 June 2015

ELT & ELL Conf Calendar (TG ver)8

As promised – the International (and Regional) “BIG BOYS”…


  • LeWeb
  • Paris, France
  • 09 – 11 December 2014
  • BETT
  • London, UK
  • 21 – 24 January 2015
  • TACON2015 (21st TESOL Arabia International Conference) – Teaching and Learning in the Digital World
  • Dubai, UAE
  • 12 – 14 March 2015
  • TESOL 2015 – Crossing Borders, Building Bridges
  • Toronto, Canada
  • 25 – 28 March 2015
  • IATEFL 2015 – 49th Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition
  • Manchester, UK
  • 11 – 14 April 2015
  • BALEAP 2015 EAP in a rapidly changing landscape: issues, challenges & solutions
  • Leicester, UK.
  • 17 – 19 April 2015
  • ISTE 2015 – Connected Learning. Connected World.
  • Philadelphia, USA
  • 28 June – 01 July 2015
  • BAAL 2015 – The British Association for Applied Linguistics Annual Conference
  • Aston University – Birmingham, UK
  • 03 – 05 September 2015


AND, a little bit of “sauce”:


  • LAL4 4th Language Arts and Linguistics Conference
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 25 – 26 October 2014
  • Innovate ELT Conference – Now and into the Future
  • Oxford TEFL – Barcelona, Spain
  • 08 – 09 May 2015

As ever, please forgive me if I have missed any (just let me know and I’ll fix it, promise)…if you are still planning an event at your institution, get your skates on and let us all know (with a comment).


Take care…sevgili hocalarım!

What EXACTLY are the “Skills” needed by 21st Century TEACHERS? – The “Robocop” Upgrade…

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, Technology on 18/02/2014 at 3:24 pm

21C Teacher (Robocop ver) 160214 TG


I have been heard to say that you can’t throw a rock into the blogosphere these days without hitting a post or article on the 21st Century “something-or-other”.

Love it or hate it – the notion of 21st Century Skills is one of those HOT topics these days – especially in Turkey. Sadly, however, the discussions on EDtech here seem to be dominated by some very strange creatures…you know them as:

21C Digi Cheerleaders

…IDIOTS, mostly!


The real problem is:

Digi Cheerleading Rabbits


IDIOTS that are breeding like bloody rabbitson steroids!


IDIOTS that (still) do not link the 21C concept to real LEARNing – choosing instead to focus on what seems to be both the engine and the fuel of the 21st Century…..


Don’t get me wrong…I’m not some kind of EDtech luddite who wants to put a stop to the so-called tablet and akıllı tahta dönemi we are currently witnessing in Turkey.

Turkey is my adopted home, I am a “milli enişte” and I am amazingly proud that I helped co-create one of Turkey’s first “digital natives” (and also one of the toughest and most beautiful, too – ask me about the “Türk kızı” who took down men twice her size on the Turkish TV version of “Wipe-Out”).


I am a “daddy”, too!

A very proud one….




But, my business is LEARNing (as if you didn’t know) – not TECHnology. And, I’m interested in how we actually “do” something with all the talk-we-are-talking these days – talk about the new kids on the curriculum block:

(a wonderful “skill” that brings many of the above together)… 

 21C SMARTBoards and DUMBIdeas


We know here in Turkey (not that different to the rest of the world…really) that we still have major challenges with:

  • ORAL and WRITTEN COMMUNICATION (the 3R’s in TURKISH) – of course!
  • ENGLISH LANGUAGE (the 3R’s in ELL)


But, the TECH (and the so-called “new digital landscape”) still gets many more column inches and pixels than student LEARNing.


Our raging debate, a debate that others in the US and Europe have picked up, centres on Turkey’s plans to purchase 15,000,000 tablets over the next few years (as part of the Fatih Project) – and has international and domestic commentators really talking:


Actually, I’m not sure if we should be talking about the tablets (the PM was today…again and again and again) – we should be discussing the skills the tablets are supposed to be ushering into Turkish schools.

…and, the impact of these skills on TEACHers.


In an earlier post, I discussed how these 21st Century realities are creating a new set of roles for TEACHers:

However, discussion on how these roles translate into a new evolving set of teacher skillsliteracies and fluencies has been (very) limited – especially, in Turkey.


Isn’t it time we started to ask some REAL questions:

  • What skills do TEACHers (in Turkey) need as we continue our march into the 21st Century?
  • How many of these skills actually relate to how we deploy and use TECHNOLOGY?
  • How many of them relate to effective LEARNing and TEACHing?
  • What do TEACHers actually think themselves – and what do their LEARNers think?
  • How effectively is TEACHer (and LEARNer) LEARNing being promoted and supported (in Turkey)?
  • What else needs to change to make the 21st Century “wishlist” a reality?


Hey, maybe we can even start asking some of the most basic questions.

Questions like:



I’d love to see some fresh ideas and comments. 

If not (and you are a lover of “bedtime reading”) – here’s a little list of some resources on allthings21Cskills:


Tony’s 21st CENTURY LEARNing Library



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