Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Recap on ELT Maker Night 3


Block T's meeting room which is not unlike a typical no-tech ELT classroom in Dublin. There was even a 3x4 whiteboard. Thanks James.


Tuesday 14 April 2015.
We got started at 6:15 due to traffic issues.
Aside from that Liam kept things moving along quickly.


Everyone on the mailing list who said they would come did come. Everyone else wrote saying why they couldn't- one was actually at another group's meeting. (IATEFL? Some English group, I think.) Everyone made contact. That in itself is a sign of community.

By the way the next one is on Tuesday, 12th of May. Expect a massive missive soon.

Write to ELTMakers at Gmail dot com if you are interested in an invitation. We decided to abandon the LinkedIn group and just focus on projects and real meetings.


Below is a story of the evening's events with some bits of flavour.

Show 'n' Tell

Once we were all in show and tell started. John B. Whipple (writing) started but this went a bit long. See this post for details.

Liam, also managing the agenda, went next and told us about his Sci-Fi Radio project. He traces his influences from his private love of scifi and horror as genres and Community Language Learning. CLL was a big ELT deal in its day theoretically. He may have come across this on his DELTA.

Teachers who had responsibility for their students learning through course creation, choice of materials and suggested work had the ability to set work which was essentially creative- this accords with a lot of view of ELT professionalism as being closer to artistic professionalism. Be that as is it may he gave us great sources and samples of student work. Some of the students posted proudly shared their radio work on their social media accounts.

Liam's suggestions were as follows:

Find an old sci-fi or horror radio show
War of Worlds by Orson Welles' crew is the most famous but the world of scripted online audio may be bigger than scripted online video. It has an extra few years of history. He suggests searching Many of the OpenCulture pieces also provide transcripts which you can use in a million ways.

Once you have it, play it for the class and do your usual activities. Most likely you will see examples of vocab and grammar you've studied with them in the last few weeks.

Once that is done, drop the news... They are going to write their own spooky sci-fi radio play.

Set the parameters
  • specific intended audience, 
  • writing, preparation, recording, final product time limits, 
  • number of words in the script, 
  • teams
Set the resources
  • Recordings can be made on phones/ personal devices.
  • Editing done with Audacity (we will cover this in a future tutorial for ELT people perhaps Russell Stannard has already, Audacity certainly has plenty of tutorials but crucially it's free and basic use is not complex)
  • Audacity needs to run on a computer (so book the computer lab or request students to start downloading to their devices and messing with Audacity on Day 1 or 2)
  • You will want sound effects find them here. Nasa has a great authentic recordings section on SoundCloud if there will be spaceships involved. 
  • Time...

Recognize time needs and limits before you begin
All this work takes time especially if it's going to be enjoyable. The easiest way to ruin a party is to put a time limit on it. So explain that this is a short term project. It could be a half hour to an hour a day. You could make it into a competition of sorts if you need to speed the plow. Expect to be at it for at least 2 days in total if you commit the entire class time. But it will probably be just under 2 weeks if you are doing it part-time and take a few days off.

Total time for all [good concept, script, tech-up, recording, sound effects work, conversion, editing and burn--- with first timers]: 6 hours, maybe less if you have some people with experience like musicians or media people. Trust your learners to find the tech answers. Just keep them on target with the language, monitor and take notes.


Peppermint tea seems to be a favourite as it's naturally decaffeinated but unnaturally delightful. (Complete exaggeration.) One Maker preferred regular man tea with milk as the lord intended it. Hobnobs and FigRolls were present. John showed a couple of videos from his CES Uppers blog. Let's continue.


See the little naughts and crosses box? Blogger's in there somewhere.
ELT Maker Nights haven't really had featured guests. Rob Lane, who has a spectacular Google+ page, is the first one. Apart from me no one but he has written an article for the ELT MakeSpace blog. But he's a veteran web writer. Blogger however basic was new to him.

He walked us through writing a first post to the MakeSpace. The requirement is a Google account and then Blogger needs to be set up. If you are on a computer based web browser and are in your Gmail you know how this looks... Next to the 'apps box', which is next to your name, you will have a Blogger option.

An ELT MakeSpace blog admin needs to send you an invitation to write. All last night's attending ELT Makers were sent an invitation this morning. You can all start putting together your own posts at that point. As an example of a first post I made my show and tell accessible as an individual post (and this shortened this already enormous recap). Rob then talked us through the content of his post: the idea, the nerves as well as the process, benefits and motivation behind his work. If you haven't read it go back to it now clicking here. Or scroll down a couple of posts. And check out his G+ here. It's a great idea that benefits him as a teacher as much as his school.

Maker Project

We did it and I think it's pretty great. Well done to Liam- concept to completion... And transferred it over ....On the same night.

What is an ELT Maker? from John Whipple on Vimeo.

Well done, folks.

PS This week Daniel Zuchowski, newsletter writer for ELT Ireland, asked how many ELT Maker Nights there will be. It goes up to 11.

Maker Night 4 is on Tuesday 12 May. Even if you can't come you can always make an excuse.


Great night.

3 blogs from an old ELT Maker

My show and tell went a little long. I showed about three old blogs I wrote. Why not just one? This was to make up for the fact that I couldn't really participate in the show 'n' tells for the last two ELT Maker Nights because I was too busy coordinating. Thanks to James and Liam for organizing ELT MAKER NIGHT 3. It's been my favourite. A link to a recap of the whole evening will be here.

Clear Communication and it was my first English language blog. This one is probably the only one it's worth fighting through (or trying to read). It dates back to my blogging birth in 2008 and was written for English language teachers in Ireland as a resource for learning more about pronunciation teaching- theory, history, resources and technology. There was little sense of ELT Community at the time. No interaction in comments really. I felt like the Emily Dickinson of the ELT blogosphere. Good times... I still go back to it when I happen on an article or resource. There is less urgency as so many more pronunciation resources have popped up and sites have been written. But still there has been the occasional personal message to a resource maker in Sardinia or blogger in Birmingham. It's showed me that despite the apparent distance between our physical classrooms, the struggles we face as teachers are give us common neighbours to talk about and that's a good starting place for community.

My first blog ever was Aiutini -'little help-lettes' in Italian.
This was for a large group of students in I taught in Ancona back in 2007 or '8. They wanted to make enormous progress but had only 3 weeks tuition paid by their employer- that really boiled down to 12 hours face-to-face. As most were over 40 I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a list of self-assessment resources, learner resources etc and collect them somewhere they could get to. I asked them for their favourite websites and they gave some great ones (but a few had no access to the internet). This blog gave me an opportunity to use my L2 and was where I first started learning about making things online: HTML was much closer to the surface of the web then. Special note Aiutini was a neologism and for about 4 years our blog was in the top 10 google results. Che bello.

The final one was CES Uppers. This blog again was for a specific readership: my Upper-Intermediate class at CES Dublin back in its pre-'corporate' days. The posts were occasionally planned before the lesson to facilitate flipping the classroom before the term was repeated to death. Mostly the posts are diary entries of unplanned moments in the lesson or summaries of what occurred. There are lots of whiteboard shots, reminders of answers to impromptu questions, videos to Anglosphere cultural references, examples, samples of work and resources. It shows a lot of the raw messiness and enjoyment of teaching languages face-to-face: something I think we all appreciate but keep to ourselves for fear of seeming out of control or uncontrollable.

These three are all flawed as 'products' because they are too casually written to be of use to people outside the intended readership. There are too many 'you had to be there' moments. But that's ok. They were simply to be used for asynchronous communication between the intended readership and myself ie my Ancona group, my fellow pronunciation teachers and my 'Uppers' and me. Not every piece of writing wants to be published as a page in a course book or an academic article.

Clear Communication is the only one that might still be practical to people in 2015.

The process of writing each was creative -and so, empowering and enlightening. There were a couple of negatives but on balance my ELT time was better with it.


  • I stopped watching football for a couple of seasons. When I came back to it, I just didn't care that much any more. 
  • Like prepping for lessons, all hours spent on every blog went unpaid.
  • It encouraged me to see private ELT as a career.


  • I wouldn't have gone on to eventually do an MSc. The thesis was just published in ELT Journal this month. 
  • I wouldn't have been promoted in or between schools without them. 
  • They showed the work I was doing internally- before, during and after lessons. There may be no other accessible evidence of this aside from positive lesson observation forms from my DoS.
  • The basic maintenance of the sites helped me cut my teeth with technology and... 
  • The process of writing with the internet showed me how much assistance is accessible and freely available online. 
  • The diary-like structure of a blog encourages regular writing and that helped forming a habit which led to a bit more critical thinking, reflection and research. 
  • It contributes to my current view that ELT is an artistic profession
  • It encouraged me to see private ELT as a career.

-John B. Whipple

Monday, April 13, 2015

Quick note on ELT Maker Night 3

We have confirmation on ELT Maker Night 3.

BlockT, our favourite Smithfield workspace is the location. (Thanks James)

6:00-7:30 on Tuesday the 14th of April is the time, day and date. (Mm. Tomorrow...)

We'll be doing our regular ELTea and Show 'n' Tell of projects we are working on but Rob Lane will be giving a little presentation on stuff he's made and how it works in his school. He'll also be telling members how to write articles on the ELT Make Space blog (what you are reading now). See his article below.

Newcomers are welcome since we've only met twice. Bring a big strong friend with you if you are afraid. (Don't be.)

Bring a project you are working on or a computer to show it to us on if it's online. Bring some money to put in the hat to cover the room rental (because we do). 

Post a note here with questions or email ELTMakers at gmail. ( com)

You're welcome. (Thanks to DZ at the ELT Ireland newsletter for the mention this morning.- JW)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

ELT Blogging

by Rob Lane

When I started teaching in 2006, the teacher's tools were a CD player, overhead projectors and acetates, pockets full of markers, and a fistful of photocopies. The role of teacher was also somewhat more restricted to the classroom. But, language teachers are an innovative bunch. As technology has become more practical and relevant, it has invigorated and opened up new opportunities for the guerrilla English teacher. Cloud stored audio on smartphones, shared whiteboard apps, high-quality video calling and wireless printing, among others, have allowed us to have whole libraries at our fingertips. But, it is not just the teacher's tools that have been upgraded.

A teacher is rarely merely a teacher. School management are finally starting to realize teachers' potential beyond the classroom and are inviting them take on wider roles within schools. The following is one area where many teachers have already been active for some time – blogging.

I am lazy. But, laziness breeds innovation. How can I do it more efficiently? It seemed a logical step to create a bank of board notes that I could call on anytime and at any location. The boss will be happy to see the whiteboards being used, the students think you're pretty hip, and you can just keep on laughing because you don't have write so much. Within a few months I had a range of notes written - glorified acetates.

I had asked my DOS if there was anything else I could be doing to expand my skill set. At the time, most of the major schools were starting to take social media presence seriously and SEO was the buzz acronym. The school was looking for writers to flesh out the website and add content that would attract potential students. Plus, the more relevant content on the site and the more hits, the higher the search ranking. As I was using approximately the same notes in multiple locations, the question of content ownership arose. My director was happy for the content to remain mine and free to use as I pleased.

I produced an article every fortnight and posted each on two separate platforms: the school's WordPress based website and on my own Google+ page. Within just over a year, the articles have attracted a combined total of around 60,000 views.

I think that before getting started, it is essential to decide why and for whom you are writing and really customize the content. A key factor to keep in mind here is the length of each article: 250-500 words is the recommended length. For me, the most appropriate subject to write about was grammar. The strategy was to post the articles on the school's website and share them through social media pages. Effectively, no site ever runs solo. Your social media campaign should always be funneling visitors to the main website. Another important consideration is the metadata that you are invited to input on the dashboard side of the blogsite. Essentially, these are the key words and phrases that will be picked up by search engines. Experimentation with this is an ongoing process as search engines are continuously changing their parameters. A final point worth keeping in mind is that articles with images attract more traffic than those that don't. Images should be relevant and not detract from the content. The project ran for about a year and I have continued writing for myself as well as making gains in social media marketing.

Writing a blog, whether academic or cultural, will never be time wasted for a teacher. I have found it useful for honing my explanations, a source for homework, an in-class reference and a boost to the school's marketing efforts. It has allowed me to get in contact with like-minded people and participate in the global ELT discussions that are ever ongoing. It has been a learning curve. If you are interested in writing a blog, I recommend that you have a straight-up chat with your DOS to see if there is an appetite for it: there most likely is. I strongly suggest that you ensure that content ownership stays with you. Keep in mind also that content writing and marketing are two of the hottest areas for teachers making a move away from the classroom. Regardless of your motivations, there may be more to be gained from writing a blog than you expected so why not give it a lash.