Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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

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