Friday, May 15, 2015

Recap on ELT Maker Night 4

Block T hosted ELT Maker Night 4 a third time 12 May.

Rob ran the agenda and we kept it to a (very) short 45 minutes. The venue needed us out by 7:00. We had new people, new Makers and plenty to keep us talking. The session ended up continuing for more than a few minutes afterwards on the market square in Smithfield. Lesson learned: no matter how many people sign up for the Maker Night always anticipate more.

The Recap:

At 6:15 I met Colette, Bridget and Terry just outside as I was walking in. Rob was already inside writing the agenda up on the board in the now familiar meeting room off BlockT's hot desk space.

I hadn't anticipated any newcomers but there were two. Rob got us started straight away on an agenda pared down to 45 minutes... No ELTea, no feature, no Mini Maker Project. Just Show 'n' Tells, some biscuits (thank you Colette) and an exit. But it was packed.

Terry: Show 'n' Tell

Terry showed his two sites and his experiences as a teacher with full Portuguese proficiency teaching in one of the schools which closed recently.  He had some excellent ideas for classroom activities with batteries and plugs not needed. One involves Nerf guns and grammar. (TEFL... Teaching English with Firearms is Lovely?) 

It was impressive invention and rare to see a relatively new teacher confidently contributing to the teaching community in his blog (but he doesn't like calling it a blog because that suggests first person narrative and he's just not into that all the time. I am. Most of his articles are more like ELT Instructables. Something we should probably be doing more of here... hmm.)  He also makes himself available to a targeted set of learners on his site for lusophones. His support system online is Wordpress. Good choice.

Being WordPress fan, he recommended ELT Makers try Viral ELT. The idea behind it is not new- it's much the same as the idea as the 1989 idea of bringing a photo to class and asking students to discuss it. Viral ELT replaces the photo with a viral video which has been making the rounds on social media and points the teacher to a ways of turning lexis-lite Likes into conversations and debates, projects and presentations. The site is clean and designed around visuals and puts the power in the teacher's hands to get students active. Thanks to Terry I hope he finds a safe school that nurtures creative teachers. I think he will. He certainly deserves one.

Colette: Show 'n' Tell

Colette talked us through her recent podcasting project which reflected Liam's scifi podcast project show and tell from Night 3. (See post below) Her experience was positive and suggested that having single lesson management system for each pair or small group wasn't the best thing. Her students made radio news podcasts. Motivating students -or enticing them- to participate is only easy with a majority of your  students she suggested. One student wanted nothing to do with it but was also a very poor attender so the project could be constructed and continued on days when this student was absent without affecting her experience. Conveniently she was absent most days before and after the idea was floated. 

Colette's idea, like Liam's, was to have students listen to a sample, develop an idea in conversation and finally write a script to perform and record. No suspense: it was a big success. But she also had a pair who didn't want to write and weren't fond of the whole idea, though not as extremely as the non-attender. There is a happy ending though. After seeing how other groups were progressing, this hesitant group decided to discuss their news unscripted and Colette found their podcast as, if not more, enjoyable to listen to. 

All the podcasts were recorded on Colette's own tablet and during class time as the other students were engaged in speaking activities from the syllabus and textbooks. So, though the idea was introduced and ideas were discussed and scripts were written as a whole-class lesson-time activity in small groups or pairs, the recording work was done as a substitute for the class's work. The selected group who needed to record their scripts were given the tablet and a spare classroom and that precious 15 minutes of freedom to create. 

ELT Makers: Contrasting Podcasting

Colette's podcast project contrasts with Liam's in a couple of ways and this may go back to their positions on Making. Colette believes that tech in the classroom should be IN CLASS TIME. She is not fond of using personal time for class projects. Neither is Liam but this principle is a good limit to force you to be more creative. Can you still make a good project or learning experience without touching the tech outside of 'contact hours'? Colette's project shows it is possible. 

Liam's project had more bells and whistles so to speak. His SciFi podcasts meant that the students had to find and add sound effects and use an audio editor (both use Audacity). Colette's students' projects went from script to recording to upload. Liam's inserted an extra step or two but this was a requirement of the genre. 

The relative ease Colette's experience and the genre of choice of a news report led her naturally to think about how the entire school could benefit. One school on the northside of the city runs a real monthly newspaper (on actual newspaper! not photocopies!). Why couldn't Colette's school run an audio news programme? Why not indeed? Some excellent podcasts about issues in ELT came out over the last 12 months including ELT Podcasts, and some that have video like the TEFL Equity interviews. Interviews and simple audio seems very make-able. Let's hope more of it happens.

Up next

We had to skedaddle at 7:11 and continued talking as we all headed through the hipster haven at the front of the house and kept talking until we finally watched desk jockey Dave pull down the shutter and head for the pub. 

ELT Maker Night 5 will be on June 9. Probably Block T again. Marianne Jordan one of those rare Makers who does pronunciation stuff and incredible self-publishing. She will coming out as next month's feature. Get her little green book off your school's shelf and bring it down for an autograph. 

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