Thursday, 8th June (Richmond)

1. An engaging Library of Congress interview with Howard W. French about his book, ‘Born in Blackness’, At the Heart of Modernity: Africa and Africans

From the blurb: “What happens when you consider the origins of modernity and center (I still have to restrain the urge to ‘correct’ this spelling of centre) Africa rather than Europe? Howard W. French’s book explores that very question as he investigates the forgotten history of how Africa and its relations to the Western world played an integral role in the development of the modern world.”

Here’s Howard French’s own website

And here’s two reviews of his book,

one from The New York Times, A History of Modernity That Puts Africa at Center Stage

and one from The Guardian , Born in Blackness: dehumanised in the age of discovery

I couldn’t find any reviews from The Times or The Daily Telegraph, which is a bit sad.

And while we’re in the vicinity, the Library of Congress YouTube channel is an extraordinarily rich resource and here’s their website

2. Windrush Day is celebrated here in the UK on 22nd June each year. The House of Lords Library has done its usual unsurpassably thorough job with this background paper

Here’s Linton Kwesi Johnson reading his poem, Tings, at the very first Windrush Day, in 2018

The Conversation is publishing a series of pieces on Windrush in the lead up to 22nd June. Here’s the first, with links to several more at the bottom of the page

3. IATEFL offers no fewer than twenty-four scholarships to its annual conference each year, and the deadline for 2024 applications is 16:00 UK time on Wednesday, 21st June Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

4. I thought this was a truly extraordinary story, US urged to reveal UFO evidence after claim that it has intact alien vehicles

5. And, finally, the return of a ninety-six-year-overdue library book

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Tuesday, 6th June (Cambridge)

1. What role for aid in countries with and without a development bargain? is the title of this ODI (Overseas Development Institute, I think, but it doesn’t use its full name anymore!) event with Stefan Dercon at 18:00 UK time this Thursday, 8th June. More info and registration here

The event blurb asks: “How much does aid really matter to poorer countries’ development? Much less than donor countries would like to think, argues Stefan Dercon in his important and well-received 2022 book Gambling on Development – although its impact is not nothing, either. In the book, Stefan compares country experiences, arguing that countries develop strongly when their leaders and elites reach a shared vision for their country’s development, and bet on its success—though the outcome cannot be guaranteed. This vision and its implementation he dubs a ‘development bargain’. What matters for development is national leadership, politics, and policies. But if domestic matters are crucial, what is the role of outsiders?”

2. A piece from The Guardian on the banning of Amanda Gorman’s poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ in Florida, Amanda Gorman ‘gutted’ after Florida school bans Biden inauguration poem

A piece from Lit Hub on the banning of books more generally in the USA, The History (and Present) of Banning Books in America

And here’s that Gorman poem again, with a video of her reading it, ‘The Hill We Climb’: the Amanda Gorman poem that stole the inauguration show

3. Two items from the latest TeachingEnglish newsletter:

a) Motivating our learners – a ‘mini-event’ with three talks led by: Huma Hasna Riaz Ahmed from the UAE, Should homework be humdrum? Jessica Cheman & Sam Zurbrugg from Vietnam, Motivating learners: the ideal L2-self and secondary learners and Katy Kelly from Spain, Maximising teacher language at 10:00, 11:15 and 12:30 on Thursday, June 8th. More info and registration here Not sure what to make of that last one, ‘Maximising teacher language’!

b) Here’s Episode 7 of Series 2 of the TeachingEnglish podcast from We’am Hamdan & Chris Sowton, ‘How can peer-led training and mentoring support teachers’ development?’ Transcript, show notes, activity booklets and (quite small) audio file all here

All the episodes of the podcast here and you can sign up for the TeachingEnglish newsletter here

4. The times they are a-changin’ in the world of British higher education. Here’s two recent pieces from The Guardian:

British universities can no longer financially depend on foreign students. They must reform to survive by Simon Jenkins;

Plus the view of a number of university vice-chancellors, Funding model for UK higher education is ‘broken’, say university VCs

5. And, finally and tunefully and less seriously, if you don’t know your robin from your blackbird song-wise, try this It’s a delight!

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Friday, 2nd June (Cambridge)

A day later than usual: busier yesterday than I expected to be!

1. Advancing Learning: Fast-forward 2023 is Macmillan English’s ninety-minute distillation of the best thirty ideas from their last season of professional development events, split into 3 main segments: Young Learners, Teenagers and Young Adults. There’s three ‘sittings’ next Wednesday, June 7th, at 10:00, 14:30 and 21:30 UK time. More info and registration here

and on the same page you’ll find both recordings of the 2022 and 2021 events and downloads of the accompanying booklets – PDFs of both below.

More good stuff on the Macmillan blog here

2. Teacher Tapp conducts regular weekly polls of the opinion of teachers in the UK. They recently asked 2,666 teachers in the UK their views on the teaching of foreign languages at primary school

They also discovered the good news that more teachers in the UK are getting professional development than a year ago and found that this article, Questioning for retrieval: five mistakes to avoid was the most read over the last week.

Mistake 1? Asking for hands up!

Mistake 2? Mostly asking the boys!

Find out the other three here

Other good articles at the bottom of their blog post page each week.

3. To my astonishment, it’s over six months since we last visited the UKFIET blog Recent posts include

Localization Only Succeeds if Women and Girls are at the Center

It’s High Time to Rethink Existing Approaches to Educational Accountability

Education that Listens to Those Most Affected by Climate Change

Choose one to read over the weekend?

4. And, finally, a cloak-and-dagger story from The New Yorker’s ‘Annals of Crime’ series (that I hope you can read without a subscription), A Confession Exposes India’s Secret Hacking Industry: the country has developed a lucrative specialty, cyberattacks for hire.

5. And, extra-finally and also criminally, from Spiegel International, just in case you can’t read that New Yorker piece, A New Look at the Great Quedlinburg Art Robbery.

“In 1945, an American officer pilfered valuable pieces from Germany’s most important art collection and sent them to Texas, setting off a long search for the items. Now, experts are wondering: Was he just a simple thief? Or was he trying to save the treasure from the Nazis?”

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Tuesday, 30th May (Richmond)

Blog version:

1. During the recent IATEFL conference in Harrogate, the IATEFL media team interviewed a number of delegates around key ELT topics, including sustainability, and noted that a large percentage of people struggled or were uncomfortable discussing sustainability on camera. The next free IATEFL webinar, Sustainability in ELT – fatigue or taboo?, presented by Anca de Vries & Christopher Graham, will investigate this public discomfort at 15:00 UK time next Saturday, 3rd June. More info and registration here

2. The ‘Editor’s Choice’ free article in the latest issue of ELTJ is Freire’s problem-posing model: critical pedagogy and young learners by Nadine Nelson & Julian Chen It’s not quite as heavy a read as its title might make it sound. From the abstract: “The instructional rationale behind critical pedagogy is to provide students the opportunity to voice their personal stories and opinions, and to reflect and act upon social concerns relevant to their daily lives”. PDF below. If you scroll back through the archive, you’ll find a free article (or two) in each issue.

3. I hope this one from The Economist works: As it spreads across the world, who owns English? Or, for that matter, French or Portuguese?

4. And, finally, two gift articles from The New York Times in which, for one person at least, the philosophy of “fake it until you make it” finally gets its comeuppance: Elizabeth Holmes Reports to Prison to Begin More Than 11-Year Sentence and here’s the whole hubristic story, The Epic Rise and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes

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Thursday, 25th May (Richmond)

1. The International Booker Prize has just been won for the first time by a Bulgarian writer, Georgi Gospodinov (whose name, I think, translates as ‘Gentleman George’) for his novel, ‘Time Shelter’, translated by Angela Rodel.

Here’s The Guardian’s review

and here’s an extract from the novel

It was a very rich longlist this year. Here’s extracts from all the thirteen novels longlisted, from Mexico to Sweden, from Norway to South Korea, from China to Guadeloupe, from Côte d’Ivoire to Ukraine and between and beyond

Lots more to explore on The Booker Prizes site

2. Three from The Conversation, for the first time in a little while:

a) Greedy gulls decide what to eat by watching people

b) Chow mein and chips: a brief history of the British Chinese takeaway

c) Seven tips for a healthier relationship with your phone

3. Three from TED, likewise:

d) The timeless, ancient language of art with Wangechi Mutu

e) How to tame your wandering mind with Amishi Jha

f) What is déjà vu? What is déjà vu? by (rather than with) Michael Molina

4. And, finally, something completely and utterly different, a ‘rainbow flick’ tutorial

Hands up if you think it’s a hairstyle?

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Tuesday, 23rd May (Cambridge)

1. This Thursday, 25th May, at 16:00 UK time, Diana Mazgutova & Judith Hanks from Leeds University present Examining L2 learners’ perceptions of their writing strategies on an intensive EAP course in the UK. More info and registration here

“Diana and Judith will discuss their project aim, which was to investigate second language learners’ perceptions of their writing strategies.”

2. Meet the Future of Literary Translation is a ‘showcase’ video from the National Centre for Writing here in the UK

and there’s an accompanying PDF, Emerging Literary Translators – 2023 here (and below)

3. This film from the New York Times Cooking ‘On the Job’ series is about Celestino García, one of the very few bagel rollers left in New York City who still crafts bagels by hand, This Man Makes 3,000+ Bagels by Hand Every Day

Here’s a guide to How to Make Bagels by Claire Saffitz and here’s the video version

And more films about different food businesses here!

4. And, finally, The Diamond by Vedran Rupic is an entertaining short film (14 mins long) about a solitary man who looks for love and friendship in all the wrong ways.

More of Rupic’s short films here Try Horse, a Salvatore Ganacci music video – scroll down almost to the bottom of the page.

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Thursday, 18th May (Cambridge)

Some serious reading for the weekend:

1. Socioeconomic Inequality and Educational Outcomes: Evidence from Twenty Years of TIMSS is an open access publication examining trends in educational inequality using twenty years of grade 8 student data collected from 13 education systems by the IEA’s Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) between 1995 and 2015, with a focus on two research questions: a) How has the inequality of education outcomes due to family socioeconomic status changed for different education systems between 1995 and 2015? b) To what extent have education systems managed to increase the academic performance of disadvantaged students between 1995 and 2015?

Link here and PDF below.

2. Here’s a sombre map of Peoples under Threat from the Minority Rights Group (MRG)

and here’s a collection of short articles and case studies about Life at the Margins

The newest MRG video is ‘Anybody hear me’ about the Kirmancki dialect of Kurdish, which is on the brink of extinction

and here’s their YouTube channel with, on the face of it, disappointingly low viewing numbers for many of their films?

3. FACT is the Forum for Across the Curriculum Teaching, and it’s just celebrated the publication of the thirtieth edition of its journal Try The Magic of Esperanto by Eddy Hunt or Monastic Life in the Middle Ages by Thomas Ziegelwagner, which puts a Monty Python sketch to good service in a CLIL lesson. PDF below.

FACT also has a country page, where you can click on your country’s flag to see what materials are available

4. Economising with Imagination in Harsh Times is an article that Geoff Mulgan wrote for Ethos, the Singapore Civil Service College journal

“Governing in booms”, says Mulgan, “is very different from governing in times of retreat. In this different context, governments need to think and act to use resources carefully while also addressing deep-seated problems. Here, useful ideas can be drawn from ecology, which has introduced many to the idea that policies of reduction—whether reducing energy and materials use, waste or carbon emissions—can be as important as policies for growth.”

I especially liked his taxonomy of twelve different forms of economising: pure economies, economies of trimming, economies of delay, economies of scale, etc. PDF below.

5. And, finally, just in case you think it’s all been a bit too serious today – which it probably has, sorry! – here’s Melanie Butler on the re-naming of a mountain in Wales

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Tuesday, 16th May (Richmond)

1. This looks likely to be interesting: Teaching House present Jason Anderson & Bobby Dunnett at 19:00 UK time this Thursday, 18th May.

Jason will help us prepare for the unpredictable in our lessons;

Bobby will extol the virtues of fluency throughout a lesson.

More info and registration here

2. There are three chances to hear From Good to Great: Using Formative Assessment to Boost Exam Writing with Kateryna Protsenko this Friday, 19th May – at 10:00, 14:00 and 21:30 UK time. (She will be jiggered by the end of the day – as my grandmother might have put it!) More info and registration here

And here’s one that Kateryna prepared earlier, as they used to say on Blue Peter, on Feedback that Empowers

3. The UK government is delighted with the latest PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) report, which shows that the UK was the only country to buck the downward trend during the Covid pandemic

Here’s a short summary video

and here’s a very long video of the report launch

PDF of full report below.

4. Here’s something a little different: Tibet: The Unresolved International Crisis was the title of a recent Asia Scotland Institute event with the President (in exile) of Tibet, Sikyong Penpa Tsering. More info and recording here  

5. And, finally and indestructibly, news of a crisp packet from the 1960s

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Thursday, 11th May (Richmond)

1. Another just in time job, alas, this one! This year’s NATESOL Annual Conference – From theory to classroom practice and back again: What are we doing and why? – is this Saturday, 13th May, from 10:00 to 15:00 UK time. It’s online via Zoom, with Graham Hall and Jane Spiro as plenary speakers, plus other speakers from the USA, Nigeria, Greece, Japan, Turkey, China, Luxembourg and the UK. More info and registration here

I’m breaking my ‘must be free’ rule, as NATESOL have, for the second year running, offered twenty free places to teachers around the world who can’t easily afford the £10 ticket – and there are one or two of those left if you send me an e-mail with ‘NATESOL’ in the subject line before 13:00 UK time tomorrow, Friday!

Does anyone else read ‘What are we doing and why?’ with the stress on the ‘are’?

2. Here’s one from the IHWO 70th anniversary conference I attended earlier this week. Alistair Campbell was at Tony Blair’s side throughout the (New) Labour government here in the UK from 1997 to 2007, and he’s a big fan of foreign languages. Here’s his talk, Love Life, Love Languages; Love Languages, Love Life! We Need to Up Our Game in Oracy and Foreign Language Learning

Alistair was sure he and I had met before, but I don’t remember doing so – and I think I would. We were at the same university at much the same time and both played football for our respective college teams: is it possible he’s remembered me for nearly half a century because I fouled him on the football pitch, I wonder?

3. How to use ChatGPT to support teachers: The good, the bad, and the ugly is the title of a recent World Bank blog post by Tracy Wilichowski & Cristóbal Cobo. Early on in their piece they ask what they describe as an ‘uncomfortable question’: “With a shortage of 69 million primary and secondary teachers around the world, could ChatGPT supplement teachers, or even replace them?”

Archive here, covering a wide range of topics

4. The European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) in Graz is launching its new three-year programme, Language Education at the Heart of Democracy at 15:00 UK time next Monday, 15th May. More info and registration here

5. And, finally, ‘where there’s muck, there’s brass’ – as my grandfather used to say! Here’s Jonny Crickmore from Fen Farm Dairy, the makers of the splendid Baron Bigod cheese, explaining how they make heat from muck to generate free energy

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Tuesday, 9th May (Cambridge)

1. Short notice – but I hope not too short notice – of an adventurous National Geographic Learning event tomorrow about the ‘Boiling River’ in the Amazon jungle in Peru with DaVida Alston & Andrés Ruzo:

A short video here with the boiling river in the background

More info and registration here for Grades 3-5 at 08:00 UK time

and register here for Grades 7-9 at 09:15 London time

I wonder what Grade 6 did wrong?

2. I took great pleasure in attending the first two days of the 70th anniversary conference of the International House World Organisation (IHWO) in London yesterday and today alongside representatives of International House schools from all round the world.

IHWO have just published Issue 50 of The International House Journal, which covers a wide range of topics, including “Teacher, are you going to teach me good English?”, Teacher Talking Time: Is it really that bad? and ChatGPT for EFL Teachers

The main IHWO website is here and I’ll include more items from the conference in Thursday’s message.

3. And while we’re on the no-longer-simply-fashionable topic of ChatGPT, here’s Nik Peachey’s splendidly clear new presentation, Best Ways to Use ChatGPT to Develop Learning

4. And, finally, a podcast based on Anthony Burgess’s iconoclastic and idiosyncratic 1984 book, Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 20 down, 79 to go!

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