Thursday, 30th June

1. My tongue was slightly in my cheek – only slightly, mind you – when I shared that HBR piece on Tuesday about over monitoring workers and asked if it might apply to education. There was an article in yesterday’s Times Higher Education (THE) that asked, without its tongue in its cheek, Are universities over-assessing their students?

More than 10,000 undergraduate students took part in the survey reported on in the article, and on average each of them was asked to complete nearly seven summative assessments and four formative assessments each term. Seems a lot to me! Not sure whether ‘formative’ isn’t being used a bit loosely here, to mean assessment that doesn’t count towards one’s degree?

THE is also one of those publications that lets you sign up for free for a limited number of articles each month.

2. Here’s a piece from the EdTech Hub about A new research study on equity and SMS-based personalised learning in Kenya

Some sobering stats at the beginning of this piece, one of whose premises is that throwing hardware at an education problem is rarely successful.

3. Have you ever read a story originally written in Wolof? Maybe not. Now’s your chance! The latest short story from Words without Borders is An Ordinary Monday Morning by Boubacar Boris Diop, translated from Wolof by El Hadji Moustapha Diop & Bojana Coulibaly

4. I tucked this one away a while ago and forgot about it. It’s a PDF copy of a 1955 issue of Teaching English: A Magazine Devoted to the Teaching of the English Language in India

It includes a piece by Lionel Billows, Educational Aims in Language Teaching, which confidently proclaims that “(…) children, when they learned their first language, were helped by their isolation to an overpowering urge to communicate, and by the effervescence of their high spirits to utter sounds – if not words. This can be made use of in the learning of a new language by reproducing artificially the sense of isolation, in that no word of their first language is used in the classroom (my emphasis). Only in this way can they get the practice they need in learning not to feel bewildered in strange surroundings, to feel their way into a strange language.” We’ve come very nearly full circle since then in our attitude to the use of pupils’ first language(s) in the classroom! Might be fun with a cup of coffee over the weekend? PDF below.

And here’s a bit more about Billows from the Warwick ELT Archive Hall of Fame

5. And, finally, something that I hope works!

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Tuesday, 28th June

1. Everyone gets one Harvard Business Review article a month for free, I think. Here’s Monitoring Employees Makes Them More Likely to Break Rules

“We found that monitored employees were substantially more likely to take unapproved breaks, disregard instructions, damage workplace property, steal office equipment, and purposefully work at a slow pace, among other rule-breaking behaviours.”

Might this legitimately be extrapolated to schools and universities, I wonder?

2. There’s to be no more BA in English literature in its own right at Sheffield Hallam University:

The last sentence, from the UK universities minister, is the real killer: “Courses that do not lead students on to work or further study fail both the students who pour their time and effort in, and the taxpayer, who picks up a substantial portion of the cost.”

3. Lots of echoes in this piece for me of my own first few months at school in Kent with a Yorkshire accent, The regional accentism that secretly affects job prospects

If you’ve met me, you’ll have noticed I lost that Yorkshire accent – more or less immediately: too many fights!

4. And, finally, I mentioned Sonia Boyce’s show in the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale back at the end of April. Here’s her account of its creation

I wonder if she did a degree that was judged likely – intended, even – to lead on to work or further study?

Here’s the short tour of her show I shared first time round

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Friday, 24th June

This message today will be my last message as a British Council employee. I started work as an English language ‘lector’ at Zagreb University in what was then Yugoslavia in September 1979, and along the way I’ve worked and lived in Baghdad, Berlin, Bucharest, Edinburgh, London, Munich, Stockholm, and Zagreb (for a second time) and visited fifty-eight – I counted them up just now! – other countries. I’ve loved nearly every minute, as have my wife and children, who’ve put up uncomplainingly with playing second fiddle to the British Council through much of those forty-three years. I promise to reform in retirement!  I’ve had occasion to say to many people this week that I’m retiring, not dying, and I hope and expect to be in touch with many of you in the years to come. From next week, I’ll be doing messages twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, unless there’s something I can’t wait to share.

1. Plenty to explore over the weekend here, including an update on the fourteen predictions that David Graddol made about the future of the English language in English Next in 2006: Future of English: what’s the future of the world’s most spoken language?

PDF of English Next below in case you missed it at the time!

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2. You can sneak a peek at Chris Sowton’s book, Teaching in Challenging Circumstances, here

3. If you missed it live, here’s a recording of last Saturday’s webinar, English Connects Action Research: learnings from the African classroom

4. And, finally, if you haven’t discovered it yet, give Wordle a go My daughter is currently comfortably ahead of me in our private competition!

Wordle is now available in a whole host of other languages:

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Wednesday, 22nd June

1. Short notice – the deadline is 16:00 UK time tomorrow, Thursday 23rd June – but that doesn’t always affect the quality of an application in my experience: IATEFL offer a host of scholarships – no fewer than 28 – for their annual conference, which next year is in God’s Own County, Yorkshire, in Harrogate

Give it a go, if you see this in time. You will need to create a free IATEFL account if you don’t already have one.

2. First of two pieces today from The Conversation, The School Cat Stevens built: how Conservative politicians opposed funding for Muslim schools in England by Helen Carr from Birmingham University

Includes the Yusuf Islam (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) song, A is for Allah, that he wrote for his young daughter

The Trojan Horse podcast I mentioned on Monday covers similar territory.

3. And here’s the second, Eye movements could be the missing link in our understanding of memory by Roger and Mikael Johansson from Lund University “Humans have a fascinating ability to recreate events in the mind’s eye, in exquisite detail”: that we all probably knew from our own experience, but the Johanssons suggest that the act of doing so activates (and accesses) our memory. Intriguing!

4. This week’s phobia, koumpounophobia, is “a relatively rare condition”, which is slightly surprising given the frequency of most people’s exposure to the object that provokes the phobia.

5. And, finally, I mentioned my forthcoming retirement to a friend earlier today and he replied, “Well jel” – which I had to look up, not being quite as streetwise and ‘with it’ as my friend – who will now reply, I’m sure, to say that no-one says ‘with it’ anymore!

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Monday, 20th June

1. Apologies for the short notice for this one: the next Eaquals webinar is tomorrow, Tuesday 21st June, at 10:00 UK time. Arum Perwitasari and Joanna Wrzesinska will be talking about Resources to support writing for academic purposes More info and registration here

2. The first of two webinars at 12:00 UK time on Thursday, 23rd June, this one from the TeachingEnglish team: Linguistic Landscapes as a pedagogical resource in English language classrooms with Osman Solmaz. More info & registration here

3. The second webinar at 12:00 UK time this Thursday is a NESTA one, with Yinka Olusoga The practice of play: how playtime affects child development More info & registration here

4. And, finally, The Guardian’s take on the best podcasts so far this year So far, I’ve only listened to The Trojan Horse, which was good – and depressing. This strikes me as quite a narrow podcast furrow that The Guardian’s ploughing?

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Friday, 17th June

1. The Times Education Commission (TEC) – who appointed themselves to the task – have just published their report on ‘Britain’s whole education system’, Bringing out the Best: How to transform education and unleash the potential of every child Lots of interesting ideas, interwoven with a fair bit of education politics, focussed largely on England despite the reference to Britain. PDF below.

2. Hope the adverts are not too annoying on this piece from Schools Week, which reviews one of the TEC’s proposals, ‘Revalidate’ teachers every 5 years, education commission says

3. A thoughtful piece by James Breiner about his twelve years of writing a blog and the added impact the newsletter he started writing less than two years ago has brought

4. And, finally, the Times Literary Supplement podcast, which I often enjoy skim-listening to

The latest episode includes a close reading of the first first few words of Ulysses with Paul Muldoon (which starts 4 minutes in) in celebration of Bloomsday yesterday, 16th June

Here, with Cross fingers tightly crossed that non-subscribers can access at least one article for free, is Paul Muldoon’s essay on Ulysses in this week’s TLS, Spinoza’s shillelagh: some thorny issues in the first words of Ulysses

And here is a much more accessible reading of Ulysses than the book’s reputation suggests Do NOT fret every word.

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Thursday, 16th June

1. Some interesting thinking (and a webinar) from NESTA, Could early years tech support child development?

Register for the webinar here

I think it’s fair to say that orthodox opinion hitherto has been that toddlers and tech don’t and shouldn’t match: this is a different take.

2. An honest post on the WONKHE blog of the ‘painful and bruising’ process of Creating an Anti-Racist University Experience by Jill Childs from Oxford Brookes University

“We learnt that it was far too easy to overestimate our understanding of issues of race and racism and to underestimate the associated complexities of our teaching and learning environment.”

3. Not quite sure why I find this one so worrying:

But if I suffered – which I don’t – from ornithophobia, I guess I’d be pleased!

4. And, finally, a brutal (realistic?) short story from Fernanda Melchor, again translated by Sophie Hughes, who I mentioned on Monday, Life’s Not Worth A Thing

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Wednesday, 15th June

1. There’s a number of TeachingEnglish webinars coming up in the next few weeks. They’re all listed here

The first one in the list is this Saturday, 18th June, at 14:00 UK time, English Connects Action Research: Learnings from the African classroom. More info and registration here Looks likely to be fun – and a challenge to chair with nineteen speakers!

2. I somehow missed this one when it was first published last year: On language teachers as agents of cultural relations by Maria Grazia Imperiale from Glasgow University

Maria Grazia concludes with a question about learning for her readers, What have you learned from the international language teachers/teacher trainers/language practitioners you work with? What did they teach you? PDF below.

3. Maria Grazia refers several times to this earlier essay by Martin Rose, English in Cultural Relations

Martin establishes a useful distinction between English-as-Vector – ‘a treasure and a handicap’ – and English-as-Commodity – (which has) ‘a superficial simplicity’. PDF below.

4. Incorporating Global Englishes into the ELT classroom by Nicola Galloway and Heath Rose explores some of the same territory from the classroom coalface “Increasing students’ awareness of the globalisation of English is a daunting task for teachers, especially considering the lack of globally-oriented ELT materials they have to work with.” PDF below.

5. And, finally, another paper co-authored by Heath Rose, this time with John Bosco Conama, Linguistic imperialism: still a valid construct in relation to language policy for Irish Sign Language

No question mark in that title, then! Begins with a useful account of the background to the notion of linguistic imperialism. PDF below.

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Tuesday, 14th June

1. This Friday, 17th June, is United Nations World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought and to mark this day the Language Centre, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film at Queen Mary University of London will be hosting a webinar at 13:00 UK time from an educator from the frontline of the urgent fight against desertification. Patrice Kané will be talking about 5 things that happened after environmental lessons in Mali.

More info and registration here

Do join if you can: Patrice was unable to get to IATEFL in Belfast to give this talk, as he’d hoped to.

2. Take a virtual tour of the Climate Connection exhibition here

On your desktop or mobile, use the arrows on the floor to help you navigate, and click on the QR codes on the walls for more information. You also get to see the new British Council HQ building!

3. “The importance of ensuring that children who have the gift of a home language (lovely way of putting it! ed.) other than English have skilled teachers who know how to put that gift to work as they add English to their linguistic repertoire” is one of the key tenets of this piece in edpost Thanks to Robin for sharing it.

4. And, finally, the Chicas de la Habana version of ‘Manteca’

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Monday, 13th June

1. The London School of Economics (LSE) are holding a festival this week: full details here

With a series of short videos that includes

How can we tackle digital inequalities?

and How can we support climate resilient farming in developing countries?

2. From BBC Radio 3’s Essay series, Inua Ellams explores how African barber shops provide spaces where men can be vulnerable

All the other 1,776 (!) episodes here

3. Four talks from this year’s Hay Festival for when you have a moment:

Bernardine Evaristo

Monica Ali

David Olusoga

Sophie Hughes talking about translating Fernanda Melchor

4. And, finally, a miracle of compression: Dombey and Son in less than seventy-five minutes

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