Thursday, 14th July

1. Next Tuesday, 19th July, at 12:00 UK time, Simon Borg’s leading a webinar for teacher educators, looking at the competences they need to develop to support teachers online

It’s based on a research paper Simon wrote for the British Council PDF below, just in case.

2. And next Thursday, 21st July, at 12:00 UK time, George Chilton, the Creative Director at Hubbub Labs, is leading a webinar looking at going beyond teaching into a career in materials writing

“The question is,” says George, “is writing the pathway for you?”

3. I did my first f2f training session (for many years!) earlier today for NILE in Norwich with a group of French teacher educators, a comparative look at the Eaquals, Cambridge and British Council frameworks for teacher and teacher educator professional development. I put together a handout with the key links and I’ve attached it below. Some similarities; some differences!

4. And, finally, a podcast that will delight some of you and confuse slightly more of you completely, The Nightwatchman

And, no, a nightwatchman does not look after a factory overnight!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday, 12th July

1. Three pieces from the international edition of Der Spiegel:

i) a very forthright piece on Boris Johnson’s fall from grace

ii) a visit to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s home town

iii) an interview with the Afghan Minister of the Interior, Anas Haqqani

2. Is this a development that we should welcome, notwithstanding its genesis?

3. The UK National Poetry Day website has had a revamp in preparation for this year’s celebration on 6th October Lots of individual poems here and resources and lesson plans here Try this one from the new Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho or James Carter’s suggestions for using his poem, Kennings, in class PDF of the Kennings resource below.

4. And, finally, how about some window shopping on this photography site? Here’s one of my favourites, a goose-stepping bird What I didn’t know, though, is that the goose-step has absolutely nothing to do with geese (or any other kind of bird)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday, 7th July

1. NATESOL’s next free webinar is this Saturday, 9th July at 10:00 UK time with Marijana Macis from Manchester Metropolitan University: Teaching Collocations in the EFL Classroom: New Insights from Research. How are collocations best taught?

More info and registration here

2. Also on Saturday, at 15:00 UK time, Gamification and Language Learning is the title of Deborah Healey’s Facebook Live event for Eduling International. What are the important considerations when games are used in the classroom?

More info and registration here

 3. The next Eaquals webinar is next Tuesday, 12th July at 10:00 UK time: Sue Hackett will be talking about Academic Integrity: issues, challenges and considerations for an online world. What is academic integrity and what does it mean for an international student in particular?

More info and registration here

4. And, finally and with apologies to those of you who never want to hear another word about Boris Johnson, something that may seem a little eccentric. I was walking home from the supermarket yesterday evening, listening to Far from the Madding Crowd and came across this description of Sergeant Troy, Bathsheba’s cad of a suitor, which rang a contemporary bell PDF below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday, 5th July

1. Here’s a piece from Nature Neuroscience with no fewer than 24 credited authors, Shared computational principles for language processing in humans and deep language models (DLMs) Worth persevering with: not as difficult a read as it might seem at first sight.

“DLMs learn language from real-world textual examples ‘in the wild’, with minimal or no explicit prior knowledge about language structure. Autoregressive DLMs do not parse words into parts of speech or apply explicit syntactic transformations. Rather, they learn to encode a sequence of words into a numerical vector, termed a contextual embedding, from which the model decodes the next word. After learning, the next-word prediction principle allows the generation of well-formed, novel, context-aware texts.” Much the same as we do, apparently! PDF below.

Thanks to EL Gazette for that one – their latest issue is here:

2. Something we all knew instinctively? Struggling to learn a language? 6 tips on how pop songs can help by a team from Charles Sturt University in Australia in The Conversation

Includes as an example task the song These Days by a group from South Africa that I’d not heard of before, The Rudimentals,

One of the authors’ six tips is, ‘Avoid using textbooks or sources that don’t interest learners or they are less able to relate to.’ Easier said than done for most teachers?

3. Two summaries from the latest OASIS research database update next:

1. Examining non-native second language teachers’ decremental beliefs toward their target language proficiency ‘Decremental’ is a new one on me! PDF below.

2. Teachers misunderstanding of translanguaging in preschool Good intentions on the part of the teachers that seem to have gone well off track. PDF below.

4. And, finally, a wonderful discovery made yesterday, Dancing at Dusk: a moment with Pina Bausch’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ performed on a beach in Senegal by a specially-recruited ensemble of 38 dancers from 14 African countries Only available till midday UK time on 11th July.

There’s a bit more background to the project from Sarah Crompton of Sadler’s Wells here Even in lockdown, you can dance on the beach!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

[file x 1]

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:

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment