Thursday, 30th March (Cambridge)

1. Visible Thinking Routines in the English Language Classroom​ is the intriguing title of the National Geographic Learning webinar with Alex Warren at 09:00 and 17:00 UK time on Wednesday, 5th April.

As the event blurb has it, “the role of the teacher is multi-faceted – not only do we have the responsibility of developing our learners’ language knowledge and skills, but also the cognitive, social, and interpersonal skills they need in order to be successful in school, work, and life in the 21st century. Not least is the need to get our learners to start thinking for themselves and asking questions”.

More info and registration here

2. The next free IATEFL webinar is to be performed (word chosen carefully) by Tom Godfrey at 15:00 UK time on Saturday, 1st April. Tom will demonstrate how to develop drama facilitation skills in ELT and will “suggest that teaching needs to be conceived more as a performative art requiring practitioners to develop skills of a performer rather than a scientific discipline prioritising subject knowledge and procedural techniques”. More info and registration here

I’m ever so slightly suspicious of this one. ‘Teacher as guru’, I’m firmly against, but this may be different.

3. Victoria Collis put me on to this one, which uses “cutting edge AI to provide support through WhatsApp to teachers in the poorest schools”

Here’s some of the bot’s example answers

and you can sign up for the beta version here

You might like to bear this note of caution from the not usually very cautious Elon Musk in mind at the same time, though

4. Something a little different at 18:00 UK time on Tuesday, 4th April, Overreach: how China derailed its peaceful rise, from the Asia Scotland Institute with Rana Mitter and Susan L. Shirk. More info and registration here

That ‘overreach’ depends on your perspective, clearly.

5. And, finally and ubiquitously, the soy bean

I’ve just subscribed – no, not an ‘early adopter’, more of a ‘laggard’! – to the TED Talks Daily mailing list and today’s selection of four short talks was a pretty good start, I thought, with some good stuff for out-of-class learning tasks for your more advanced students, too.

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Tuesday, 28th March (Cambridge)

1. Landgeist maps are fun, and you can easily lose an hour or two exploring their site:

Which country in Europe drinks the most coffee? Not Italy …

And which country consumes the most cheese? Not France …

Which country in Africa smokes the most tobacco?

Where in Asia are potatoes more popular than rice?

Which country has the worst roads in South America?

2. A new project competition for secondary school teachers of English from OUP, How would you spread wellbeing around the world? which asks students to imagine they are wellbeing superheroes, with the power to improve health and wellbeing, and to design a poster promoting good health and wellbeing. More info and registration here; closing date is 31st May.

You can see last year’s competition’s winners – from the Czech Republic, Turkey, Slovakia and Thailand – here

3. Here’s a conversation from Radio New Zealand with the UK Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, on why poetry matters

Mention is made of Armitage’s very-well-received poem commemorating the Queen’s death last year, Floral Tribute – check out the first letter of each line of the poem

When you have a bit of time to spare, you can listen to all of his lectures as Oxford Professor of Poetry here Try this one from 2017, We Need To Talk About Robert: Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize for Literature’

4. And, finally, a recent letter to The Guardian from Alan Gray of Brighton:

With Partygate back in the news, I’m reminded of a comment passed on to me by a Greek taxi driver: “Politicians are like babies’ nappies. Both should be changed frequently, and for the same reason.”

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Thursday, 23rd March (Cambridge)

1. The first of two webinars early next week is an exciting-sounding National Geographic event at 16:00 UK time on Tuesday 28th March with explorer and tropical biologist Carmen Chavez, who’ll be talking about her work using camera traps to spy on the wildlife in the Amazon,  I See You! Amazon Camera Traps and more! More info and registration here

It’s intended for 11-18-year-olds, and you can register your whole class for the live event or watch the recording later. This event is part of their ‘Explorer Mindset’ series – worksheet here and copy below.

2. The second event, the following day, Wednesday 29th March, also at 16:00 UK time, from NATESOL offers a different kind of excitement: Digital language assessment: the good, the bad and the yet to be decided with Emma Bruce and Heléna Stakounis. More info and registration here: and copy of flyer below.

3. Here’s a bit of serious weekend reading, courtesy of Rob Gibson: Toward Parsimony in Bias Research: A Proposed Common Framework of Belief-Consistent Information Processing for a Set of Biases The article starts with a splendidly comprehensive list of different types of bias – hands up if you suffer from false consensus bias or self-serving bias? – and suggests that many of those biases originate in the same set of widely-held underlying fundamental beliefs. PDF below.

4. A gift article from The New York Times that you may not thank me for, A 19-Minute HIIT Workout for Beginners Not quite sure about that ‘for beginners’ though!

5. And, finally, a pair of interesting and frank podcasts this week from The Rest is Politics team, Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, on the Second Gulf War, twenty years on: The Iraq War and Iraq: The Legacy

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Tuesday, 21st March (Richmond)

1. There’s been a lot of discussion here in the UK recently about ‘updating’ books to reflect current sensitivities and sensibilities, in particular Roald Dahl’s. Ed Cumming and his team in The Daily Telegraph broke the story, but here’s the free-to-read Guardian account

Also from The Guardian, a good podcast on the topic with David Baddiel

plus a piece by Ursula Le Guin’s son from Literary Hub – well worth dipping into occasionally – on re-writing his mother’s books

2. The 2023 edition – the twenty-third – of the Edelman Trust Barometer has just been published

Here’s a brief summary of their grim findings: “A lack of faith in societal institutions triggered by economic anxiety, disinformation, mass-class divide and a failure of leadership has brought us to where we are today – deeply and dangerously polarized, with business the only institution seen as competent and ethical, 53% of respondents globally saying that their countries are more divided today than in the past, and an obligation on CEOs to improve economic optimism and hold divisive forces accountable.”

In business we trust? PDF below.

3. I guess this had to happen! AI makes plagiarism harder to detect, argue academics – in paper written by chatbot Thanks to Mark Henebury for bringing this to my attention.

4. And thanks to Kelly Beaver for bringing the Early Intervention Foundation to my attention.

Two short videos: What is early intervention? and Why does early intervention matter?

and an introductory article

I well remember being told in Edinburgh some years ago by Alan Sinclair that post-natal intervention was very often too late.

5. And, finally, a video highlighted on Seth Godin’s blog the other day, The gap between impossible and normal

Here’s the blog post

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Thursday, 16th March (Richmond)

1. Voices of the First World War is a remarkable podcast series from the Imperial War Museum in London, based on their large, rich archive of recordings with survivors of that war from both sides

Start at the beginning with The Shot That Led To War?

Episodes are typically eight or nine minutes long, and there must be lots of ways the series can be used in (and outside) class, mustn’t there?

2. If you think that last assertion of mine is just a bit too insouciant, maybe these six short videos from Tyson Seburn on Lesson Planning will help

3. No fewer than 5 Pearson English webinars next week, one a day starting Monday, 20th March, comprising their Be Yourself in English: Personalising Language Learning series. Register here; attendance certificates available

4. The I Podcast is usually worth a listen. Here’s the latest episode, on What science tells us about the Covid lab leak theory Scroll down the page for other episodes.

5. And, finally, kora ( + setar ( + percussion = bliss! Here’s Ablaye Cissoko (kora), Kiya Tabassian (setar) and Patrick Graham (percussion) in concert

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Tuesday, 14th March (Richmond)

1. OUP (Oxford University Press) now run four editions of their ELTOC (English Language Teaching Online Conference) a year, and the next one is this coming Friday and Saturday, 17-18th March. There are four four-hour sessions – you can dip in and out – covering a wide range of topics, with the first session starting at 09:40 on Friday. Full programme and registration here and (colourful) PDF of programme below

2. Of direct use to teachers of Economics and English for Economics but also useful for the rest of us when we next come across an economics term we’re not sure we understand, The A to Z of Economics from The Economist, promises “economic terms, from ‘absolute advantage’ to ‘zero-sum game’, explained to you in plain English”

I wouldn’t want to bet too much on my being able to explain ‘zero-sum-game’ correctly …

3. The most recent episode of the TeachingEnglish podcastHow can peer-led training and mentoring support teachers’ development? – investigates an activity I’ve always felt to be both highly effective and an indication – where it flourishes – of a healthy institution or organisation. You’ll find more information and downloads here (plus PDFs below) of notes on the episode, transcripts in English and Arabic, and activity booklet here (There’s also a download of the audio file, which I’ve not included.)

Earlier episodes in the series here

4. You probably need to be a little bit of an ‘aid nerd’ to read this ICAI review of UK aid to India in full, so you’ll find a PDF of only the executive summary below, in addition to the full report and the literature review (which is a BIG file). With an amber-red rating of the programme’s efficacy, ICAI continues to live up to the ‘I’ in its name, and long may it do so

5. And, finally and exceptionally, something you have to pay for: Fault Line  – Writings for Turkey and Syria, a collection of poems from 34 poets around the world, edited by Alan Maley, created to raise money for victims and survivors of the earthquake which struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, 2023, at 4:17 a.m.

Has illustrations for each poem generated by AI, prompted by a line or verse from the poem.

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Thursday, 9th March (Richmond)

1. Two weeks ago, the research group Autonomy published a report on the trial by a number of UK companies of a four-day working week which got a lot of publicity, not least because the results were so emphatically in favour of a four-day rather than a five-day working week: here’s The Guardian piece at the time

Michael Sanders, however, has just published a post on the What Works Wellbeing Centre’s blog which sounds a more sceptical note (and re-emphasises one or two basic evaluation principles, including ‘best (only) you don’t evaluate your own work’)

PDFs of the whole Autonomy report and of the three-page executive summary only below.

[file x 2]

2. “Our children spend their days being passively instructed and made to sit still and take tests—often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to struggle through.”

That’s a reasonable summary of the thinking of Peter Gray, who’s a professor of psychology at Boston College in the USA and a lifelong advocate of ‘unschooling’, an approach to education which emphasises learner autonomy and self-directed learning. His blog, Freedom to Learn, investigates the roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning

and here’s a short video by Peter outlining his beliefs

3. Three distinctly challenging pieces (for us non-scientists, at least) for your weekend reading and listening from The Conversation, in the belief that an occasional mental work-out is good for us:

Four common misconceptions about quantum physics

Quantum mechanics: how the future might influence the past

And the first episode of their Great Mysteries of Physics podcast series – Is time an illusion?

4. And, finally, a piece from Granta by Amitava Kumar about a recent visit he made to India, Many Words for Heat, Many Words for Hate

It includes the following paragraph: “The week before I arrived, there were accounts in the news, and especially on social media, of bulldozers being used to demolish Muslim homes in Delhi and elsewhere. The visiting British prime minister, Boris Johnson, appeared on my timeline, because he had jumped aboard a new JCB bulldozer (at a JCB) factory in Gujarat. The JCB bulldozers were the ones being used in the demolitions. Did he not know that people’s homes were being destroyed?”

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Tuesday, 7th March (Cambridge)

1. It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow, and one stop english have a lesson on the subject to download here, with versions at intermediate and advanced PDFs below.

There’s a fair bit of free stuff at one stop english if you rummage around on their website, this for example, ‘Eight hours’ sleep! And you must eat breakfast!’ The truth behind 10 of the biggest health beliefs with elementary, intermediate and advanced student worksheets and teacher’s notes to download here PDFs also below.

2. British Council are also marking International Women’s Day tomorrow, with a mini-conference starting at 13:00 UK time comprising three separate one-hour webinars, each focusing on a different element of gender and equity in English language teaching:

a) the THEMIS project (Evaluating gender equity and equality in the English language teacher curriculum, ICT policies and learning materials in Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa);

b) CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in ELT;

c) Gender-ing ELT: What can we do in our everyday classes?

More info and registration here

3. The IATEFL English for Speakers of Other Languages Special Interest Group (ESOLSIG) is offering a free webinar at 19:00 UK time this Thursday, 9th March with Carol Goodey, Making connections and facilitating learning between ESOL and wider communities More info and registration here

“This webinar will consider the value of collaborative work that brings people together to learn with, from and about each other. There will be a focus on practice, sharing a local community project developed in collaboration with non-ESOL colleagues. This will include the activities used to facilitate connections between people from different backgrounds with little shared language and reflection on what was learned.”

4. And, finally, if you like reading spy fiction you’ll enjoy this true life ‘gift article’ from The New York Times, The Daring Ruse That Exposed China’s Campaign to Steal American Secrets

Well, maybe that ‘true’ belongs in inverted commas unless you work for the FBI!

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Thursday, 2nd March (Cambridge)

1. A bit of light reading for the weekend – not. Tony Blair and William Hague have co-endorsed (rather than co-authored, I think) a new report from Blair’s Institute for Global Change, A New National Purpose: Innovation Can Power the Future of Britain PDF of both the whole report and the three-page executive summary below. Give the summary a chance!

2. Another good one on ChatGPT that I’ve ‘borrowed’ from Stephen Downes’s OLDaily, The Problem is Not the AI by Steve Krause

3. Simon Borg doesn’t post on his blog so very often, but it’s always worth a read. Here’s his latest, on initial (or pre-service, as we used to call it) teacher education

4. A bit of a niche one, this, for the lexicographers amongst you: The A.S. Hornby Educational Trust is pleased to invite applications for the A.S. Hornby Dictionary Research Awards (ASHDRA) for 2023. Full details in the PDF below; closing date 14th April.

5. And, finally and powerfully, a poem by Elizabeth Bishop that I’d not come across before, In the Waiting Room PDF below as well, just in case.

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Tuesday, 28th February (Richmond)

1. I first mentioned Michael Barber’s podcast, Accomplishment, back in June. He’s just begun a new series and his first guest is Malala Yousafzai. On Apple here or Spotify here

2. I’m not sure that the link for last week’s 21st Century English Teacher Express event with Peartree Languages and English Academy worked for everyone, so here goes for a second time: tomorrow, Wednesday 1st March, at 07:00 UK time it’s a double-header: Developing Critical Thinking Skills & Developing Reflective Practice. Register here for the Zoom link

3. Everything you wanted to know about AI – but were afraid to ask from The Guardian

4. Two ‘gift articles’ from The New York Times:

Read Your Way Through Tokyo with Hiromi Kawakami

A Doodle Reveals da Vinci’s Early Deconstruction of Gravity

5. And, finally and ‘unlocked’ for this week only, three short stories from The Paris Review, to celebrate their winning the 2023 American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Award for Fiction, each comfortably finished with enjoyment on the bus or train home from work:

‘Trail Run’ by Zach Williams

‘Winter Term’ by Michelle de Kretser

‘A Good Samaritan’ by Addie E. Citchens

Also nominated for an ASME award, I noticed, while investigating what the acronym ASME stands for, is an Economist podcast, The Prince, on the life of Xi Jinping

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