Thursday, 19th January (Richmond)

1. Three more on ChatGPT – tell me when you’re getting bored, please!

Nick Cave’s view is that This Song Sucks

From The New York Times, Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach

From The Guardian, Lecturers urged to review assessments in UK amid concerns over new AI tool

2. Maybe Pecha Kucha is part of the answer? I’d no idea that pecha kucha was Japanese for chit-chat – which brings back an instant memory of a South African teacher of geography at school barking out at least twice a lesson, “Cut out the general chit-chat at the back there!”

3. Here’s a storytelling lesson plan from TeachingEnglish, Carnival crime, based on the theft and recovery of some diamonds at the carnival in Rio ‘Suitable for primary learners from A1 and above’. Lesson plan, worksheet, script & cards and story text all below!

[file x 4]

4. And, finally, the seventh and last instalment of The New York Times Happiness Challenge: Keep Happiness Going All Year Long We can but try!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday, 17th January 2023 (Cambridge)

1. More easily promised than delivered, a values-based education? John Gibbs of Teachers Talk Radio asked Bridget Knight, the author of ‘On the Subject of Values … and the Value of Subjects: New thinking to guide schools through the curriculum’ and the CEO of the Values Based Education organisation: What is values-based education?

Here’s Values-Based Education’s own website Their aim is to give “learners access to an ethical vocabulary based on human values, such as respect, justice, integrity, harmony, trust and honesty”.

2. The Edinburgh International Book Festival website has recordings of all last summer’s talks and readings (and many from previous years) – well worth a browse!

Here’s a varied half-dozen from last summer to start with:

Tsitsi Dangarembga, Dipo Faloyin & Howard W French: Africa’s Rich Diversity

Liz Lochhead: 50 Years of a Pioneering Poet

Noam Chomsky: Dissent Across the Decades

Gulbahar Haitiwaji: To Make Us Slowly Disappear

Devi Sridhar: How to Prevent (Another) Pandemic

 Mohsin Hamid: What Does it Mean to Be White?

3. Days 5 and 6 of The New York Times Happiness Challenge:

The Importance of Work Friends

Don’t Cancel Those Plans

I just have one ‘gift article’ left for Day 7!

4. And, finally, a piece by Sally Rooney, the hugely successful author of ‘Normal People’ and ‘Conversations with Friends’, on a book by an equally famous Irish writer from an earlier era, James Joyce. Here’s the transcript of her T S Eliot Memorial Lecture last autumn on Misreading Ulysses

I can’t find a video – let me know if you can, please!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday, 12th January (Cambridge, just)

1. Climate Justice: what’s it got to do with ELT? The answer according to Green ELT is, ‘Quite a lot!’ Find out more here and register here for the event at 14:00 UK time next Friday, 20th January

2. I’ll continue to post occasional pieces on ChatGPT – I don’t think it’ll be going away anytime soon! Here’s the Brooking Institution’s take Has some good links to more excitable pieces in The Atlantic, such as The End of High-School English and The College Essay Is Dead.

3. Positively the first and last mention I’ll make of Spare, promise! Two of the more interesting pieces from the many published recently: one from The Conversation on the royal brand by a professor of marketing and, secondly, the New York Times book review

4. And, finally, some thoughts on national identity from the Serbian-American poet Charles Simic, who died earlier this week Samizdat PDF below just in case.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday, 10th January (Richmond)

1. I’ve mentioned NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, before. Not sure they use their full, long name anymore

Here’s their annual round-up “of the innovations and ideas that could have implications for the next year and beyond” for 2023, ‘Future Signals – what we’re watching for in 2023’, this time including robots in the kitchen and energy so cheap it’s free

and here’s a short introductory video if you’re not familiar with NESTA’s work

2. Here’s a TikTok about a recent discovery to do with the origins of writing by a furniture restorer and amateur archaeologist from London, Ben Bacon

I nearly showed my age by saying ‘Here’s a TikTok video …’ – don’t think there’s anything else, is there? – and I am showing my age by wondering why the presenter keeps hopping from side to side of the screen.

Here’s a less jerky article from The Guardian on the same story

TikTok courtesy of Mark Henebury, who’s clearly a slightly funkier dude than I’d appreciated.

3. Numbers 3 and 4 in the NYT happiness series:

Day 3: Small Talk Has Big Benefits

Day 4: Why You Should Write a ‘Living Eulogy’

4. And, finally, a short story from Assam, ‘A Wagtail’s Song’, written by Bikash Dihingia and translated from Assamese by Harsita Hiya

Includes a short reading in the original Assamese by the author: see if you can spot the Assamese for ‘social media’!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday, 5th January (Cambridge, just)

1. Two from the TeachingEnglish site to start with:

a) A three-module, four-week, nine-hour course on Teaching English through literature, developed in partnership with Macmillan India

b) Maria Jose Galleno from Uruguay talking about effective strategies for enabling teacher reflection at 12:00 UK time on Thursday 12th January, Making it obvious – reflection that works

‘Reflective teacher practice’ is often paid lip service to; Maria Jose takes things a step further.

2. Starting next Friday, 13th January, there’s a whole free three-day (say that quickly) conference from the IATEFL YLT (Young Learners & Teenagers) SIG: more info here

If you’re a member of the YLTSIG, you can also sign up for a six-hour mini-course.

3. Day 2 of The New York Times Seven Day Happiness Challenge: The Secret Power of the 8-Minute Phone Call

Nice idea!

4. And, finally, a bee in the Cross bonnet, originating in my inability to even give away to a charity shop my CD collection:

a (quite technical) video, The Truth About Vinyl – Vinyl vs. Digital

and a (more accessible) article

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday, 3rd January 2023 (Richmond)

Happy New Year, everyone!

1. Here’s another academic’s take on ChatGPT: Tony Bates’s Playing with ChatGPT: now I’m scared (a little)

There’s a growing (sensible) consensus that ChatGPT is not going to go away, so we’d better find a way of working with it rather than attempting – in vain – to ban it.

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

a quiz, How Strong Are Your Relationships?

which is the first day of the NYT’s Seven Day Happiness Challenge, which is explained more fully here

I’ll aim to share all seven days if I can, and we shall see how New York specific their notion of happiness is!

3. Here’s McKinsey’s well-put-together review of 2022, What just happened?

The cynic in me was expecting it to be more USA-centred.

4. And, finally, if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a whopper – or several – like Republican politician George Santos did recently

Letters from an American is the name of Heather Cox Richardson’s blog. Richardson is “a history professor interested in the contrast between image and reality in American politics. (She) believe(s) in American democracy, despite its frequent failures”. I thought that her 30th December post was a good overview of the war in Ukraine

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday, 22nd December (Richmond)

1. The T S Eliot Prize website is now very nearly complete, just the Yomi Ṣode videos missing, I think, and they should be up soon

Try these two poems, both short, read by their author:

James Conor Patterson reading his poem ‘london mixtape’

and Denise Saul reading ‘The Room Between Us’

All the videos here, including this year’s innovation, the Young Critics Scheme video reviews

2. I’ve not had time to explore fully this Mercator European Research Centre site yet but this page on Endangered languages and archives has caught my eye

Thanks to Sarah Breslin for bringing this site to my attention.

3. Here’s the Conversation Weekly podcast site

I’ve listened recently to this short series, Uncharted Brain: Decoding Dementia A bit close to home, but has helped me understand my mother’s condition.

4. And, finally, if you’re enjoying a holiday break this coming week, how about writing a short story?

Thanks to Thom Kiddle for this one.

The next ‘Free Resources’ message/post will be on Thursday 5th January – enjoy your holiday if you’re getting one!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday, 20th December (Richmond)

1. A provocative piece by Michael Feldstein on his blog, I Would Have Cheated in College Using ChatGPT

‘But I wouldn’t have thought of it as cheating’, says Michael. ‘Cheating is a state of mind.’

2. So, I thought I’d give ChatGPT a go.

With an eye (ear?) to developments in Artificial Intelligence, I asked the ChatGPT bot, “For how much longer will we need to learn foreign languages?” The bot replied immediately:

“Learning a foreign language can be a valuable and enriching experience for many people, and it is likely that the need for multilingualism will continue for the foreseeable future. There are a number of reasons why learning a foreign language may be important or beneficial: Communication: Being able to speak a foreign language can make it easier to communicate with people who speak that language, whether you are traveling, working, or interacting with others in your community. Career advancement: Many employers place a high value on employees who are proficient in a foreign language, as it can be an asset in a globalized economy. Cultural understanding: Learning a foreign language can also help you learn about and understand different cultures, which can broaden your perspective and enrich your life. Brain health: Studies have shown that learning a foreign language can have cognitive benefits, such as improving memory and problem-solving skills. Overall, the need for multilingualism is likely to continue as long as there are diverse languages spoken around the world and people who want to communicate and interact with one another.”

I made myself clearer in a supplementary question: “But won’t advances in AI mean that we will all benefit from instant, high-quality translation and interpreting?”, to which the bot replied, again pretty much straightaway:

“While advances in artificial intelligence and machine translation have made it possible to translate texts and spoken language with increasing accuracy, there are limitations to what these technologies can currently do. Machine translation systems are generally best at translating individual words and short phrases, but they can struggle with idiomatic expressions, complex sentences, and context-dependent meanings. As a result, they may produce translations that are less accurate or natural-sounding than those produced by a human translator.

In addition, machine translation systems do not currently have the ability to interpret spoken language in real time, which requires a level of understanding and interpretation that goes beyond simply translating words. Interpreting involves not only conveying the meaning of the words being spoken, but also capturing the tone, style, and intent of the speaker, as well as adapting to the context of the conversation. This is a complex task that requires a high level of language proficiency and cultural knowledge, which can be difficult for a machine to replicate.

As a result, it is likely that the need for human translators and interpreters will continue for the foreseeable future, especially for situations where accuracy and nuance are important. That being said, it is possible that machine translation and interpreting technologies will continue to improve over time, and they may eventually be able to handle more complex tasks.”

One last question from me: “Can I talk to you in other languages apart from English?”

“Yes, you can talk to me in any language that you know. As an artificial intelligence, I am not limited to understanding or communicating in a particular language. However, please keep in mind that my ability to understand and respond to a language may depend on my training data and the specific language model I was built from. If you would like to communicate with me in a language other than English, I will do my best to understand and respond appropriately based on my programming. If I am unable to understand what you are saying or if I make a mistake, please let me know and I will do my best to improve my understanding.”

Try it for yourself!

3. Dictionary definition sparks global culture clash is a necessarily carefully-written piece by Melanie Butler from the latest issue of EL Gazette Be sure to read to the end for the West African Pidgin versions!

4. And, finally, if you’ve not yet had quite enough of football – my wife certainly has! – here’s three football pieces:

Chris Sowton’s new podcast for TeachingEnglish,

the Premier Skills English website, stuffed with material and activities

and The Athletic’s poignant story of the young French player, Yann Gueho, who everyone was sure would be a better player than Kylian Mbappé

Maybe don’t bother reading that last piece if you haven’t heard of Kylian Mbappé! If that last link doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday, 15th December (back in Cambridge)

1. The December issue of HLT (Humanising Language Teaching) includes a ‘video article’ by John Hughes, Cuisenaire Rods Today which sent me off on a trip down Memory Lane to the time when, as a trainee teacher, I had an argument with Mario Rinvolucri during his demonstration of the Silent Way to my course, using Cuisenaire Rods.

As my memory has it – and I’m increasingly unsure about anything my memory may think it ‘has’ – Mario was teaching us Modern Greek, which involved us asking in Modern Greek for, for example, ‘two red rods’ or ‘three green rods’. I wanted to know how to say ‘thank you’ in Modern Greek when I’d been given the rods I asked for. For reasons I still don’t understand more than forty years later, Mario was most put out and refused to tell me, despite my digging my heels in with the support of my fellow trainees. I grew to love Mario, though!

Here’s a good short summary of the Silent Way

here’s the Wikipedia entry on the approach, which was developed by Caleb Cattegno in the 1960s

and here’s a selection of articles from the TeachingEnglish site on the Silent Way

2. I’m just back this evening from the European Centre of Modern Languages (ECML) in Graz, which is a ‘partial agreement’ of the Council of Europe (CoE) – a ‘partial’ agreement because not all member states of the CoE are members of the ECML. (The non-members include the UK, sadly, but I’ll save my rant about the disgraceful manner in which we left for another day.) The CoE now has a much smaller languages department than it used to have in the days of John Trim and Joe Sheils, but it still produces some good stuff. Here’s two recent videos on plurilingualism: Plurilingualism/Pluriculturalism and (Language) Education with Enrica Piccardo and Engaging learners’ plurilingual and pluricultural competence with Angelica Galante

3. Two videos about politics, democracy and a free press here in the UK:

i) the 2022 Leveson Lecture by Chris Bryant, The Truth Algorithm With a bonus introduction by Hugh Grant ….

ii) the Hansard Society’s journal ‘Parliamentary Affairs’ 75th Anniversary Lecture by The Lord Speaker, the Rt Hon the Lord McFall of Alcluith, on The Future of the House of Lords  You might be surprised how informal, despite his grand title, and candid John McFall is.

4. And, finally and gleefully, the best piece of research ever, which endorses the habit of a lifetime

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday, 13th December (Graz)

1. I’m in Graz at present, about to attend the ECML-EU joint colloquium on “Innovative Methodologies and Assessment in Language Learning 10 years on – moving forward together”.

There’s a live stream this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon

More details of the programme with links to the individual projects being reported on here

2. Two interesting webinars later this week, of which the first is at 14:00 UK time this Thursday, 15th December, Integrating new learners with Elaine Gowie-Fleischer[%7B%22surface%22%3A%22page%22%7D]%7D

Elaine will discuss with Karen Waterston how to integrate new students that have come from a different culture, when language is often a barrier to integration as well as culture, taking examples from her work with children and their families when they first start state school in Norway.

3. The second webinar is at 14:00 UK time on Friday, 16th December, Green story time: the power of picturebooks for all ages with storytelling experts Gail Ellis and Sandie Mourão, the co-founders of co-founders of the Picturebooks in European Primary English Language Teaching project (PEPELT) They’ll share some of their favourite environmental-themed picture-books for English language learners of all ages.

More info here and registration here

There’s a picture-book for everyone, claim Gail and Sandie, because “picturebooks not only contain rich, varied language and beautiful illustrations, but they’re an excellent way to grapple with difficult topics like the ecological and climate crises”.

4. And, finally, three more ‘gift’ article-cum-lists from my New York Times subscription:

the greatest films of all time (Full list here )

the best Jazz Albums of 2022, with taster playlist – not one of which I knew but several of which I enjoyed, especially Immanuel Wilkins. (You can listen to the whole tracks on Spotify for free if you have an account.)

100 Notable Books of 2022 – with the obvious caveat that what’s notable to the staff of the New York Times may not be universally, globally ‘notable’

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment