E is for eCoursebook

29 01 2012

Technology then

Apple’s plan, announced last week, to launch electronic publishing of school textbooks set social networks a-twitter, triggering flurries of excitement and apprehension in equal measure.  To expedite this initiative, Apple have launched an app, called iBooks Author, which allows wannabe textbook authors to create interactive ebooks and self-publish them (of course, only on an iPad, and with Apple taking a nice little chunk of the profits).

The enthusiasts have been talking up the way this technology will open up textbook writing to anyone with an iPad, while allowing material to be customized for very specific markets. Moreover, by shortcutting the laborious production processes of print publishing, plus the huge costs incurred, e-textbooks will be cheaper, as well as more eco-friendly, and less a burden on kids’ tender spines.

Detractors point to the ‘walled garden’ mentality of Apple, arguing that this is a cynical attempt to monopolise a ginormous market, further entrenching Apple products into schools, while raising the spectre of Apple as the world’s number one provider – and gatekeeper – of educational content.

Why does all this chattering leave me – if not cold – at least bemused?

Because, dear reader, you don’t actually need textbooks – of any description. Not for language learning, at least. Maths, history, economics – maybe. But ESOL? No way.

What do you need?

You need data, and you need incentives and tools to mine the data in order to make form-meaning connections, and to extract generative patterns and exemplars. You need scaffolded opportunities to put these ‘mappings’, patterns and exemplars to repeated communicative and creative use, and you need feedback on the results. Above all you need a social context (either real or envisioned), and the desire to belong to it, in order to activate and energise the whole process.

You don’t need textbooks to provide any of this, really. In fact, textbooks can’t provide most of it.  So, whether McNuggets Publishing produces textbooks or whether Apple does, it won’t actually impact on the way languages are learned. Not least because, thanks to the internet, all the means and tools are already in place to do the job a lot more effectively – and more cheaply.

Here’s a possible scenario, based on existing technology, or on technology that must surely be just round the corner, and assuming a ‘smart classroom’, i.e. an internet connection and a data projector:

  1. A topic arises naturally out of the initial classroom chat. The teacher searches for a YouTube video on that topic and screens it. The usual checks of understanding ensue, along with further discussion.
  2. A transcript of the video, or part of it, is generated using some kind of voice recognition software; alternatively, the learners work on a transcription together, and this is projected on to the interactive whiteboard, which is simply a whiteboard powered by an eBeam.
  3. A cloze test is automatically generated, which students complete.
  4. A word-list (and possibly a list of frequently occurring clusters) is generated from the text, using text processing tools such as those available at The Compleat Lexical Tutor. A keyword list is generated from the word list. Learners use the keywords to reconstruct the text – using pen and paper, or tablet computers.
  5.  On the basis of the preceding task, problematic patterns or phrases are identified and further examples are retrieved using a phrase search tool.
  6.  The target phrases are individually ‘personalised’ by the learners and then shared, by being projected on to the board and anonymised, the task being to guess who said what, leading to further discussion. Alternatively, the phrases are turned into questions to form the basis of a class survey, conducted as a milling activity, then collated and summarised, again on to the board.
  7. In small groups students blog a summary of the lesson.
  8. At the same time, the teacher uses online software to generate a quiz of some of the vocabulary that came up in the lesson, to finish off with.

Remember vinyl? (Click to enlarge)

Similar processes, whereby language study and practice opportunities are generated from self-selected online texts, are within reach of individual learners, working on their own, too. There are now search engines that will select texts on the basis of their ease or difficulty of readability. Hopefully someone is already working on an algorithm that will find a text in seconds according to your choice of level, topic, length, genre, and recency. And there are tools to create a hypertext link from every word in the text to an online dictionary. Programs exist that allow review and recycling of vocabulary items in a randomised order.

Predictive collocation tools allow students to create their own texts, selecting from high-frequency lexical and grammatical choices. Grammar and spell checks are increasingly more sophisticated. Online dictionaries and thesauri offer ready-made semantic networks. Free online video and audio tools mean that learners can record themselves doing a task and send it to other students or an instructor by email. Skype allows free video and/or audio interaction with other speakers, while the conversations thus generated can be audio-recorded for later transcription.

In short, anything (e)textbooks can do, the internet can do better. (This does not mean, of course, that I am advocating the exclusive use of online tools, or that the internet is the only alternative to coursebooks. But it is a viable one).

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78 responses

29 01 2012
Jason Renshaw

You’re right, Scott. Changing delivery mode does not automatically mean anything better (or worse).

What you’ve effectively described in your post appeals to me as a ‘live textbook’, created on the go and only resembling current coursebooks in a retrospective sense (as in, when the lesson and all the material and practice has been concluded and recorded in some way). I think written/file recordings of lessons are important for learners, but especially when they’ve made the box together with the teacher and group rather than squirming into a pre-existing (and wholly presumptuous) one.

In contexts where the technology and access is available, and the teachers are proficient in (what should be) the basics of their profession, using (or at least relying mainly on) a pre-made coursebook is rapidly becoming a rather ridiculous modus operandi.

What interests me is this… When will students catch on and start to really express their learning preferences in this area (based on fair exposure to both packaged coursebook and ‘live coursework’)?

Cheers,

- Jason

29 01 2012
Patrick Jackson

The number of classrooms that satisfy these ‘contexts’ of which you speak, contexts where teachers really don’t need a textbook is growing worldwide. I’d say it must be nearly in the double digits by now. All to be applauded. I do think that Scott’s saying that his dear readers ‘don’t actually need textbooks – of any description’ is way off the mark though. I mean for the vast majority of English learning that takes place around the world…in schools…taught to young learners by busy teachers teaching to a set curriculum. So while the majority of his dear readers might have the freedom, the wherewithal and the light teaching loads that you need to do the dogme (puts on helmet here), most teachers don’t have any choice in the matter, do need textbooks and their jobs are made much easier because of them. I could go out and learn how to fix my car I actually have to spend the time doing something else.

29 01 2012
Richard

I agree Patrick although it would be nice to imagine a situation where teachers had more choice than be slaves to a detailed syllabus. With younger primary learners, I think teachers need a base to work from and the YL text book and the whole pack of flashcards etc are of huge value. I speak as someone who loves the dogme mindset and will use a conversation and go with the flow even with kids, but as an exception not as the norm. Removing published materials would require teachers to reinvent the wheel, as it were, and most of us don’t have the time. There’s just about enough time to augment and adapt, but not much.

In terms of a live YouTube search, I would be happy to do this and hope that the kids aren’t climbing out of the window while i spend ten minutes hunting for a suitable video.

30 01 2012
Patrick Jackson

Hi Richard. I suppose as things develop this will become a non-issue in that the courses will come alive with technology and social media add-ons. I mean the students themselves and courses themselves. If you get my drift.

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks for the dissenting voice, Patrick! You are of course absolutely right in saying that most teachers don’t have either the means or the freedom to fashion their curriculum ‘in flight’ (although I don’t think it’s a question of not having the time, since the lesson I outlined requires no actual preparation, as such, although it does assume a certain familiairity and dexterity with the digital tools, which only comes with practice, i.e. time).

But the real point of my post was to argue that there is more than one way to skin the educational cat, and that the assumption – unchallenged in all the bloggery and twittery about the Apple initiative – that textbooks are a sine qua non of education, needs to be pricked.

29 01 2012
Patrick Jackson

HI Scott. My reaction was similar although coming from a slightly different angle (over on Burcu’s blog if you’re interested). Basically that we should be looking for ways to get kids away from flat surfaces and into the real world more than most educational systems do at the moment. As for skinning the educational cat? I always preferred it all soft and fluffy.

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks Jason – both prompt and astute, as usual! Yes, I like the idea of ‘the emergent coursebook’, one that is jointly authored and manufactured ‘in flight’, as it were. This doesn’t deny the possibility – if the institutional context insists – of having a syllabus of pre-selected grammar items (or functions, or topics, or whatever) but that the flesh is added to this skeleton en route.

29 01 2012
phil3wade

I’ll go along with that. You can’t beat a good internet video, a recorded conversation, up-to-date news texts and an online dictionary/thesaurus.

All my students use the net and we have not coursebooks, just some PPT and videos/texts that we choose.

29 01 2012
Chiew

Gee, Scott. I’m impressed. Since when have you been so techno-savvy? ;-)

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, Chiew! ;-)

29 01 2012
Scott C

Hi,

Thanks Scott for the perfectly timed post! I’ve just been reading “Teaching Unplugged” and technology is an interesting issue too.

A colleague asked me a few weeks ago: “Do you think we’ll be out of jobs soon thanks to computers?” My thoughts are if that were to be the case, a lot of us would have already lost our jobs! Look at how prevalent technology is in so many other aspects of life (manufacturing, publishing, entertainment…) yet how little there still is in teaching. Why? Because the impact technology had/has on manufacturing is astounding and without it, you’d get left behind in a flash. However, I am yet to see students improve at a greater rate using computers compared to a pen and paper…or even just talking. If technology really made a difference, we’d all be using it.

Lastly, in regards to technology in general, it seems that most new technologies for the general consumer are not brought about by market demand these days, it’s the guys in marketing who tell us we need them. Especially those trying to sell their educational technology!

Cheers,
Scott C.

PS. I like the latest One Stop English newsletter. “Teaching with minimal materials”. Doesn’t One Stop English survive by having people pay to subscribe to download materials? I love it!

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

“If technology really made a difference, we’d all be using it”. Interesting comment – provocative even. When is a Luddite a Luddite and not simply a late adopter? ;-)

But I totally agree that most of the stuff out there that is marketed in the name of edtech serves little or no educational purpose at all, and is just dressed up entertainment. I was very careful, in selecting the tools that I did select, for the lesson I outlined in my post, to choose only those tools that I feel have more than an ephemeral appeal, and that really do – or could – serve the business of consciousness-raising and providing practice and feedback opportunities.

29 01 2012
Scott C

Well, I am reading this now on my iPhone :-) I do love technology when it makes a difference in class. But otherwise, classrooms do seem to still be absent of it for the majority of the time at no cost to learning. Try telling a managing director that they can’t use technology for a day. My guess is most would not be able to function without their mobile and email. Try telling an ESL teacher to adults (like me) the same: no worries!

29 01 2012
Rob

Pardon me for interjecting, and I don’t mean to mince words – how much hedging can I get away with here :-) – but I think we need to broaden our view of technology. In addition to my laptop, I’m using eyeglasses to type this, I’m seated at a desk covered with paper and writing utensils, with a window to my left, a power line stretched above the trees outside it… all technology. Apply this broader vision to the classroom and we see that it’s not a matter of whether to use technology but which we can/cannot, will or won’t use.

Is that a fair point?

29 01 2012
Scott C

When I say technology, I guess I mean ‘mobile technology’. Computers and smart phones. I do still need my bike (with gears) to get to work :-)

29 01 2012
Mike Harrison

The problem (and not the only one) with coursebooks of any kind, whether they’re e or garden variety, is surely that they are locked. Never mind Apple’s attempt at what can be seen as monopolising the online coursebook market, any book that is a ‘course’ takes content and crystalises it, freezes it. This is fine for content transfer subjects (as you mention with maths, science, etc.) but language is (and should always be seen as) living. Language captured in a coursebook isn’t alive, it’s the students and the teachers that make any language that’s investigated and comes up in class ‘alive’. Teachers, especially of ESOL/EFL should be seen as and will be much more important than any book.

(incidentally, after brief investigation, to work the iBooks Author app, you also need a mac pc and an app from their AppStore, furthering the monopoly. Not only do consumers of these books need an iPad, but creaters/authors need a mac *and* an iPad!)

As ever, many thanks for the thought provoking post, Scott!

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Mike, for the comment. I like your use of the term ‘locked’, and, interestingly, I had been thinking of using the same metpahor when I described how the Apple initiative ‘opens up’ textbook writing to teachers – I toyed with the wording ‘it unlocks coursebook writing’. But, as you suggest, the coursbeook is in itself a ‘closed shop’, pre-empting the amount of spontaneity, originality and local relevance that confers on learners some ownership of the curriculum. Of course, clever users of coursebooks know how to exploit them to maximise opportunities for spontaneity, originality and local relevance, but maybe this ingenuity might be better spent using digital tools instead?

29 01 2012
Patrick Jackson

Excellent post here on this subject in the American context. “In summary, it’s actually cheaper to go to another planet than to give an iPad to every child”
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/textbook-of-the-future-the-challenges/19733

31 01 2012
Paty Marin

I AGREE WITH YOU, THE TECHNOLOGY IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR US AND THE STUDENTS BUT IN DIFFERENTS CONTEXTS LIKE IN MEXICO, IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS THE GROUPS ARE OF 60 MEMBERS OR MORE AND THIS IS VERY DIFFICULT TO IMPROVE IN THE CLASSSROOM OR FOR HOMEWORK BECAUSE . ONE TEACHERS MIGTH HAVE 5 OR MORE GROUPS WITH THIS CHARACTERISTICS , IMAGINE¡ IS CHALLENGER FOR US BECAUSE WEI NEED MORE TIME TO DO FEEDBACK.

29 01 2012
Pearson Brown

A stunningly good post. As somebody who mainly taught one-to-one, I am really interested in how you are applying the approach we would use to one-to-one to group teaching. As an aside, you would probably find it interesting to read Wilberg’s book on this.

I recently spent a couple of unhappy years working on a course book series for a major publisher. Luckily, the project was eventually scrapped because the content that did emerge bore no relation to the ideas that my partner and I first produced. The editing process seemed to suck the life and originality out of our work.

That is the great thing with Apple, or indeed Kindle, publishing. The dead hand of the editor has been removed.

Where I would take issue is with the supposition that a good teacher is necessarily a good materials writer. As a writer, my work goes through many iterations. With modern technology, I can make constant changes based on feedback from teachers and students. I would happily claim that what I produce is of higher quality than an exercise dashed out in the corner of the classroom while the students are preparing a blog. I am no big fan of Murphy but the explanations in his book are surely better than an improvised explanation by a teacher with limited experience?

So I agree about the course book comments but published material does not have to be so comprehensive nor prescriptive. Self-publishing enables a whole variety of learning materials to be produced that would not have been produced by traditional EFL publishers. This is a great step forward.

Pearson

29 01 2012
James Quartley

I am wary of turning this discussion in to one about Apple, but this is not a case of monopoly. Apple have their system and make products and services for it. Consumers have choice to use different methods, in fact they could achieve a degree of interactivity using existing tools from other providers in the market place (e.g. Flash, PDF, .doc files) or publish using other methods or distributing using Google Docs or Scribd – as examples.. No one complains about Ford not making engines for a VW Golf or Porsche not making accessories that will work on a Ferrari. The monopoly conspiracy theory argument simply doesn’t wash. It’s just business, and you make your choice. If you happen to make something that is popular, then that’s the way it goes, but there has never been an obligation for a manufacturer to democratise their market.

Just for the record, I do own an Apple product, but I don’t need iAuthor and certainly don’t recommend the wholesale supply of tablet computers in education. Those arguments should be with education authorities and the decisions they make, not against Apple.

I think some of the enduring appeals of course books are their convenience, short preparation time, out-of-class accessibility and that they are a ‘known’ entity. The fear for many practitioners of walking unaided is palpable and resisted voraciously. A crutch is such a dependable thing, but ultimately self-limiting, assuming it is no longer needed. Given more time and a rising generation comfortable with technology, things are set to change. However, one point lost in the tech argument is the relative digital poverty for many learners beyond the more developed countries and the fact that, like course books, it requires additional resources. Teaching unplugged or using what you find in the room has none of those drawbacks and has to be recommended. It’s good to challenge (scare?) yourself sometimes and rely on what you find.

For me, the primary problems with coursebooks, as mentioned in other posts, are their inflexible, static nature and the usually dire scripted listening activities. I love using authentic audio and video, but there are increasing copyright difficulties in this area. My workplace have warned about intended and existing software from publishers (books, tv, etc) to trawl hard disks for content that they own and even difficulties using YouTube. They have even indicated that watching a complete online video is a potential problem and suggested stopping 2 seconds short to mitigate legal difficulties.

Watch out IP and copyright holders are strengthening their hands in this area and it strikes me that this is a greater threat to restricting practice than spurious arguments about Apple. Let’s see how iBooks authored books fare under the copyright lawyers’ eyes. I love Scott’s example of the current possibilities, but fear that the direction of control on the Internet could kill some of sources of ‘original’ content.

29 01 2012
Leo

If that’s your ideal scenario of an EFL/ESL lesson of the future I’d totally go for it. And for someone who has always been critical (in what seems to me a Devil’s advocate way) of the Lexical Approach (LA), including your previous post ,A is for Approach, I am surprised at the number of references to “target phrases”, “patterns” and “exemplars” in your lesson outline (or is it “skeleton”?).

It also reminded me of Jim Scrivener’s ARC model while the overall undertone your post seems to advocate Data Driven Learning with which LA shares founding principles.
LEO

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks for your comment, Leo. Yes, while I may have criticised Lewis’s ‘Lexical Approach’ on the grounds that it’s not an approach, I don’t at all disagree with the basic premise that ‘language is grammaticised lexis’. I would, though, extend Lewis’s concept of lexis to embrace the more general concept of what cognitive linguists call ‘constructions’:

Constructions are of different levels of complexity and abstraction; they can comprise concrete and particular items (as in words and idioms), more abstract classes of items (as in word classes and abstract grammatical constructions), or complex combinations of concrete and abstract items (as mixed constructions).

Ellis, N. (with Larsen-Freeman, D.) 2009. Constructing a second language: analyses and computational simulations of the emergence of linguistic constructions from usage. In Ellis, N.& Larsen-Freeman, D.(eds) Language As a Complex Adaptive System. Oxford: Blackwell.

30 01 2012
leosel

Thank you for the reference, Scott. Will check it out.

30 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Leo, I didn’t address your question about ‘data driven learning’, I’m sorry.

Although the lesson schema I described in my original post does follow a data-driven trajectory, I’m not necessarily wholly in favour of this as an approach – i.e. as a prescription for all lessons. I think it suits some learners (e.g. those with an inductive, puzzle-solving bent, and with ‘high field independence’) but I’m not sure if it’s best for learners of a more experiential disposition – particularly young ones.

So it would need to alternate with lessons that are more ‘usage-based’ and ‘conversation-driven’, where the language that emerges is shaped by the teacher (and other learners) at ‘the point of need’. Of course, online and digital tools can also be enlisted here, too, as a resource to check and fine-tune the forms the students need in order to encode their meanings, and also as a medium for production, e.g. writing texts or recording themselves as part of a text reformulation cycle.

When you think about it, community (or counselling) language learning (CLL) followed this usage-driven direction, and also used technology – albeit fairly primitive by today’s standards – to capture the text as it emerged. Now that most students carry their own recording devices on them (in the form of their mobile phones) the possibilities of adopting and adapting a talk-and-then-transcribe lesson sequence seems more feasible than ever.

29 01 2012
kalinagoenglish

For the most part, I agree with you – let’s say 90%. And as well, I applaud your super useful list of tech resources and e-activities.

Though being well-known for my rants against coursebooks, including in my blog post last week asking whether or not there is any evidence of a fixed acquisition order, http://kalinago.blogspot.com/2012/01/fixed-acquisition-order-no-evidence.html, along with the one scheduled for later today on authenticity… Right now, though, I’ll play devil’s advocate, based on experience of creating my own materials with students, creating a coursebook which like Brown’s above was “scrapped,” and more importantly, via my experience as an online learner.

While waiting for the next semester of school to start, I’m currently taking a course in Javascript through CodeAcademy. There’s one big thing that really strikes me after having completed a module, it’s this: I don’t know what to do next. Moreover, upon completion and earning my shiny badges, I don’t actually know if the course I took was supposed to have been the first or if I should have taken that one later (I’d followed a link from TechCrunch on New Year’s Resolutions: learn to code).. So now that I am looking at the list of courses, despite the fact that there aren’t so many options available, I feel a wee bit stuck. That I need some sort of guidance on what would be the best thing to study next, before I invest in another long set of hours.

And it’s this element, that I think is the one thing coursebooks provide well: structure. It says where you have been, where you are now and also builds expectations of where you are going to next. This is no small thing, I think, in terms of motivation, as adult learners in particular aren’t really that interested in doing things that may wind up as not having an applicable “result” in their real lives – structure provides security.

I suspect teachers like to feel as if they are tour-guide leaders as well, that they have a map and won’t be guiding learners into the wilderness. Also, without distracting from the main topic too much, I suspect this may be actually why/where dogme sometimes fails to attract – as it may well be that this overwhelming desire for security (often not admitted to) is what is leading folks towards the grammar blanket, be they students or teachers.

While most of the issues associated with adult learners’ textbooks (blandness, grammar syllabus, expensive, fake topics/content, irrelevant vocabulary, etc) can easily be done away with, efficiently and effectively, via the tools and sites on the internet, I suspect that we should also be thinking more about how to train teachers on how to involve their learners in the decision-making and how to co-design activities, co-determine outcomes and co-construct “loose” curriculum outlines to be “followed” with their learners – in order to assure them/ ourselves that there is a learning purpose being served.

I know that in the case of my Javascript lessons, I would find it rather useful to have had a quick email shot at me after completing my first module asking what I’d enjoyed, what I didn’t, where I felt I needed more practice, why I’m learning Javascript- and then after I’d filled this in, had an answer (or options) on where to go next.

Hope that makes sense,
Karenne

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Karenne (I appreciate the way your posts and comments are now informed by your current academic endeavours!)

Your analogy with your java script course is a fair one, and, as I pointed out earlier, there’s no contradiction in adopting the lesson format that I outlined in my original post within the framework of a pre-determined syllabus, i.e. what you refer to as ‘structure’. It might not be very ‘dogme’ but it would certainly have ‘face validity’ in terms both of institutional constraints and of learner expectations. So, I’m not advocating abandonning a syllabus, necessarily – just the coursebook (which in many institutions, of course, is the syllabus).

29 01 2012
kalinagoenglish

Aye, you’ve been a good influence, am learning much. :-)

29 01 2012
Leo

Hi Karenne
This is too harsh (even for you)! :) – btw enjoyed your last post. Blandness, fake topics, irrelevant vocabulary… Surely there are textbooks out there with interesting topics and useful vocabulary.
I like your tour guide metaphor – probably because I used to work in tourism before switching to ELT. However, as much as I am not afraid to wander off into the wilderness and take my students on this journey with me, firmly believing that language is a living organism, as mentioned above by Mike, I still think that a textbook may provide some basis, especially for novice teachers and often saves teachers time (sorry but yes I said that!)
LEO

29 01 2012
profesorbaker

Hi Scott,

I enjoyed the post and found it informative. I personally don’t feel that the Apple initiative is going to put a dent in the profit margins of Pearson, OUP, or the publishing industry in general.

For one thing, as the detractors point out, the Apple initiative is a “walled garden”, openly monopolistic intentioned “this-is-what-Apple-(and only Apple) can-do-for-you”, approach…

That type of exclusivity leaves more potential players out of the do it yourself publishing game than it does in the do it yourself publishing game.

In my view, non-Apple users won’t make the technology switch under these circumstances. It goes against human nature to do something one way because that’s the only way being offered. It’s a false dichotomy.

People will make the second choice, voluntary non-participation, rather than forced participation.

Secondly, those of us with access to technology automatically assume that everyone has both internet connectivity and the requisite know how (and desire) to be a Web 2.0 content creator .

In fact, the number of people who don’t have connectivity, who don’t use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and who don’t write blogs, far exceeds the number of people who do.

According to Wikipedia: “Since more than 40% of the world population lives on less than US$ 2 per day, and around 20% live on less than US$ 1 per day (or less than US$ 365 per year), these income segments would have to spend one third of their income on ICT (120/365 = 33%), which is a lot to ask, since the global average of ICT spending is at a mere 3% of income.” (End of quote)

This is the well-known digital divide. Yet governments around the world have taken a number of steps to provide internet access to those who can’t afford it. For instance, personally, I vividly remember the year 1999 as a “library year”. On each trip I made to the public library, I had 30 minutes of free internet usage.

This was at a time when I remember internet connectivity plans costing approximately $200 to $250 dollars a year.

With increased access nowadays, a second problem has emerged. Fittingly, it is known as the “second-level digital divide”. According to Wikipedia, “it describes the gap that separates the consumers of content on the internet from the producers of content.”

Wikipedia further states: “Web 2.0 technologies like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Blogs enable users to participate online and create content without having to understand how the technology actually works, leading to an ever increasing digital divide between those who have the skills and understanding to interact more fully with the technology and those who are passive consumers of it.” (End of quote)

All Wikipedia citations refer to the citation below:

Martin Hilbert “When is Cheap, Cheap Enough to Bridge the Digital Divide? Modeling Income Related Structural Challenges of Technology Diffusion in Latin America”. World Development, Volume 38, issue 5, p. 756-770;
free access to the study here:

martinhilbert.net/CheapEnoughWD_Hilbert_pre-print.pdf

To conclude, again, it was a brilliant post, as usual Scott. I thank you most kindly for the privilege of being able to read it, reflect on it, and offer my thoughts on the topic.

When we begin to see teacher training courses and continuous professional development that specifically teach teachers how to use digital tools in their classrooms, then we will make the transition from the 20th century to the 21st century.

When that happens, most teachers will reach the conclusion that you have Scott, namely, that the internet already provides an ample variety of digital tools to enhance, supplement, complement, or even completely replace, a course book.

The implication here is that you have a professional educator who is making judicious choices about where the learning is headed, what goals and objectives are being pursued, and how the chosen digital route is an appropriate one to arrive at the desired destination…

If I have strayed from the original topic, and I suspect I may well have, I beg forgiveness in advance.

Regards,
Thomas

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Thomas, for your considered comment. I particularly value your conclusion, i.e. that

The implication here is that you have a professional educator who is making judicious choices about where the learning is headed, what goals and objectives are being pursued, and how the chosen digital route is an appropriate one to arrive at the desired destination…

As I have (tirelessly? tiresomely?) argued, unless technology is conscripted into the achievement of clearly defined and well grounded educational goals, it is simply icing on the cake.

3 02 2012
Alannah Fitzgerald

Wow, I’ve really enjoyed this post and this discussion around e-coursebooks and technology in ELT! So much so that I’ve burst onto the WordPress scene with my first blog entry related to what’s being discussed here but also to discuss more about openness in ELT and where we might go in terms of open practice to help shape this vision. I would very much appreciate it if anyone would read/comment on my blog, TOETOE – Technology for Open English, Toying with Open E-resources http://www.alannahfitzgerald.org/

Thanks!

29 01 2012
Almagro

Thanks, Scott, for all the tools links.

‘Of course, clever users of coursebooks know how to exploit them to maximise opportunities for spontaneity, originality and local relevance, but maybe this ingenuity might be better spent using digital tools instead?’

Acknowledging the role of digital tools as innovative and productive prompts for language emergence, wouldn’t this more ‘pluggy’ version make Dogme more of a method than an approach?

If you allow me a non-chalant Sunday morning Hollywood metaphor, Dogme’s rationale takes me on a sort of ‘Back to the Future’ trip: one day I see myself in a conversation around a campfire; next thing I know I’m with Tom Cruise in ‘Minority Report’ !

29 01 2012
Kathy

I appreciate, and will take advantage of, the many links in this week’s post!

Having just introduced my three classes to edmodo.com, I thoroughly agree that the Internet is a vibrant, constantly-changing source of everything an ESOL teacher might need. Or that an individual might need to learn independently. That includes e-textbooks, I guess. Different strokes and all that!

I’m with the several who have commented that not every busy teacher is up to the task of creating an I-enhanced classroom from scratch. We should all, of course, be I-savvy but I’d love it if my organization paid an especially tech-oriented teacher to set up a basic starter package of Internet classroom tools, trained teachers on how to use it, showed them how to swap them out for other tools (let them use what they find on the Internet at their own pace, if desired, once they’re up and running) and kept up with the latest stuff available on the Internet, sharing it with teachers periodically. This would not be an IT person but a teacher. This teacher might also help with bringing students who are not computer-users up to speed. I think the money for this could come from the reduced or defunct textbook and paper budget?

Great reading, as always!
Kathy

29 01 2012
Kathy

By a basic starter package, btw, I mean sorting through the countless blogging tools, wikis, etc. and making some decisions about a few which would serve our program well. Maybe setting up some templates for teachers. Stuff like that.

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Agreed, Kathy. As @japglish commented on Twitter. “But why NOT pull all the tools together in the same easy-to-use package?”

29 01 2012
Kathy

I also wanted to comment on the digital divide. Even in highly-developed countries, there are many without consistent access to the Internet. I’ve held off on much Internet use in my classes because it’s not fair to those who don’t have computers at home. I must say that smart phones are helping with this gap. Several students have them instead of computers. Nevertheless, getting a few class-dedicated laptops (just got them!) will help bridge the gap even further. There will be class time and time adjacent to lessons for students who don’t have computers to do their homework, etc.

Without the computers, our best option has been dogme 1.0 because students don’t have textbooks either.

29 01 2012
Rob

Forgive me if I seem to be hijacking the commentary, but this post substantiates what I wrote on the ELT Dogme discussion list, back in October, in response to a set of criteria Anthony Gaughan had proposed for an “unplugged classbook”:

“Anthony, reading your thorough list of criteria makes me wonder if the dogme coursebook isn’t simply a move to put social media and the World Wide Web [perhaps better as "Internet"] into the hands of every teacher and learner.”

Again, if you’ll forgive what seems a plug for the unplugged, it should be said that the subject of this post – not to detract from it’s relevance and vitality – has been around a while. See, for example, Howard Vicker’s very fine blog post on Dogme 2.0 at http://www.avatarlanguages.com/blog/dogme-elt-web20-dogme20/, which Scott shared back in 2009 at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/message/13584

I hope you will find, as I do, what I’ve shared relevant to the current discussion, and the previous A-for-Approach post, insofar as Dogme 2.0 might have an important, perhaps essential, role to play in our brave new world of Edtech.

Teaching unplugged in a plugged-in classroom could well serve to keep the people in the room, virtual or otherwise, front and center.

An electric, and eclectic, post, Scott. The emergent comments have also provided a thought-provoking jolt of variety. Thank you, one and all!

Rob

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

It was worth (re-)initiating this discussion if only to elicit this elegant, eloquent crystallisation of the state of the art:

Teaching unplugged in a plugged-in classroom could well serve to keep the people in the room, virtual or otherwise, front and center.
(Rob Haines)

29 01 2012
Anne

Really appreciated every post this week. A lot to think about. Thought provoking.
Some places where I work we do not have access to the internet or computers! If I bring my computer in and need the internet I might think of a dongol.
Thank you everyone.

29 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Anne, as I said in my original post, the internet is not the only alternative to coursebooks, and many of the procedures I outlined in my somewhat idealised lesson can be achieved using pen and paper and the collective linguistic resources of the people in the room (perhaps reinforced by some online access as homework/research).

Language teaching occurred extremely effectively before the internet was invented!

29 01 2012
Anne

Thanks for your comment.
Can we teach IELTS in the same way without a course book? I can understand it for the lower levels. The reason I ask this is that I may have to teach IELTS and I feel a little bit out of my comfort zone.

30 01 2012
Tyson Seburn (@seburnt)

On one of these posts, I really need to get in on the comment ground-floor as so much has been said and replied to already. So I’ll leave most of the discussed content above.

What strikes me in all this is Apple’s opening textbook writing up to anyone with an iPad. My first thought was, fantastic! Then I kept reading and through your suggestions, Scott, I thought, why do great lessons need to be collated together in a textbook at all? I also have always had my own issues with not blanking when needing tools, videos, Xtool on the spot in a more unplanned lesson. So, why does there need to be this reliance on what comes up in the class either? (Ok, that’s an overstatement, but for my point, I’ll go with it) Why not have individual lessons, with content and language and all accompanying tools all put together as a ‘suggestion’ lesson in a bank somewhere with a bunch of other ‘suggestion’ lessons instead of either? It’s like the resources many of us already share on our blogs — one-off lesson ideas with no obligation to use the previous, next or lack of.

Thanks for the tool suggestions too! You reminded me of phraseup, though for the second time in a row, it didn’t help me with higher-level sentences, but did a good job with “It’s * when you hit every red light.” ;)

30 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Tyson, for the comment – and it’s true that the tools are now available to create and (rapidly) access banks of individual lessons, just as it’s possible to find a recipe for just about anything (try googling ‘pan-fried platypus kidneys’ for instance). But I’m not sure if this would be such a good thing – wouldn’t it replace one kind of teacher addiction (i.e. on coursebooks) with another (i.e. on pret-a-porter lesson plans)? Perhaps a compromise is the idea of lesson ‘templates’ – i.e. generic lesson types that can accommodate a variety of topics and be adapted to a range of levels, while still allowing a high degree of autonomy on the part of the teacher and the learners?

31 01 2012
Tyson Seburn (@seburnt)

Yes, I see your point. Of course, when I suggest this type of bank, I’m also suggesting that a variety of content and contexts be available for a particular set of language outcomes. Maybe with a little push one way, and a more open-source approach to these lessons (though not complete autonomy perhaps), it would be better than trudging through a coursebook from start to finish. In the end, many teachers don’t want to be faced with complete autonomy in lesson planning. With little salary to back it up, lesson planning takes a lot of free time away from not only individual attention that could be given after hours, but also private life.

31 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

I agree, Tyson – anything to reduce the load on teachers – which is exactly the argument that proponents of coursebooks use. In the end there is always a trade-off between economy and autonomy. The freedom to negotiate your own curriculum comes at a cost. Nevertheless, the dividends – in terms of improved learner motivation and possible learning benefits – have tempted some teachers down that track.

The other problem I foresee with a bank of lessons, each tagged for ‘a particular set of language outcomes’ is that those ‘language outcomes’ are invariably framed in terms of ‘grammar mcnuggets’. I’ve worked in a number of schools where there was often a sagging filing cabinet in one corner of the teachers room stocked with ‘supplementary lesson ideas’. Despite some token attempts to file these under thematic categories (crime, jobs, holidays), the busy teacher riffling through the files was typically in search of a grammar outcome. And the question most often voiced in the same teachers room would be along the lines of ‘Anyone got a good lesson for the present perfect?’

30 01 2012
Nicola

Hi Scott,
I really identify with the ideas in this post. Being a teacher trainer and seeing how different courses work, I fear that unless providers of initial teacher training courses move away fom a course book based approach newly qualified teachers will still be dependent on course books for years to come. Most teachers as they develop, and gain skills and confidence, gradually move away from course books and adopt a more learner centred approach and attitude, using the contexts and content the learner supplies. It seems like they have to undo their ‘trained’ behaviour of relying on materials before they really start listening to learners and adopting the methods you suggest in your post and in all things posted previously related to Dogme. As well as ‘smart’ teacher training classrooms, of course.

30 01 2012
leosel

Thank you, Scott, for relating to my second point (DDL).
Would you believe it if I told you that I used the first three paragraphs of your post with my upper-int students as a springboard for discussion about Apple and educational publishing? :) They work in high-tech so they had a lot to say about the whole issue and they extracted a few adjective-noun collocations: laborious production process, ginormous market, cynical attempt.
It was totally unplanned but somehow we touched upon the topic of e-books and I decided to show them your post. Have I gone all Dogme? :)
LEO

30 01 2012
Scott Thornbury

Haha! I’m delighted that this blog serves a variety of uses, Leo. How did you explain ‘ginormous’, I wonder? ;-)

(Out of curiosity I checked ‘cynical attempt’ on the Corpus of Contemporary American English (http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/) and found it is the third most common collocation of ‘cynical’ – with a ‘mutual information’ score of nearly 8.0 – a strong collocation)

30 01 2012
Leo

ginormous – a blend of gigantic and enormous. Hope I am right because I didn’t have time to consult a dictionary or anything – it was unplanned and unplugged after all ;)
Laborious process has a high MI score too – 6.7 and is the first most common collocation of “process”

31 01 2012
Marsel

Nowadays, All kind of technolgy is available and for teachers is a wonderful tool inside the classroom and with the task. However I consider the traditional knowledge it is important for teaching point. It depends on the country and the school you work.

31 01 2012
Alejandro

This technology in textbooks or coursebooks is really challenging for mexican students, especially when their context of their life lacks of computer equipment at home or at school. The material might be good but it`s our duty as teachers to encourage students to do their best to go on line and check the webpage as much as possible.

31 01 2012
Julieta A.

I think that we still need text books, but may be the point woul be to combine text books with multimedia.

31 01 2012
Gabriela and José Luis

We think that is a very good option. The e-book is the coursebook of the 21st century. It is very interactive, and give the opportunity to students to share their opinions about different topics or exercises. It provides a lot of information for teachers. We can design balanced and better exams.
It has a vast variety of activities so the students with different learning styles can deal well.
Teachers can save a lot of time doing their planning.

31 01 2012
Ma Eugenia Santiago Piña

Hi Scott!
I am very surprised with your new alternative to work an eCoursebook, it’s very useful with a lot of benefits to teachers and learners but I think that books never will dissapear.

Maru

31 01 2012
Elvira Aragon

It is very laborious process but i think that the iidea is excellent because the students need creative classes and in the case that these classes can do it will be the best option for studying english.

31 01 2012
Diana

Hi Scott,

It was very interesting to read your post and all the good links you suggest. It is also interesting to read the various comments of your readers. It is my first experience reading a teaching blog where I can confirm the new things I have been learning regarding teaching.

I expect to be able to follow you, even though it takes a lot of time.

Regards,
Diana

31 01 2012
Miriam Moreno Flores

I am really happy to know about the electronic publication of schol textbooks set social networks a twitter. The technology will be up textbook writing to anyone with an iPad, the print publishing process will be cheper.

Miriam

31 01 2012
monica castañeda

Well, when it comes to talking about technology it´s difficult. In our days some schools don´t have the same support and there are not high tech avalible for some countries.

31 01 2012
Patricia and Fernando

We agreed with you about the methodology that you suggest on line for the students to learn more by using technology. You said that reading texts on line will lead them to create their own ideas, comments and they will have meaningful learning.
This is an attractive and practical activity for teaching to our learners.

31 01 2012
Priyamvada

Dear Scott,

Am wondering the features that you have enlisted if they get incorporated in an ebook which is used for primary or middle school classes, how beneficial would it be?

1 02 2012
Joaquín

From my point of view e-coursebooks have several advantages and I could create a list, but before I do so I wonder whether anyone in france coud mention an eCoursebook teching french

1 02 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks to my Mexican friends for their comments – it’s good to hear so many opinions from a specific context. One of the things that emerges is that technology is only so reliable, and that training and support is not always adequate. In such situations, the default option is the coursebook, but maybe with some kind of multimedia supplement. In the end, we have to make do with what we’ve got, but I would still insist that the most important, and the most potent, resource in the classroom is ‘the people in the room’.

1 02 2012
philb81

I really like your idea about automatic transcription – this would be fantastic for getting learners to work on emerging language – it still seems to be a little way off (I tried something with it here http://classroom201x.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/students-vs-iphone/ but that was more focussing on its failings)

I’m sure e-coursebooks on iPads could be more entertaining than normal coursebooks, but (certainly, according to Apple’s model) it’s a difference of degree rather than of kind. Then it all being locked down to Apple and sold through them is a bit worrying…. It’s a curiousity, and it could make Cutting Edge a bit more…. erm, cutting edge – but it’s not really going to change much – isn’t it just like the IWB versions of textbooks?

I do like the idea mentioned here of a ‘toolkit’ rather than an e-book – imagine it like an app that could be downloaded that included reliable automatic transcription (with automated language analysis tools), a monitored text/audio/video chat platform for language learners (or maybe an ‘ask an online teacher’ facility), blogging/discussion tools, pronunciation and handwriting trainers links to corpora, dictionaries and grammar references ( yes – and some graded audio/video/textual coursebook style input with McNuggets for those who like that).

We’re not there yet – but I don’t think this is hovercars and teleporter stuff either.

1 02 2012
Scott Thornbury

Phil, I was involved in a project, over several years, that involved basically putting up a coursebook online, and very good it was too. But at the back of my mind I was wondering – why are we re-inventing coursebooks digitally? Wouldn’t the time and expertise be better spent designing the kind of toolkit you describe – a one-stop tool that finds learners the texts that they want and that are about right for their level, and then allows the texts to be processed, manipulated, responded to, and reconstructed at various degrees of engagement and levels of task and linguistic difficulty – thereby turning the internet into one gigantic, seamless, infinite language-learning affordance.

The tools exist – they just need to be bundled together.

1 02 2012
philb81

It’s like Encarta from Microsoft – it’s a good, accessible encyclopedia – but wasn’t not really much different to how Encyclopedias have always been… When someone realised the potential of modern technologies we got Wikipedia – which, while not without its faults is a pretty amazing phenomenon. Or how ten years ago this article might have been on an online version of IATEFL voices, not that different from the paper version – this one has probably got more words below the line than above it…

Apple’s plan is just to let you build new mini-Encartas for your iPad equipped learners – an authentic 1994 experience….

1 02 2012
kalinagoenglish

Spot on, Phil!

1 02 2012
Simon Greenall

I’d love to see the ‘gigantic, seamless, infinite language-learning affordance’, as long as there’s respect for the copyright of content providers, especially those who had no intention of providing classroom material, and/or supplied their materal for no personal profit.

The trend, as Apple shows yet again, is that open access acts in favour of the service provider and rarely in favour of the content provider. I love my iPad, but I don’t like the way iTunes organizes my personal music/film collection. It’s also noticeable that access to more and more Youtube clips is being withdrawn by the content providers (eg musicans, film studios) either for iPad users or for Youtube in general.

It’s only going to work if the creators of material, whatever it might be, continue to offer free and open access, and no one else exploits it for financial gain. And I’m not sure that’s what’s going to happen.

Thanks as usual, Scott.

Simon

1 02 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Simon – you raise an important issue, and one that YouTube, to its credit, is attemptimg to address by offering those who post vidoes on its site the option of allowing open access or not. Hopefully, this option will become standard practice – but maybe the option needs to be made more specific, or a third option offered, e.g. This material can be used for educational purposes, but not for financial gain?

1 02 2012
Rob

Scott, Simon, I have the impression that education (or simply training under the guise of education) and financial profit are merging more than not. The potential trend you both address could provide a grassroots counter movement.

I think it remains to be seen whether the Internet becomes an environment that facilitates learning for under-served populations and helps reform education or simply perpetuates the status quo. Access to content is certainly an important consideration as is the incredibly short “hype-cycle” of content, open-source or otherwise.

Rob

1 02 2012
kalinagoenglish

Actually, TED do do this and I think that’s the function of YouTubeEdu

1 02 2012
Simon Greenall

Karenne, I agree, TED is generous with its events and archive, but it’s sponsored by AT&T, Coca Cola, Gucci, IBM, Rolex among others. I don’t have a problem with that, but educational altruism still comes at a price.

Rob, I take your point about education and financial profit merging, but public schools have already been funded by our taxes, private schools by fees and charitable foundations. For not-for-profit organizations such as charitable schools, if the directors make ends meet, it’s called surplus not profit. Everyone and everything has to be funded in some way.

You could say that even those in our ELT community who write blogs and supply free and open access material online without payment are funded in part by their paid work elsewhere. I don’t think education is any different in its need for funding than any other organization or commercial company.

I also agree that It would be wonderful if the internet became an environment ‘that facilitates learning for under-served populations’, but almost by definition, these are the populations which are not able to make that argument very forcibly. Instead, it’s being exploited by the service providers at the expense of the content providers.

When a company like Apple takes this one step further and attempts a partial monopoly of online resources for its own profitable aims, under the guise educational altruism, then we have a problem.

Simon

2 02 2012
kalinagoenglish

Hey ya Simon,

I do actually agree with you to a very large extent and had wrote a longer response earlier but abandoned it because I felt I was waffling. There are two different points to argue.

The first, like you I object and deplore Apple’s monopoly and have not succumbed to the marketing hype peer pressure – won’t buy their products, no matter how good I hear they are – because I simply don’t agree with their lack of ethics nor the way they are repeating their own company’s history (which led to their earlier demise) in what basically reads as a constant spiral of greed.

On the other hand, though, I am not a fan of the “everything for free” mentality that is popular these days either, as I think it is really dangerous and leads only to a parasitic mentality where thousands are fed while a handful work – the reality is that programs cost money to develop, sites cost money to maintain, support costs. Wikipedia is only free to its users. The people who write the pages put in their time, which costs, and the site is run on charitable donations by those willing to fork over (I have).

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I think (and have thought for years) that like Scott’s list of tools suggest, there really isn’t any real need for a textbook at all – especially if all they are going to do is copy Headway’s publisher-constraints-led, author-led, teacher-led format without ever giving 2 cents on working out how to tap into the learners’ schemata. I have used a Ning (an e-community platform) with my learners in past which is a good solution in terms of housing various tools within one nice social and interaction based e-format.

But as mentioned above, I do think structure is important and I think that that was lacking in my own platform so there is still stuff to learn from textbooks and I do see room for an e-textbook, more along the lines of Phil’s notation regarding the blog style learning opportunity that we are lucky enough to experience here through Scott’s platform… Who knows, perhaps a middle ground solution to all this debate about iBooks is that either Apple will eventually design in more sociocultural elements, wake up and recognize that the authors, having done the work, need to be paid a bigger slice of the pie (especially if prices are to be kept low enough to serve the disadvantaged) OR GoogleEdu will come up with an alternative eChromebook solution soon enough.

Personally if price splits are to be executed fairly, whether Apple, Google or by any another competitor then it would offer a very strong option for those who would rather not be ripped off by the Educational Publishing monopolies.

The future is interesting, to say the least.

(Now that I have again resorted to waffling, I’ll avoid answering point 2 about the so-called disadvantaged learners around the world who we “shouldn’t leave behind” in tech progress… because the argument is without relevance. :-)

2 02 2012
James Quartley

Simon, you are right. TED’ s success is demonstrated by the desire of such big companies wishing to be associated with it. The Sapling Foundation that founded the TED conferences remains a not-for-profit company. The support that those sponsors give presumably pays for the servers and considerable bandwidth needed to meet the incredible demand from viewers for their inspiring videos. I fail to see that there is a ‘price’ to us in that respect. It seems like a mutually harmonious situation.

The same can be said of Apple and iBooks. The software to create the ibooks is offered free -alternative authoring tools are priced upwards of €600. As an author you pay 30% of your sales to Apple -the same charge as app developers. An artist is typically charged 50% in a gallery; a song writer could see 85% swallowed up by the record company and distributor. What you get as an author from iBooks is access to a ready made distribution channel, which has been very successful in rewarding hundreds of thousands of software developers, producing Apps for iOS -$4billion paid to them from Apple’s Appstore in the last quarter.
There is a good degree of misinformation about ibooks and Apple generally. However, it seems perfectly reasonable for them to make money from something being offered free. The restriction they place on authors is that they can’t use their software to publish elsewhere. They own the format, NOT your content. Plenty of iOS app developers produce for Android as well. No one is forcing anyone to use Apple products, software or system. If people don’t like it they won’t use it. There are alternatives – Android currently outsells Apple in apps and handsets, which demonstrates the viable alternative to Apple’s walled garden.
There is no existing definition of monopoly that I can find, which describes Apple’s business model. Many will see Apple’s ibook store as another possible channel to promote, market or sell their ideas. That is a widening of possibilities, not a reduction.

It’s funny how 10 years ago or further back in the ‘Browser Wars” of the 90s, Apple, along with Linux, Java and Netscape were the defiant rebels fighting the giant evil Empire of Microsoft. Now we see the same ‘evil empire’ imagery being directed at Apple. It would seem we don’t like big. We’re always for the little guy, until he gets too big.

5 02 2012
Chris Bowie

Hi Scott, what about virtual settings, such as virtual classrooms, where content is normally delivered via a PowerPoint presentation on a virtual classroom application. The attendees (teacher and students) can’t see each other and one person can talk at one time although teacher and students can write (type) messages to one another and type on a shared whiteboard application. Students ‘attend’ by reading a summary of the session and log in at the posted start time if they’re interested.

What ways could we incorporate a Dogme approach in this setting? This is something that I’m scratching my head about at the moment because as soon as you prepare a few slides for your lesson you’ve broken the vow of chastity.

Chris

6 02 2012
Peter Loveday

Scott, your scenario (in E is for eCoursebook) for textbooklessness is an attractive one, reads like a teacher/material writer’s template for effective lessons. It’s been fascinating reading the comments that follow your original post, but there are too many of them for me to read right now! So, maybe someone has already mentioned this, but there is, in fact, a site in existence that, to a degree, appears to cover steps 1, 2 and 3 in your scenario, making it possible for learners to exploit a large selection of youtube videos. It’s called English Central. http://www.englishcentral.com/. In the meantime, in publisherland, it seems to me that, as most of the large publishers move into using digital materials, the quality of the actual material itself degenerates into the manipulation of dismembered bits of decontextualised language, the idea being that you are dazzled by the technology/programming and gimmickry, and that the content is of little importance. Very sad state of affairs, so good to know that new ground is being surveyed here, or broken, … or sown.

6 02 2012
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Peter, for that link: interesting, and definitely a step in the right directtion, although – as yet – still a relatively small one (in the sense that there aren’t a lot of text manipulation and resonstruction tools). And the voice recognition software seemed pretty easy to fool. I changed the tense in one of Obama’s sentences, to see if the software would ‘notice’ and I got an ‘Awesome’ response! But, yes, definitely interesting.

14 02 2012
Adam Simpson

There’s an interesting infographic discussing this issue here:

http://www.edgalaxy.com/journal/2012/2/14/infographic-of-the-week-the-digital-classroom.html

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