Friday, 25th April 2014 The Grade II-listed building that houses Sugata Mitra’s office at the University of Newcastle once served as a medical school, and a hospital-like atmosphere still lingers, all squeaky floors and long corridors. As I knock on his office door, I realise that I have a sense of trepidation not unlike a … Read more
The proliferation of blog posts that have followed in the wake of Sugata Mitra’s keynote speech at IATEFL Harrogate last Saturday morning is almost as remarkable as the fact that such a controversial figure was given the opportunity to deliver his barely concealed sales pitch to such a large and captive audience without having to submit to the usual plenary speaker protocol of then facing a more rigorous Q&A session. Even more astounding, though, was the ecstatic outpouring that greeted the end of Mitra’s talk: the mobbing, the autograph hunting, the eulogies. Which part of his message were people not getting, I fretted to myself? The answer, it seems on reflection, was pretty much all of it.
When Sugatra Mitra introduced the ELT world to his concept of the SOLE (self-organised learning environment) at IATEFL 2014, half of the audience stood up and walked out while the other half were still in the auditorium giving him a standing ovation. It was an engaging and thought-provoking talk which was followed by many blog posts and tweets accusing Mitra of having a neo-liberal agenda, of being an idealist and not an educator and anti-teacher. Intrigued, Varinder Unlu, Director of Studies at International House London, decided to actually try it out with adult learners and see what the results were.
When I was four, going on five, a TV show called Knight Rider premiered in the UK. I loved it and remained a fan for most of my childhood (OK, I admit it; I’m still a fan). There was The Hoff, of course – all leather jackets, open shirt buttons and swagger – but the real star of the show was K.I.T.T – Knight Industries Two Thousand – the ‘advanced, artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car’. Over thirty years later Apple and Google are in a head-to-head race to bring K.I.T.T’s spiritual successor – the driverless car – to market. And, as a little-known and hard-to-spot side effect, the ramifications for the teaching of languages, especially English, could be huge.
Looking back at the blog over the past year we can see we’ve had some fantastic people contributing posts and comments. It’s really interesting to see which posts got the most views, sparked the most debate and kickstarted conversations that resulted in fully-fledged follow up posts. This Top Five shows we really couldn’t run the blog without all of you, so a big thanks to everyone and here’s a look at the biggest posts
We’re delighted to welcome Russ Mayne (@ebefl) from the brilliant Evidence Based EFL blog onto ELTjam for his debut post. Russ gave one of the standout talks at this year’s IATEFL conference, and below he reflects on what might happen next … I have been told that my talk ruffled feathers, created waves and put noses … Read more
It was interesting to be at IATEFL this year, the annual land grab for attention larger than ever, and a conference dominated by discussions, presentations and a plenary about the future of ELT, which – it is suggested – will be completely mediated by technologies (more of this fallacy later). With Sugata Mitra selling his … Read more
Frustration, anger, confusion, boredom and repetition are all hallmarks of bad user experience (UX); unfortunately, they’re often hallmarks of language learning too, especially when it takes place digitally. But bad UX is not the only reason digital language learning products fail – sometimes it’s the content, sometimes it’s the pedagogy, sometimes it’s the lack of human interaction. Bad UX alone fails to address the complexities of language learning. We need to start talking about bad learner experience (LX). Bad LX could be defined in a number of ways, but at its most basic it’s this: not only did you fail to learn something; you had a horrible time trying.
A doctor and a teacher from the 19th century climb into a time machine (possibly built by a Silicon Valley dude trying to disrupt the past) and travel to the 20th/21st century. The doctor visits an operating theatre, where he witnesses triple-bypass heart surgery. He emerges from the experience in a state of rapturous wonderment at the achievements of modern science. The teacher finds himself, coincidently – this isn’t a set up – in a modern classroom, where he sees a chalkboard, some desks and books, and a fellow teacher in front of rows of children, dictating notes to them. However, he questions whether he’s really travelled in time at all – for surely, this classroom is almost identical to the one he left behind in a smog-filled Victorian metropolis?