Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

May 26, 2010

Ideal Classroom Design for 21st Century Learning


5-25-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

21st Century learning spaces - creative solutions!


We are very happy to have Adrienne Michetti (@amichetti) providing our #edchat summary this week. Adrienne has taught in several countries and is a great ambassador for the use of technology in learning. See her bio at the end of the post.

The term “21st Century Learning” gets tossed around a lot on Twitter, Ning, Facebook, and plenty of other places where tech-inspired teachers connect. It’s a natural term to bring into any conversation about technology and media being used in current classrooms. So, it’s no surprise that while some may not feel the need to use a term like this at all, others feel that education needs to seriously reconsider the way traditional classrooms are designed for learning. Today’s Edchat was about how design of spaces needs to be congruent with 21st century skills — whatever you feel those spaces and skills may be! We don’t all agree, and this is part of what made today’s Edchat so enlightening. The respectful push-pull of the conversation allows for innovative ideas to steep.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion:

  • constant, ubiquitous connectivity
  • moving beyond just 4-walled classrooms
  • flexible, blended learning environments
  • imagining the future
  • students as designers of their environments
  • class size limits as fundamental to thinking about learning spaces
  • collaborative environments allowing global connections
  • studio-based learning
  • empowerment and autonomy of teachers and students to design spaces
  • connections to communities and access to tools
  • space for reflection and creativity
  • design based on pedagogy
  • bringing the real world into the classroom, and the classroom into the real world
  • empowering teachers to learn creative classroom management techniques

Here is a selection of some of the comments:

With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@andycinek: The ideal 21st classroom design allows for options and avenues. Not one way streets.

@k_shelton: How about a blank slate so students and teachers can collaborate on an appropriate set up for mutual benefit

@web20classroom: It seems to me that we are stuck with the notion that learning has to take place in a “classroom” in a “school.”

@ShellTerrell: Why not ask students what they think is the ideal classroom for their learning period?

@EricTownsley: I agree the ability to learn is everywhere, but f2f still needs to happen at times to formally assess student learning

@usamimi74: so to recap comfort (space, desks)->happy-> motivation + easy access (broadband, community, xtra) + collab = valuable learning

@ToddAHoffman: I would like to hear concrete ideas about how to structure outside learning

@allofek12: Classrooms should become more of a thinktank – allowing more time for reflection and less busy work

@discomfortzone: The problem is teacher training focuses too much on having control! RT @tucksoon: We need teachrs who dare 2 lose control

@nwhyluckysgirl: We learn most from our mistakes. RT @cybraryman1 Sometimes it is the parents that we have to educate on allowing students to fail.

@towittertoo: the more freedom you give the more control you have bc you gain trust

@MikeGwaltney: 21st c Learning is about taking the classroom out to the real world AND bringing the real world into the classroom.

@marynabadenhors: @ShellTerrell collaborative teaching is fantastic, just fitting planning time into the timetable is tricky for large schools

@readywriting: @readtoday #edchat What are the distractions in today’s classrooms?

@skipvia: @discomfortzone Most schools are non-21st century, but good pedagogy happens in some of them. I hope.

@jonathanmoss: the 21C classroom is event driven, temporary, where the learner is, ephemeral, transient, flexible, disperse

@Mamacita: Sam Levinson says that creating DESIRE for learning, even w/o “proper” material things in hand, is the key.

@JasonFlom: Are there teacher/admin prep programs that partner with designers/architects?

@PodPirate: Engagement and Academic Challenge are the best classroom management tools. If they are not engaged or challenged they will misbehave

@WildPedagogy: Can 21st classrooms occur without a changing public preception and an increased economic priority for education?

I would ask that the following question is added to the poll next week:

How do you differentiate learning for all students you teach?

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

As ever, there were some great links shared:

ShellTerrell: RT @ddeubel: The ideal classroom design? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3nHvkJSNFg

Eduflack: RT @isteconnects New Post: Outfitting 21st Century Classrooms w/ 21st Century Teachers http://bit.ly/axDA90

MissCheska: I like idea of @TeachPaperless classroom studio – http://bit.ly/bGqPV1. Individual seating areas, similar to today’s cafes.

chrisludwig: @tkraz asked for an illustration of a 21st cent. classroom. This was my attempt this semester http://bit.ly/cKhRAF

Tina_Barr: @ShellTerrell Wifi- on school bus found a link http://bit.ly/bGOiUW

mctownsley: RT @EricTownsley: New at Assessment for Instruction: Thoughts on Summative Assessments http://goo.gl/AzW7 Please comment!!

Wkingbg: Check out the Stranford D. School – classrooms designed for 21st century learning http://bit.ly/crLxIB

jwrezz: http://nyti.ms/bY8wIa

discomfortzone: Is a learning atelier like this a 21st cent classroom space? #edchat http://twitpic.com/1qyu2a

SchoolTown: NYT article on bus with WiFi http://nyti.ms/b3pM5N

olafelch: @rliberni The Laborschule has some incredible classroom layouts. http://bit.ly/bJr1Ks

web20education: RT @timoreilly What Bit.ly Knows About The Realtime Web http://tcrn.ch/9NAEZW @hmason at #w2e Video: http://bit.ly/aA5B1h

DocLG: I saw this great video today that some math educators might be interested in!http://bit.ly/aSjjZb

tylerwall: RT @Casillia: Learning games + simulations in generational context http://tinyurl.com/2beqc7w

AntLak: RT @isteconnects: Augmented reality learning gets kids moving while using tech. It’s coming… http://bit.ly/9uVHCF

dughall: A few examples of gaming in the classroom: http://bit.ly/6q353L Loads going on in UK around games-based learning

dughall: RT @Mark__C: @dughall A few examples here too: http://bit.ly/744JCm

analomba: Language Magazine – “Reading in Any Language” http://bit.ly/den3Rq

cybraryman1: Teachers have always collaborated (telephone, snail mail, fax, email) now we have much better tools (http://bit.ly/9vr0uA)

PTPIPaige: Have to run! Great chatter today! #edchat (Check out our classroom pen pal program to spice up curriculum – http://bit.ly/16UQFL)

marynabadenhors: Augmented reality: Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKw_Mp5YkaE

WildPedagogy: I think a big part of this transformation is how we view assessment. Standards based grading might help http://bit.ly/aQdVv0

ShellTerrell: I sang of learning far beyond the walls of bricked-in class, & space, & time, & age… via @cburell #edchat http://bit.ly/SLkxO

guernseylibrary: @tomwhitby #edchat http://www.librarymedia.net/ what about this? No need for portable walls with sound pods this is wow i want it!

ShellTerrell: Step Outside of the Classroom (ideas for teaching beyond the walls) http://bit.ly/5ItRdb

danny_torres: School turnaround models draw concern http://ow.ly/1Plni

Mamacita: Outside of the box is always better. Inside the box, there’s no room to grow. Children are not bonsai. http://bit.ly/a6N04W

evmaiden: RT @alexgfrancisco 5 TED Talks about Education and Learning http://goo.gl/f0BF

rkiker: http://bit.ly/16GgZ4 My updated top 50 offering to educators for the most helpful collaborators on#tt #teachertuesday

lizditz: Psychologist @DTWillingham on multitasking and why it may not be beneficial for learning http://bit.ly/amGvcu

edukloud: best tools for teachers http://tinyurl.com/2bkxf6z

Adrienne Michetti is currently a full-time Masters student in NYU’s Educational Communication and Technology program. Prior to that she taught at United Nations International School in Hanoi, Vietnam, an IB World School running all 3 Programs. Her experience has been mainly in MYP English A but she has experience teaching many different disciplines and ages from K-12 in four different countries. She was also an MYP Workshop Leader for the Asia-Pacific Region and has been in international education since 2001 — always MYP. She is passionate about learning, technology, music, writing, creativity, and her Mac. Adrienne blogs at connect. create. question., UTechTips, and TripleALearning.

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about learning spaces for the 21st Century? Leave a comment!

English language courses in the UK – does the world end at Oxford?

As many of you will know I live in North Yorkshire the most northern part of the biggest county in England. It is also known as ‘God’s own country’, an epithet which is richly deserved for its beauty and diversity as well as its size, but one that was most likely bestowed upon it by the locals!

Whitby - a fishing port on the east coast

Yorkshire is indeed lovely as are the surrounding counties of Northumberland, Durham, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Cumbria then on northwards into Scotland… can you see where this is going? There is far more to see and do north of Oxford than there is south of it (I exclude Wales, Devon and Cornwall here as they are equally blighted by the concentration of everything EFL on London!). Then there’s Norfolk and Suffolk and what about the heart of England? So much to see, do and experience and guess what – these natives are friendly and they speak English!  Just look at a map of the UK and see how much is missing off the EFL course map!!

What, you might say, has brought on this frenzy? I am now on a mission! I have, this morning, been speaking to several well-known language schools in the UK about trends in student choice of destination when choosing courses in the UK. I am being told repeatedly that students ONLY want to go to London and the South East of the UK (this would include Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton and the Southern sea-side towns). The HAVE to be within easy reach (1 hour or so?) of Heathrow or Gatwick airports. Now my question is – given that the UK is such a very small land mass – are these ONLYs and HAVE TOs coming from the students or from London-centric EFL organisations who think that the M25 is open countryside!

I find it hard to believe that a 2-hour train journey from London  (if indeed Heathrow and Gatwick are the ONLY possible airports to fly to) is such a long way if you are used to countries the size of France, Germany and Spain! Could it be, actually, that nobody is really being given a choice?  Perhaps I’m being paranoid but I do know from friends and colleagues in the EFL industry that there are problems placing all the students wanting to enrol on certain courses in the London area yet other friends and colleagues further north are never given consideration as suitable alternatives.

If you are visiting the UK for the first time, then London is a must see/do. I agree there is so much history and culture

Liverpool - music, art, great history and lively

there. It is relatively easy to get around and it is a 24-hour city which is very exciting. However, I feel strongly that not all students want to go to London, especially if they live in a big city themselves or have already experienced London.  Are these people being given a wide enough choice of UK venues in which to study? I don’t think so and it isn’t because there aren’t any schools or courses, it is more a matter of lack of knowledge (or too much self-interest?).

I have personal experience of lack of knowledge of all points north! I lived in London until 6 years ago. When I returned north to Yorkshire several strange comments were made by our London friends:

  • Why would you want to go there? It’s all dirty, polluted mill towns! (Er, yeah in the 19th century!)
  • Where should we stop over on the way? (Er, it’s only a 4-hour journey by car and 2+ hours by train!)
  • Is the weather very cold? (I’m not even going to answer that one!)
  • Can we stop off in Durham on the way? (only if you go past us and then come back!)

I know these prejudices happen in many countries but the north-south divide UK is alive and well! I will also lay some blame at the feet of the regional tourist boards for not promoting as much as they perhaps should!

A visit to Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales

I have had two students recently who were undeterred by not being able to fly to Heathrow or Gatwick. One flew to Edinburgh and then took the two-hour train journey through some wonderful countryside to our local town (bearing in mind it will take the best part of an hour to get through to the arrivals hall at either of these airports and then another hour or so into London itself!). The second flew to Amsterdam from her native Milan and took the short hop over to our local airport (30 minutes drive away). Neither felt they had come to the back of beyond nor did they feel that the journey was too onerous.

So if you are thinking of taking a course in the UK, come north!

I promise we’ll put the woad away (according to the Romans – people in the north of England used to paint themselves blue with woad to scare away their enemies!) and you’ll find us a very warm, friendly bunch of people!

We have great cities, history in abundance, amazing scenery, and lots of space – no crowded roads, streets or shops!

The challenge:

Turn your back on Heathrow and Gatwick, look to Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester or Leeds. Set your feet northwards and give us a try! You won’t regret it!

More reasons to head all-points north!

(to view more great photos like these visit Pictures of England)

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May 19, 2010

Saving District Money: 4 day Week/Extended school day.


5-18-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

1,000 participants and 4,000 tweets!!


We’re thrilled to have John Steltz (@jpsteltz) providing this week’s #edchat summary. He is a regular at edchat and devoted to technology in education. I think you will agree that his summary is a very thoughtful representation of what was a great discussion! See John’s bio at the end of the summary.

Our topic began with several pros/cons to the idea of having a four-day school week and extending the hours of those four school days.  The topic transformed from a discussion about funding and budgets back to doing what is needed for our students.  Great educators always bring every discussion back to creating opportunities for our students to be successful.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion:

  1. Maximize/Optimize Regular School Day
  2. Saving on Transportation Costs would make Significant Impact
  3. Options for 5th Day: Professional Development, Community Service for Students, Mentors w/ Local Businesses, Virtual Schools, DOWNFALL – Child Care
  4. Timeshift via Technology Use: Schools w/out walls, Blended Classes, Work in Shifts
  5. Impact on Extra-Curricular Activities:Activities in morning/Academics in afternoon, Learning Outside of Classroom, EC Important to Education and Students Finding Passion
  6. Change – Not One Size Fits All: Rural Districts vs. Urban Districts
  7. United States Edu vs. Other Countries
  8. Start from Scratch, Build Something that Lasts

Here is a selection of some of the comments:

With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.


We may want to consider blended classes using Technology to timeshift learning and reduce time in the building.

Berni Wall rliberni

We need a classroom without walls approach

Shaelynn Farnsworth shfarnsworth

scheduled day -Friday to hold all extras -field trips, college tours, group projects, comm. would cut down disruptions dur. reg. wk

Jane Byers Goodwin Mamacita

Are any coaches going to chime in about games, practices, etc? Those always ruled the roost here.

Shelly S Terrell ShellTerrell

This school found a 4 day wk to be successful, greater student attendance & attention http://bit.ly/cDNwtO

Cheska Lorena MissCheska

What about configuring A/B block schedules to align w/ more problem-based/project-based instruction?

skipvia skipvia

The 800 lb gorilla in this discussion is child care.

Tina nocturne4342

“American students spend about 30% less time in school than students in other leading nations,’’ Senator Edward Kennedy

Tom Whitby tomwhitby

@wmchamberlain Tech enables us to timeshift. collaboration does not revolve around school time. BTW I do not disagree with you.

Howard Glasser hglasser

Why not a 7-day “learning” week? Learning can (should!) occur always even when outside of school. Why not break outside of “school?”

Maggie Powers farfalla3

4 days could of in class could open up lots of possibilities 4 day 5: research, field work, service, trips. Doable at your school?


Change in time (schoolday) and change in space (learning environment) go hand in hand; it can’t be done piecemeal.

Debra Pierson piersoncci

As a parent, I can’t imagine trying to find care for my kids during day 5? What if my employer doesn’t do 4/10s?

Matthias Heil MatthiasHeil

My dream: (at least) double periods, time 4 projects, no homework, loads of study time, everybody moves on at the end of the year


How does a 4-day week for students mesh with 5-day work weeks for parents?

Martin Swanhall Swanny203

how about those students who are not ‘morning people’ – let them go to school from 3 to 8ish (night shift)

Cheska Lorena MissCheska

I like Google’s idea of letting employees spend 20% of time work on personal projects. That could translate well to education.


I would rather have an extended day in which the work gets done at school than the current day with hours of homework.

Chris Franzen franze98

@rliberni transporation costs, but those will vary by district. lunch costs & other hourly support staff costs lessened


Moving school days to business 4/10 schedule seems practical, but how does that fit students’ development? Attn span is already shot

I would ask that the following question is added to the poll next week:

How can educators, teachers and administrators, in the same building genuinely work together for the success of students?

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

As ever, there were some great links shared:

nocturne4342: http://bit.ly/lCC8i article from last yr. on experimntl schl extend day in MA. While 4/5 different funding culd still be issue

skipvia: Time should be a variable. Learning/standards should be the constants. (YES! http://www.sbs.adams50.org)

Mamacita: Many older students would do much better if their day began at noon. Teens need more sleep than toddlers do. #edchat http://ff.im/kwmUP

ShellTerrell: This school found a 4 day wk to be successful, greater student attendance & attention http://bit.ly/cDNwtO

mamacita: Are any coaches going to chime in about games, practices, etc? Those always ruled the roost here. #edchat http://ff.im/kwnx2

mamacita: I like the idea of shifts, so a.m. lovers can do morning & night owls can do later. #edchat http://ff.im/kwnPd

dumacornellucia: New blog post #edtech20 ad comments and rt http://bit.ly/cirVwi

piersoncci: Indiana study on 4 day wks – http://bit.ly/bNykcB – works best in rural, small districts.

luis2010: Google Gives Away Google Voice Invites to College Students. http://is.gd/cbCld

Mamacita: Isolated subjects are worthless. We must help students learn that everything is connected to everything else. #edchat http://ff.im/kwqGz

Mamacita: Good teachers know how to make connections. Teams are nice but not always necessary. #edchat http://ff.im/kwroV

Mamacita: How about a full day for academic students, & a half day school/half day actual job for the non-academics? #edchat http://ff.im/kwrQs

NMHS_Principal: explains the power of Twitter to change Public Education for the better: http://bit.ly/bsS2On

dumacornellucia: New blog post on # eskills about my activities using new tehnologies in education #edtech20 http://bit.ly/9itljs

datruss: @mctownsley Ideal PD can vary in length, but see my final ‘trap’ here for my perspective http://bit.ly/9IQYRJ

Mamacita: Without the arts, we are bumpkins stuffed with facts. #edchat http://ff.im/kwszM

cybraryman1: @readtoday See: Open Doors, a School-Business Partnership, on my Careers page: http://bit.ly/34zO7O

Pappyo: Putting #edreform with #edtech into perspective. Interesting read. http://oreil.ly/a6y1No #edchat (via @radar)

nocturne4342: 4-Day School Weeks Might Be Coming In Illinois http://bit.ly/ckEEQt

ShellTerrell:  Another successful case of a 4 day school week http://bit.ly/9yRoyZ

Dowbiggin: Here’s a link to that 19th Century Schools blog I wrote almost a year ago: http://bit.ly/aDaWjE

Dowbiggin:   I don’t like AM anything. I am a night owl. #edchat //Amen. http://ff.im/kwuFf

tomwhitby: We are trying to get a handle on the reach of #edchat. Please help us by filling in some survey info. THX http://is.gd/ceOU7

Mamacita: College admission standards should be more stringent. I teach college now & have students who can barely read. #edchat http://ff.im/kwv5K

Mamacita: Far too many kids go to college on the Parental Fantasy Plan. #edchat http://ff.im/kwvA2

leahmacvie: Great article: Feed money into the system that will school your future employees. http://cot.ag/azlWde

elanaleoni: @farfalla3 BBC just did an article on Finland: http://bit.ly/dgpKlB & Linda Darling-Hammond has research: http://bit.ly/aFpbth

cybraryman1:  @readtoday See: Open Doors, a School-Business Partnership, on my Careers page: http://bit.ly/34zO7O

lizditz:   @k_5remediation: 85% of low SES 4th graders failing in reading http://bit.ly/9AwPgr

Parentella: Middle School: are we done yet?!? http://bit.ly/da5l3z

My name is John Steltz (@jpsteltz).  I am a teacher of students, father of four, and loving, devoted friend to Desiree, my tremendous spouse.  My subject area is English/Language Arts.  I teach in Seymour, WI.  Twitter and  #edchat has been instrumental in igniting a spark in my classroom for my students.  Thanks to all the members that make #edchat go each week!!!

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about a 4 day Week/Extended school day? Leave a comment!

Preparing for language exams

I’ve just been helping my 11 year-old daughter prepare for an end of term French test. I was ironing and she was at her books. We practised some short dialogues about the weather, transport, time etc.. did some drilling on pronunciation, new words and word order and then the usual recitation of irregular verbs. Two weeks ago another daughter took her GCSE French oral exam. This was a little more involved, we practised dialogues on given topics and I sent her a couple of questions in French during the day as text messages and she responded. Our big area of grammar was tenses.

My reason for describing this is not to give you an insight into domestic bliss in our household or to boast about my dedication to my children’s education. In fact I have two older daughters, now working, neither of whom speak any language other than English (cobblers’ children and all that). No, in fact it got me thinking about language exams and approaches to language exams and what activities might be most productive when facing a language exam.

I’d like to explore first what language exams are. In my opinion, they are simply benchmarks showing staging posts along a journey of developing and enhancing skills. They show that at some stage a particular level of skill was reached. That doesn’t mean to say that someone is still able to demonstrate that level and herein lies the rub! Skills can get rusty if you don’t keep practising them. I don’t see a language as an academic pursuit (the literature and other studies around language such as linguistics, philology etc.. are excluded here). To me it is akin to learning to drive, or playing a musical instrument or even achieving a certain level of physical fitness.  Language development starts small and then grows. See how any baby develops language and you will see this. It is ‘additive’ in its nature. You cannot enter at Upper Intermediate level and expect to perform well (let me know if this has happened!). We start with a foundation (however you choose to learn) and then build on this. The more you build the better you get just the like the more you drive the better you become.

(see my post ‘Are some people better at learning languages than others?‘)

OK  so how is this important for exams? It is important because language exams in my opinion need a different approach – I don’t believe you can ‘revise’ for a language exam in the same way that you would revise for a history or a medical exam. You need to practise for a language exam and the more practice you get the better you will be. OK this is trite stuff you may think – it’s obvious.  If so, then why do I see time and time again students going over and over practice tests instead of getting out and about in the language! Practice tests are more about exam technique than they are about language proficiency. Why do students have a slot in their revision timetable for ‘English’/’French’/’German’ revision? Why do my students, when I return their corrected writing to them, put it carefully in their folders where it never sees the light of day again and why am I told when I set about the present perfect tense for the umpteenth time, ‘we’ve already learned this!’ – been there, done that. The truth is you need to keep going there and doing that and each time you do, push your usage a bit further forwards. If you are guilty of some of these then take heed – you could be making the process far more difficult than it needs to be!

So, some top tips for preparing for language exams:

  1. Don’t make the exam the be all and end all of your language learning.  In fact, I think you should be thinking something like “I’ve really made good progress here, perhaps I’ll consider taking an exam.” –  rather than -“I need to get FCE, CPE etc.. when can I take the exam!”
  2. Don’t leave your exam preparation until the last minute – make sure you go over areas that you are not sure about immediately after your lesson/online session.
  3. Make sure you do something each day (it’s like learning the piano or improving your fitness level – 10 minutes per day is better than 30 minutes once a week). Try something like Gapfillers word of the day or daily practice.
  4. Do things you enjoy – all language learned is relevant it really doesn’t matter if it didn’t come up as an IELTS topic last year! In your speaking and writing tests YOU ARE IN CHARGE  use any language you like as long as you address the topic (and remember it doesn’t have to be true!)
  5. Be critical of yourself – don’t accept mediocre, if you are not sure ask or test it out.
  6. Jump in and try using phrases, words and new grammar the feedback will tell you if you’re on the right track – best to find out now before you use it in your exam!
  7. Use the internet – no excuses now for not having enough exposure. Listen to videos on your favourite subjects (that way you’ll be involved in something you enjoy too). Read, watch, listen, find grammar and vocabulary exercises – bookmark the ones you find useful so you can come back again.
  8. Try and think in your target language – do this during your short daily practice (see my post on Thinking in English – how to make it happen)
  9. Make sure you are a bit better than the exam requires you to be that way you’ll be more relaxed when you take it.
  10. You should use the exam to demonstrate your ability – make sure you have things to say/write. Make sure you learn language that can be adapted to different topics and scenarios

With as much exposure to and practice in the language as possible and an approach to your study that is both systematic and enjoyable, you should pass the exam with flying colours!

May 13, 2010

Business English – what is it you really need to learn?

Many years ago when I first started my own language training business I used to telephone language agents to have them include our courses in their portfolios.

I contacted such an agent in Germany one day about short business English courses and he replied

“What is business English? How is it different from English? Surely English is English and the only difference here is the context in which it is used!”

Being fairly inexperienced at that point I was quite taken aback! I made a feeble attempt to disagree but decided that although he had a point he was largely missing the point that Business English was the latest ‘thing’ and being so, to ignore it seemed a foolish thing to do when operating in this business.

I extracted myself deftly from the conversation and thought no more about it.

Lately,  I’ve been thinking about business English and other types of specialist English and I realise that the words of that German agent have remained with me.

What is Business English?

A few words spring to mind; expensive, elusive, a holy grail almost. The subject often feared by teachers who imagine pages of numbers and statistics, embraced by students who ride on its kudos and certainly put to use by smart, corporate-facing language training companies who reap its rewards.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that this is not a valid way to approach the subject and I’m sure the schools are doing a good job and there are good results to report for ROI. I also offer Business English myself.

So, what is a  business English courses?

Typically (please correct me if I’m wrong and there are of course exceptions to this rule)

  1. It can be a course for novices delivered in English aimed at would-be business professionals. It explains how to do ‘businessy’  things like conduct an interview, make sales calls, or interpret data.
  2. It might be an introduction to the language of business – how to meet and greet, the language of marketing or sales, or business idioms in common parlance.
  3. It could be a real high-flying course in finance and banking, or an exam-based course for a qualification.

I wonder, though, if learning all those business idioms and six stock phrases for interrupting someone at a meeting is going to make anyone better at their job.

I have taught many relocated business professionals over the years and have observed two very significant things:

  • Firstly, almost without exception, their partners and children returned at the end of the posting with much better English skills.
  • Many seem stuck on a  plateau and don’t move very far away from this (it would be around FCE/CAE or B2/C1).

Why is this?

  • Most employees use English primarily at work, at home they speak their own language, they often watch tv and listen to music etc.. in their own langauge. They also socalise often (though not exclusively) with compatriots where they speak their own language. Their partners,on the other hand, have exposure to many different language experiences – school, shops, groups etc. They often get involved more in their neighbourhoods and communities. They study the language because their need is more pressing. The children – well it goes without saying, their need is greatest – fitting in with peers – so they generally thrive linguistically.
  • Business language (as is true of many other discreet lexical sets) is restricted to a number of utterances (comparing course books will show this). Work has become more solitary with computers. People email more and speak less. Speaking is restricted to formalised settings, meetings, presentations. Performance here does improve , it’s bound to but it’s a small pond. In my experience students often manage very well at work but don’t always develop skills beyond the work environment.

So, why is this a problem?

Maybe it isn’t if they are here to work and they are getting the work-related skills they need the rest is neither here nor there.

Although I am not an expert in ‘globish’ I suspect that this is, in fact, the language used by many business professionals.  It is a lingua franca and as such a powerful communication tool but is it English? It has a restricted vocabulary and some tolerance of sub or non-standard grammatical features. ‘Decaffeinated English’ was a term used in a recent article by Robert McCrum to describe ‘globish’. I have some sympathies with this description, though these may seem to be more chauvinistic than practical.

‘Globish’ or ‘International’ English works on a certain, albeit restricted level – but therein lies the rub, it is restricted and for my students who are living and working in the UK this can become all too apparent.

See Robert McCrum’s  article on Globish

Two executive students from France and Belgium respectively took short courses with me here in the UK. In both cases they were very fluent but also very inaccurate. We began to unpick some of the grammar and refine some of the rough edges to their language. They were both horrified and upset.

‘We all speak like this in Europe!’

‘I can’t believe that we all make so many mistakes’

From my past teaching experience I know that the benchmark was First Certificate many young twenty somethings came to London for a term took their FCE and then returned to get a job. This language level seems now to have gone viral across the EU and beyond.

It’s fine, everybody understands one another, the business terms are down pat and people sound fluent even if there are mistakes. But is it enough? Surely business is one field in which linguistic eloquence and the ability to manipulate language well can have great advantages – in presenting?  – in negotiating?

Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy and think that everyone should strive to reach the highest level they can. There is some truth in this (not the fuddy-duddy bit!). All teachers want their students to do as well and go as far as they can.

I realise that there are restrictions on time and language needs practice, but who said that business professionals had to stick to business language? After all native speakers have a range of language from which they pick out the business element when it’s appropriate.

I have to say that some of my very best performing business students simply didn’t want to do business English exercises in class. They were curious about other things and we covered a range of reading listening and vocabulary about diverse topics like films, music (one student from Argentina wanted to know all about opera) poetry and food. These topics are not at all out-of-place in the canteen, during coffee breaks or in other social situations. The confidence to propose and discuss such topics is worth as much, if not more than an in-depth knowledge of business collocations.

I sing in choirs and a good piece of advice for getting those very high notes was to imagine you are landing on them from above – I love this analogy for language competence too – the more you know and can use, the more comfortable you will be in any situation.

To sum up, I don’t think you necessarily need to learn only business English, just get a good exposure to a wide range of English then you too will have a bird’s-eye view!

Some exercises to try to broaden your skills:

Top 10 best films ever – this works well as a discussion topic at lunch or in the office you have to get a consensus

Jokes and humour – very important in a business environment (don’t forget to learn where and when it’s appropriate to use jokes). Try these:

Poetry – don’t dismiss this as a language exercise,  poems often short and easily accessible (and you never know, your next potential client might just be  poetry buff!). Here is an example:

Look at these posts on improving skills:

10 ways to improve your vocabulary

10 goofy ways to practise speaking skills

How to keep motivated in language learning

Do you need help getting to your English goal? Contact me.

May 12, 2010

How can PD stimulate education reform?


5-11-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST



Our summary has been provided today by guest-blogger William Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain). William is regular and active participant at #edchat and provides many of the great links on all the topics. You can see his bio at the bottom of the page.

I was extremely pleased about this topic. Although it was actually the second place choice this week it was the one I voted for. I believe this is one of the most important conversations we needed to have in our community. We often look at professional development as something done to us or for us by an outside agency such as a principal or our school district. While this is true to a degree, as professionals we are also responsible for our own growth and development. We need to seek out the professional development that we need to grow.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion:

  • Problems with mandated professional development.
  • Teacher responsibility with professional development.
  • Sharing professional development with the students in our classrooms.
  • How do we keep teachers accountable for professional development?

Here is a selection of some of the comments:

@cybraryman1: Too many decisions about changes are made by people untouched by the change process. Teachers should construct PD #edchat

@K_Shelton: Much of the current PD structure is mandated, and therefore may not support Ed Reform or Ed Progressivism #edchat

@joe_bower: #edchat Too much PD is created for policy makers and politicians and NOT for teachers and students.

@edtechsteve: Maybe one year, do PD on how to build/cultivate teacher PLN’s and PLC’s, then next year wipe slate clean and see what happens #edchat

@thomasjwest: We also have weekly PD presentations within our cyber school, streamed online and led by fellow teachers. #edchat

@wmchamberlain: How can we model PD so our students can use it as well? #edchat

@theprofspage: PD needs to be something we can use not boring. Hands-on definitely. #edchat

@intrepidteacher: Wish there was PD that allowed me to learn things that interest me that may or not be usable in the classroom. #edchat

@Parantella: I tell my daughters daily that you cannot learn a new skill (really learn it) if you don’t practice it frequently. Same applies here #edchat

@towittertoo: why can kids choose their own learning/books and I can’t choose my own projects as a teacher? #edchat

@tbfurman: I think a good interview question is this: “What are you researching?” #edchat

@pisanojim: Teachers MUST have input for PD in their subject disciplines, what works for one does not work for others. #edchat

@johntspencer: PD should begin with the question “How will this change how your students learn?” If that isn’t a part of it, you’re wasting my time #edchat

@boundstaffpress: If you are in a stagnant community, step up and teach others. #edchat

@joe_bower: #edchat Finland offers a model where teachers teach less and are given opp to learn collaboratively with colleagues.

@tomwhitby: Many Schools refer to lifelong learning in mission.Do teachrs and Admins in those schools model Lifelong Learning, PD? #Edchat

@lesliemaniotes: #edchat everybody needs time to reflect and think about ideas to transfer them into their own setting most PD doesn’t allow this -PLC’s can

@web20classroom: Are teachers really in total control of their own PD? No. But they can take steps to do learning on their own. #edchat

@jasontbedell: Does anyone work in an environment that differentiates PD? Don’t think we’re modeling what we do with students. #edchat

@EricTownsley: Many times PD is a one hit wonder, if teachers are to learn it, support their learning! Encourage them to take risks! #edchat

@sram_socrates: PD should aling with the Ed goals of a school and the division, but should also be interesting to the teachers attending #edchat

@tbfurman: think the physical act of getting tired people into one big room drains PD of its inherent vitality. #edchat

@mamacita: in many schools, teachers have no clue what others are doing. There’s no sharing & cross-curriculars are discouraged. #edchat

@sandraABE: #Edchat so many teachers don’t want to learn something new. they are stuck in a rut and don’t want to move out

@jptseltz: the cool part of PD for me is I continue to find new apps for my students to experience learning…loving to learn and passing it on #edchat

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

There were some amazing links shared this week!

edtechsteve: http://tweetphoto.com/22001602 The new and improved way to follow

isteconnects: New Post: Educators Must Stand Up for Education: Tweet for Ed Tech May 12 #EETT #Edtech #edchat http://bit.ly/abP9MR

alexgfrancisco: Measuring 21st-century skills | http://goo.gl/qjRJ #21stcenturyskills #edchat #edtech

intrepidteacher: This is a great post by @betchaboy on how most teachers say they love learning, but seldom show it: http://bit.ly/aM6etW

joe_bower: Too much PD is driven by analytical, data driven thinking and not nearly enough intuitive thinking http://bit.ly/9EaHNW

janwebb21: Blog post – change and immune response – http://bit.ly/cXTN72

egateway: Peer coaching at Gateshead College successful as a model for CPD http://bit.ly/cZpUzT

doctorjeff: We CANNOT aspire to do great things in the midst of hatred & ignorance http://bit.ly/10JpaC

kevcreutz: Last time I went to a PD and came back with something was observing a class do skype this morning http://kcreutz.blogspot.com

BDMediaZoo: Can Learning Innovations be Embedded and Sustained? New Beyond Distance blog post http://bit.ly/8XwD8P

kevcreutz: I blogged all week about the benefits of twitter. Great PD resource http://bit.ly/buwVQD

cybraryman1: Professional Development sites (the good, the bad..) http://bit.ly/bOj5Sv

stevebarkley: See NJ new template for planning PD http://www.nj.gov/education/profdev/pd/teacher/

teachingwthsoul: What Good PD should be! http://pdonline.ascd.org/pd_online/secondary_reading/el200405_dufour.html

MissCheska: @PearsonLongman Through portfolios http://bit.ly/atTe05

meadbuilder: Tweet for Ed Tech May 12 #EETT #Edtech #edchat http://bit.ly/aoX3Yy

nocturne4342: RE http://bit.ly/chU6AT @teachingwthsoul Thanks!!!

bryanjack: @TeachPaperless Tech-Coordinator in our district developed a rubric for st’s or tchrs. #edchat http://bit.ly/4WLWjn (via @jmcconville1000)

cybraryman1: We need to design more PD like the Teach Meets & similar gatherings: http://bit.ly/9AtU6C

InspireTeach: “Inconvenient Truth” director’s new documentary examines public #education in the US.: http://ow.ly/1JG58

MZimmer557: I LOVE this….. The Burden on Education…the changing curriculum http://bit.ly/cdMIlj

bhsprincipal: We gave our teachers total choice on a PD day this year and they loved it! http://bit.ly/clWFeo #edchat …No-brainer.

OReillyMedia: What is Gov 2.0? @timoreilly explains this afternoon in a free webcast. http://bit.ly/clxne0 #gov2 / ms #edchat #edtech20

tbfurman: and my recommended reading for the day is this article by S. Krashen http://twurl.nl/xy8x4y

chamada: @MissCheska @elenaleoni @psyproblems81 @olafelch Looks like some schools are already doing it. http://bit.ly/clWFeo

pysproblem81: http://bit.ly/cPdYpN My own collection of PD links

nocturne4342: For anyone seeking PD this is the site I was looking at http://bit.ly/dsS8Ev

edutek: #edchat recap will be coming up soon at http://ow.ly/1JGXQ

kylepace: Awesome post by Seth Godin: “Are you an Elite?”…http://bit.ly/cvGD66

MZimmer557: My Glog for a PD of Web 2.0 Tools teachers should be using, as well as videos and other links. Plz Share! http://bit.ly/9KFEZI

TeachTCI: TCI’s TeacherGenius http://bit.ly/9UMoja and the Feds new crowd-sourcing initiative http://bit.ly/drlvfW-common goal to help teachers

@wmchamberlain aka William Chamberlain: I am a veteran of 16 years and I currently teach at my old elementary school in Noel, Missouri. My wife and I are youth leaders at Anderson FBC where I am also a deacon. I have four wonderful girls aged 19, 16, 8, and 4. My class blog can be found at NoelTigers.com. My professional blog which I share with some great friends is At the Teacher’s Desk.  I teach, it’s what I do.

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 800 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about PD as a catalyst for education reform? Leave a comment!

May 10, 2010

Thoughts on Ning announcement & its implications 4 the future of tech


5-4-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

Thoughts on the Ning announcement


Tuesday’s edchat session saw a sudden change of topic just 15 minutes before we began. As we were approaching the start of #edchat,  several tweets came through desiring to discuss the announcement made by Ning about their new pricing policy. There were also a few tweets pointing out that the topic scheduled was not only quite similar to the previous week’s but had also been discussed a month or so ago. The discussion was lively and @ning participated (see highlighted link below – we await comments!)

Our thanks go to Melissa Smith (@EduTechSmith) for the guest summary this week. She is a regular edchat participant and great ‘evangelist’ for technology in education. We are very grateful to Melissa for finding time to produce this summary despite having had a sudden family emergency over the past few days.

Today’s #edchat focused on the change that NING announced – making creators of NING networks pay for their services. They explained 3 different payment options for those creating NINGS to choose from, keeping a free NING option for those in education, but limiting its members to 150. With the reform going on in education, bringing a new type of learning environment into the classroom via Web 2.0 tools, educators expressed the need in continuing to use social media sites to improve on their teaching skills and practices. It seemed that the majority of education-based tweeters understood the desire and need of the business world to earn money off of their products, and recognized the need to pay creators for their work, but also felt that those using this sites for education should be excluded from fees or have a very low price. Teachers are excellent adapters to change, and since we are on limited budgets many folks brainstormed different ways to continue to grow via social networks such as #Edchat now showcasing itself on Facebook, Cybraryman (Jerry Bumengarten) offering to create a databank of our ideas on his site, or partnering up with local businesses to sponsor the NINGS. As the conversation continued several voices discussed the lack of funding that education has in the United States. Ning just seemed to be another great online tool that is now going to make the financially struggling teacher turn his or her focus on finding funds and away from their number one interest: educating the future of America. Voices expressed a push towards businesses coming in and supporting schools, children’s learning experiences, and teacher development – I feel this is what we are going to need to do in order to support, educate, and prepare our youth for the future.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion:

@rliberni: Should edu always have free access?

@MissCheska: Can anyone really put a price on learning? true but people creating need to earn too

@rliberni: (RT) Edu should have either free access or very low cost options. Biz can write off the expenditure differences

@pysproblem81: #edchat – Ning is just a brand – they come go. Real question, should ‘social’ development be recognized as essential CPD?

@andycinek: Wikispaces did this and allowed free private access for K-12, hopefully Ning will continue this trend.

@andycinek: My question is, what does ning intend on doing with the $? If it means making their site, and education better, I’m ok with that

@andersch: The whole Ning issue illustrates how our network connections need to be networks of ppl, not platforms. #edchat would continue w/o Ning.

@olafelch: Don’t want this to sound nasty, but a grp with several 100 members could find a way to raise the funds.

@reportertanya What lessons should we learn from Ning’s news as well as other sites that have changed their services?

@psyproblem81 Good point on brands; social development = already essential PD in 21C environment

Here is a selection of some of the comments:

@cybraryman1: On my Blogs page I have Ning explanation, sites & alternatives (left column): http://bit.ly/8mcqcC #edchat

@sarabest: For use with students 2.95 a month isn’t a lot, but if I have to pay that for every online tool I use it would add up to a lot.

@olafelch: I have a feeling this may be the dawn of an era where we have to get used to paying for good services

@EduTechSmith: nothing in education should cost teachers and students to use – companies should get $ for corporations & sponsors

@MissCheska: I know it makes sense in business side, but that makes me 😦 bc I don’t have $ to pay for all the tools I use for tech PD

@aeringuy: Who is the education company sponsoring free Ning for teachers? http://bit.ly/azYQb2

@seanbanville: All providers of free services need to explore better ways to keep their services free #edchat

@musicfan214: This content is great for @ning. I hope they listen to what educators want and need out of their service and make the changes

@kevcreutz: A ning offers a great variety of ways to collaborate and to provide a forum for a group. I do not know of a more comprehensive site

@ akenuam : I hear you, i just see what happened to teachertube and grow fearful of ads. It ruined the site.

@ksivick: we have some serious work to do educating administration if we hope to continue with Ning #edchat

RT @esolcourses: one of the problems w relyin on free online tools is there’s no guarantee that they will always be there

RT @WeAreTeachers: We are able to keep our communities free for educators by having companies sponsor grant opps

RT @anderscj: Ning Mini they are offering is not the Ning we have been using. No groups, no file uploads, limit of 150 members,

@k_shelton The problem is we as Edu aren’t even floating…we’re drowning due to budget cuts!

@rliberni (RT) http://bit.ly/hBH6Q This is a great site with many open source alternatives helpful to edu and tight budgets. #edchat

@kalinagoenglish: Not sure every1 wants web2.0tools 2 all b free 4ever. Educators get salaries. Software co.s have employees

@edutek one of the problems with relying on free online tools is that there’s no guarantee that they will always be there

RT @k_shelton: I would like to see more cooperative relationships between biz. all benefit for the sake of our students and schools

@kevcreutz Would it work to have students involved in obtaining sponsorships? Authentic learning opportunity? #edchat

@shellTerrell It’s a positive sign when Apps begin asking for educator input

I would ask that the following question is added to the poll next week:

Creating a plan. What can we actually go and do to help one another create learning environments so that we aren’t reinventing the wheel?

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

As ever, there were some great links shared:

teachingwthsoul: Yay! RT @ShellTerrell: RT @olafelch: RT @ning: Looking forward to feedback about new Ning options in today’s #edchat http://bit.ly/c98Yf7

regentsreview: Here’s a documentary on America’s Digital Divide. #edchat #edtech http://fb.me/x5LJAqMG

WeAreTeachers: @MissCheska we would be happy to have you relocate to http://bit.ly/dCMUlq

rliberni: RT @olafelch: I read that Ning will remain free for K12 http://bit.ly/9JbwWL

ksivick: Announcement link #edchat http://bit.ly/aBVgba

web20education: Ning free for teachers http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/ning-planning-to-remain-free-for-teachers/?src=tptw

web20education: What platform recommand #edchat if we will must pay for our Ning http://proiectdiferitidaregali.ning.com

pysproblem81: RT @jamesclay: Makes for interesting reading http://about.ning.com/announcement/ wonder if free edu pricing will apply to UK!

@cybraryman1: On my Blogs page I have Ning explanation, sites & alternatives (left column): http://bit.ly/8mcqcC

aeringuy: Who is the education company sponsoring free Ning for teachers? http://bit.ly/azYQb2

jdthomas7: Ning Blog » Ning Pro, Ning Plus and Ning Mini Pricing Plans ( http://bit.ly/coKBXQ )

heistes: RT @pisanojm: Please Take My Survey: TweetDeck or HootSuite ~5 Questions: http://is.gd/bTFK9

akenuam: there is also schoolrack and engrade http://bit.ly/cpT6Tj

raysadad: Yes, on http://blog.ning.com but name not public yet. – It’s big sponsorship! good promo 4 them!

lemino: @anderscj It doesn’t. But how long are they going to remain free? http://bit.ly/9wXnEf

elanaleoni: I know Edutopia offers free online groups 2 any class/educator. http://bit.ly/bZh8Om (Ning alternative?)

ESLlibrary: RT @rliberni http://bit.ly/hBH6Q This is a great site with many open source alternatives helpful to edu and tight budgets

olafelch: … this may be the dawn of an era where we have to get used to paying for good services. #edchat http://bit.ly/9wXnEf

reportertanya: @MissCheska The sponsored accounts for educators will be for Ning Mini http://bit.ly/cqpZqQ

web20education: Very interesting web 2.0 expo in San Francisco this days http://www.web2expo.com/webexsf2010

k_shelton: And here is a worthwhile read about Ning and their attempts to be free to ed and non-profits http://nyti.ms/cioCXu

Nashua_Online: socialmedia / 04 – Inside Higher Ed: http://bit.ly/cqW2SZ

michellek107: @MissCheska Read this: http://blog.ning.com/2010/05/introducing-ning-pro-ning-plus-and-ning-mini.html

ShellTerrell: RT @dgende: @SeanBanville Take a look at this open source social networking: http://mahara.org/

dgende: @EduTechSmith It HAD an effect! Looks like Ning will be free for educators at some point, read NYTimes http://nyti.ms/aqk9WB

ededco:  Our new blog post inspired by our chat on differentiation a few weeks back! http://bit.ly/cwiijs

rkiker: @rliberni http://bit.ly/hBH6Q This is a great site with many open source alternatives helpful to edu and tight budgets.

*ShellTerrell: Thanks for asking! RT @Ning: Looking forward to seeing feedback about new Ning options in today’s #edchat http://bit.ly/cXGNnA

skabachia: Looks like I get to keep using Ning with my students. http://ow.ly/1GRjq

edutek: #edchat recap will be coming shortly at Learning Today Blog http://ow.ly/1GRiw

mixxt: @TalstoneDJ @xiotex Ning alternative? Give mixxt.com a try! Details & Ning-Import here: http://bit.ly/ningalt

MrConsiglio: #truth #edchat RT @getschooled Must “stop messing around with the dynamics of the system” http://ow.ly/1GQig

web20education: Now is very easy to share using mozilla add-on .Please comment if you know other intersting add-on http://bit.ly/9HAYZZ

w2e: Web2Open has arrived! http://yfrog.com/0hlvlkj #w2e Check out this free unconference on the second floor. Go now

web20education: All twitter members #edchat are welcome to use #edtech20 http://twubs.com/edtech20 and to join free http://web20ineducation2010.ning.com/

reportertanya: In case you missed this last week: #Ning News Highlights Need to Pick Online Tools Wisely http://bit.ly/dkEyoZ

@edutechsmith: Melissa Smith – I have been in education since 1997 and am currently a Technology Specialist, supporting grades 4th through 6th at Presbyterian Day School, an all boy’s school in Memphis, TN. I am also the president for the Memphis Association of Independent Schools, Technology Education Consortium.


New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 800 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about paying for Nings and other tech tools for Education? Leave a comment!

May 4, 2010

So, why the silence?

It’s been a while since I posted anything related to language and I must, in the first instance apologise if, by any chance you have missed those nuggets of information about grammar study or language skills.

So, what is the reason for my inertia during the past few weeks? (I have still been posting under the Edchat category so I have not disappeared totally!) Right, I will come clean. There are several reasons (aren’t there always) and they are not all under the too busy banner.

Yes, I have been busy mostly developing new online materials. I have also attended IATEFL in Harrogate (a whole week) and the Virtual Round Table conference. These have given me much food for thought about language teaching, latest techniques and the whole E-learning scene. Being able to stop and take a view is very powerful and I have done much mulling and pondering during the few idle moments there have been.

An overload of pondering can lead to brain overload and this is my second excuse (not difficult to overload my brain you may all be thinking!) However, joking apart. I have been struggling with a post on Business English that I began before IATEFL. I am still working on this and hope to see the wood for the trees very soon and get the thing posted!

I’ve also been thinking about prepositions and how such silly, little, insignificant-looking words are such a force to be reckoned with in English. I will post on this very soon!

Finally, having attended the session by Sir Ken Robinson a few weeks ago online and having taken copious notes I have been thinking about many of his comments which resonated very strongly with me. Are we wasting talent in the field of language training too? With adults as well as children. How far does a language barrier prevent both children and adults from reaching their true potential? How much do exam targets narrow exposure and stop skill development? There is a great deal to consider in all of this and this brings me back to my stalled post on Business English. Are we often just going through the motions and doing what we do because we’ve always done it like this? Do students join the language exam train (and other such exam trains) because other modes are not suggested or available?

This is becoming rather stream of consciousness and I like to be practical, so watch out for brisker posts soon!

As an apology for silence and rambling – here are a few nuggets from English proverbs, sayings and my family ‘idiolect’ about getting and not getting things done!


  • Look at the time and there’s not a bed made nor a po emptied! (my Grandfather’s saying)
  • He who hesitates is lost.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Get your act together!
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • An early bird
  • An eager beaver
  • Get the ball rolling.

I’m sure you can work them out!

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