Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

June 8, 2011

Who’s in my PLN? My very enlightening interview

In May Brad Patterson threw down a challenge to members of our PLN (Professional Learning Network) – choose someone from your PLNand try to get to know them better. He provided us with 5 questions and we could add extras if we wanted. This has inspired a number of interesting posts which can all be seen on Brad’s blog.

Quite often with these challenges I realise they are out there and get geared up to participate just as they are coming to a close! Fortunately this one came across my radar quite early on, but it was Eva Büyüksimkeşyan asking to interview me that finally gave me the push I needed to get on board with this challenge!

My choice is Shaun Wilden. Shaun and I moderate #eltchat together (along with other members of this team; Barbara Sakamoto, Marisa Constantinides, and Shelly Terrell), we meet on various online events and have even met face to face at IATEFL but I realised that I don’t really know much about him at all other than he supports a football team in a rival county to mine and, I think, likes marmite (could be wrong there – it may have been a joke!)

He is a great member of my PLN always cheerful, very patient, a very hard worker and always seems to know how to do everything – especially tech-wise. As such we are very fortunate to have him on the #eltchat team. He also has a wicked sense of humour (more of this below)

I put Brad’s 5 questions to him and then added a couple extra.

So here it is! Everything you wanted to know about Shaun Wilden – and more!

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

Without a doubt they would say energetic (unless they knew the word hyperactive).  Ex-students have told me that they were exhausted at the end of lesson with me. I am forever moving about and can’t sit still.  I’d hope they would say funny, I do like to tell a joke and am very sarcastic, which most of my Czech students cottoned onto.  As a third one, I’d think they’d say crazy – if I can make a lesson out of something, I will.

2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Hmm, let me think, top shelf will have yoghurts, berries and some home made jams and chutneys. Second shelf has lots different cheeses, eggs and probably some cold meat. Next is the wine rack, which is full of white wine chilling, and then finally there is some defrosting turkey mince, which I shall be using to make tonight’s dinner.

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

I would to be a chef.  It’s my dream to have a small restaurant cooking good rustic food. I love cooking, it is my number one hobby and I’ve been told I’m quite good at it.  Since moving back to the UK a year ago, I have also started growing my own vegetables and would be more than happy to spend my days growing and then cooking food.

4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

I think one of the hardest things about our profession is it being taken seriously.  I still not sure that my family fully comprehend what I do or what I was doing for 20 years abroad and just the other day a UK TV programme used the TEFL industry as an example of way to see the world and have a fun (in a disparaging way – in fact our profession is fun but not in the ‘this is not a serious job ‘ way).  For such a vast industry things such as the fact it is poorly paid, and that it can treat teachers badly constantly amazes me.  Likewise, perhaps naively, I am astounded when teachers who have nothing more than a 4-week cert fail to see the need for developing themselves. 

5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

I am not a great book or film person. I spend too much time online so read more blogs etc than books. I do have the odd book on the go on my ipad as I spend a fair amount travelling.  Currently I’m reading ‘Reelin’ in the Years: The Soundtrack of a Northern Life by Mark Radcliffe.’ He is a radio DJ and in this book he has chosen a song for every year of his life and writes about the memories of each year.  As an ex-dj the idea of a song for each year really appeals to me. As for films, I’d rather have a good dvd boxset. As a committed Whovian you’d probably find me watching old episodes of the series though you can never watch them too many times.

Extra questions

6) What are your top 3 tips for successful language learning?

I’ve probably said to my students on numerous occasions – ‘don’t worry about how you say just say it’ and I think that is an important factor in learning language. Taking a few risks builds confidence. Certainly in my experience of learning Czech (a very accurate language), I was put off on more than one occasion by the teacher’s correcting every little thing.  Secondly, be interested in your learning.  Far too many of my students learned English, well tried to learn, by coming to a once a week class expecting to learn everything by attending class once a week for forty weeks.  Those that did best, invested time outside to learn, be it watching something in English, finding times to study and so on. My most ‘successful’ student went from A2 to C2 in a couple of years by working out he could learn on his daily commute – he recorded our lessons and played them back in the car. Thirdly, have a good teacher, be it at the end of an email to help or in the classroom a good language teacher can inspire, guide and advise. As far as we have gone down the path of technology and self-study there is still no substitute for a good teacher.

7) What is your greatest memory?

My greatest memory – well this one’s a little tricky.  I’ll share with you the story I often use as a live listening. I’m not sure it qualifies as greatest memory but it’s one helluva story.  At university I learned to fire breathe (well it beats the geography degree I was supposed to be doing) and one night while at a house party in Athens (where I started my career), I met a juggler who was keen to learn to fire breathe.  ‘Oh I’ll show you’ and off we head to the balcony. Now when breathing fire you should always check the wind direction and never, ever use petrol, as it is too flammable. Being full of bravado (no I wasn’t drunk) I took a mouthful of the liquid the juggler had for his fire clubs, lit a club and went outside to breath it out and duly impress the crowd.  I ‘spit’ out the liquid in front of the flame and there is a whoosh – the whoosh being the sound of the petrol (for that is what it was) igniting and the wind blowing it back in my face.  Oh no ‘I’ve set fire’ to my hair I thought but no not quite – I had set fire to my face. Luckily I was surrounded by EFL teachers who always know what to do and one had some excellent burn cream. They smeared it all over my face and took me outside to get a taxi to the hospital (far quicker than waiting for an ambulance).  We saw lots of our Greek friends outside – it was carnival season and the cream looked like clown whitener so they thought I’d dressed up for carnival…anyway seven days in Greek intensive care followed but am glad to say all worked out well though of course it put an end to my super model days. Oh well modeling’s loss was EFL’s gain.

Thank you Shaun looks like we might be all visiting your restaurant one day sounds awesome!


December 3, 2010

My Edublog Award Nominations 2010


A bit of a ‘last minute Larry’ (again!) but at the eleventh-hour I am happy to share my personal nominations.

There is so much out there and the list of  educators producing valuable and thought-provoking content is growing so fast that it’s sometimes overwhelming!! As each year goes by the wealth of great ideas and techniques continues to grow – so does collaboration and this can only be a good thing.  So…..

My Personal Recommendations for the Edublog Awards 2010 are:

Best individual blog – Kalinago English  – Karenne Silvester

Best individual tweeter – Cecilia Lemos Coelho (@cecilialcoelho)

Best class blog – Our Good News  – Greta Sandler

Best resource sharing blog – The Cybraryman website

Most influential blog post  – The 30 Goals Challenge   – Shelly Terrell

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion –  #ELTchat

Best teacher blog –  A Journey in TEFL  – Eva Buyuksimkesyan

Best librarian / library blog – Library Tech Musings – Gwyneth A. Jones

Best educational use of audio – Breaking News English  – Sean Banville

Best educational use of video / visual – Teacher Training Videos  – Russell Stannard

Best educational wiki –  Celebr8UandMeDigitally  – Eva Büyüksimkeşyan and Alexandra Francisco

Best educational podcast –  EdTechLive  – Steve Hargadon

Best educational webinar series – Serendipity & Topic sessions  – Jo and Phil Hart

Best educational use of a social network – The Educator PLN ning – Tom Whitby

Best educational use of a virtual world –  Slanguages Conference – Heike Philp

Best use of a PLN – #Edchat

Best of luck everybody!!

October 27, 2010

What are the myths of education that are clouding the focus?

#Edchat 10-19-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

We are very grateful to have this wonderful guest summary from Larry Fliegelman (@fliegs) for what was one of the most exciting edchats we have experienced! Larry is a regular at #edchat and always provides great insight as well as lots of very useful links. I think you will all agree that he has done a fantastic job capturing the mood of the edchat discussion as well as its content. See Larry’s bio at the end of the post.

  With so much attention in the national media on education issues, it has become increasingly clear that many myths swirl about in the public conscience. If one believes these myths, then one believes that, except for those few great teachers somewhere, teachers know nothing, teachers can do nothing, teachers care nothing for children, and teachers will be motivated by nothing but merit pay. The EdChat community has, for the last several weeks, been talking about how we can counter the popular “conventional wisdom” about teachers in reaction to Waiting for SupermanOprah Winfrey, and NBC’s Education Nation. At some point, we realized that to stop the swirl, we needed to know the myths first.

We devoted a noon edchat session to listing and debating the myths that we’ve heard about.

 Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • There are SO many myths out there about education.
  • For a complete list of the myths mentioned during the chat, see the transcript (link below) or this page that lists only the myth.
  • Some ideas came up repeatedly
    • Homework is good/bad
    • Myth: Anyone can teach
    • Myth: Students are tech literate already
    • Myth: Teachers don’t need to teach tech
    • Merit pay is bad
    • Myth: Teachers don’t work hard
    • Myth: More money will solve the problems
    • Myth: standardized testing = learning

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.

rkiker @rliberni To move myths aside, one option is to involve community – invite them to see our efforts and dedication #edchat

Lauren_Learning I think we have myths like these because they are more convenient than the truth. #edchat

Mamacita Myth: Barbie was right; math is too hard. Some students don’t need ANY math b/c it makes them work too unfairly hard. #edchat

tomwhitby MYTH: Our teachers are all Media literate and are preparing our kids with the latest tech they need for the 21st Century. #Edchat

CrudBasher Seems to me that many of these myths aren’t 100% true or false. Like kids, there are variations. #edchat

L_Hilt Myth: Peer collaboration is scary because my colleagues will be judging me and stealing my ideas! #edchat

domi75P Myths are a way to present one side only of what really happens

fliegs @rliberni I mean letters to newspaper editors (the print kind). Also we need to write to our congressfolks. Invite them to school. #edchat

domi75P We can change the myths by showing that school has changed

fliegs @rliberni Begin at school by engaging in conversation with the teacher next door. Change the conversation in the staff lounge. #edchat

Akevy613 MYTH: Teachers don’t need D.I. when it comes2 their readiness 4 a new skill or 4 P. D. – A one size fits all model is ok 4 teachers #edchat

MikeGwaltney Myth: Teaching Creativity / Alternative Assessments in core academic courses dumbs down education, and should be reserved for arts. #edchat

azjd Myth Busting: we need to keep pushing true educational leaders / ideas to the forefront of the reform discussion. #edchat

DrSmartEd @domi75P Remember, loudest voices against us are the “Experts” who went to sch &”know.” Showing that it has changed is not enough. #edchat

thenewtag Have to truly understand the root cause/ perspective of believers in order to change “mythical” thinking re” ed or anything else #edchat

elanaleoni @ToddAHoffman Good question. We need to infuse teacher’s voices as much as possible when media covers education 2 change the opinion #edchat

MikeGwaltney Myth held by Ed Reformers in D.C. (can they really believe this?!?!): Life is just like a multiple choice test. #edchat

DanielAyres BUT MANY Teachers BELIEVE THEY are solely responsible for the success of the students = truth? #edchat @MeganLearner 😉

thenewtag     Myth: Pro-teacher accountability is the same as anti-teacher. Studies show MANY tchers support more accountable eval./ hr policies #edchat

ShellTerrell What if we all tried to get our best practices in news like @NMHS_Principal @bhsprincipal @SNewco #vanmeter have managed to do? #Edchat

ToddAHoffman #Myth- Feds determine direction of ed- Fact- Probably less than 5% of your school budget comes from Feds #edchat

Lauren_Learning Love this idea! Highlight what’s working rather than what’s not working 2 create a momentum 2 replicate best practices (@elanaleoni) #edchat

TeachPaperless If preconceptions were people, they’d surely be the critics who didn’t read the book. #edchat

GaryBrannigan Teachers need to become more active in the community and the community needs to become more active in children’s education #edchat

fliegs What are YOU going to do about these myths? #edchat

ShellTerrell Do we need a Myth Busters for Education show? #Edchat

azjd Myth Busting: Education is messy. Reform won’t fit into a neat box – one size doesn’t fit all. #edchat

davidwees Join the “Tell Our Story” project if you want to see some of these myths about education dispelled. http://is.gd/fZ7Ka #edchat

rkiker @ShellTerrell I wish society believed that teachers work incredibly hard – and that it is on of the most difficult professions. #Edchat

davidwees The best public education systems are in countries which have done a much better job of addressing poverty than has the US. #edchat

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

How can we implement what we believe to be real education transformation?


To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

As ever, there were some great links shared:

tomwhitby: Don’t Forget Diane Ravitch LIVE Today at 4 PM EDT. Presentation & Discussion. http://bit.ly/duX97e Join Us!

cybraryman1: All these myths are the reason why we need Twitter Academy to show how Ed should be http://cybraryman.com/twitacad.html  #twitacad #edchat

fliegs:  Here is a place to start cataloging myths, facts, and alternatives http://bit.ly/dgjrBC

shamblesguru:  If it is a myth then won’t it be listed at http://snopes.com  all the others are 😉 #edchat #edtech

ShellTerrell:  http://bit.ly/9eSxbo  3 column site for myth, fact, alternative #edchat

cybraryman1: @Mamacita Show the nonbelievers my Poetry page: http://cybraryman.com/poetry.html

mreduhowto: top ten youtube channels for education http://t.co/5dUtiac  via @drezac #edtech #edchat

iearnusa: Myth: “Give them a laptop & pupils will teach themselves” @OLPC [The Guardian] http://j.mp/9qDBXR  @ShellTerrell #edchat

ASCD: No. 1 read for today comes from @DianeRavitch http://bit.ly/cOVgHK  #educationnation #edchat

Qwizdom: Bowie High School demonstrates revolutionized instruction! http://bit.ly/aSVXpM  #edchat #edtech

davidwees:  Fun project. Design the computers of the future. http://is.gd/g8lYz  #edchat #edchat

jonbergmann:  @billgx Individualized lrning via the flipped/mastery clssrm http://bit.ly/3PAZ1K  http://bit.ly/bAX4dN  #edchat

Fliegs: Take a minute to add info to the myth, fact, alt list http://bit.ly/dgjrBC  #edchat

rliberni: Myths in edu a definition http://www.teachersmind.com/myths1.htm

carneysandoe:  Myths about teaching: http://www.teachersmind.com/teaching.htm

ShellTerrell:  Many great myths listed here! Please add them to this Google doc created by @twoodwar http://bit.ly/d1qlGO

jonbergmann:  The best summary of what we are doing to differentiate for all is found at http://bit.ly/aAP9UL

DUMACORNELLUCIA: Internet myths #edtech20 #edchat #etchat #elearning #lrnchat #liveclass20 http://slidesha.re/cQzb2f

MZimmer557:  Here are my 8 misconceptions (myths) about tech integration. Great conversation going. http://j.mp/cfT79S

goashland:  Would like this story framed on the positive! Celebrate innovation in education & creating schools that work… http://ow.ly/19woD8

ShellTerrell: Many great myths listed here! Please add them to this Google doc created by @twoodwar http://bit.ly/d1qlGO

davidwees: Join the “Tell Our Story” project if you want to see some of these myths about education dispelled. http://is.gd/fZ7Ka

publicagenda: How A Whisper Became A Roar: teachers talking about reform http://bit.ly/cvnydl Supporting Teacher Talent http://bit.ly/8M1S5U

web20education : Teachers guide in the classroom #microsoft #edtech20 #edchat #lrnchat #educhat #safedchat… http://fb.me/A7DMxUC3

MarjieKnudsen: Teaching solution-focused skills to #kids http://ow.ly/2VG6R  @CoertVisser #edchat #parenting

olafelch: Charles Murray on Education Myths http://youtu.be/n8GN8g0Si7Q

CrudBasher: @ShellTerrell My blog post today is about how everything is up for changing: http://bit.ly/9LieRI

ShellTerrell:  @TeachPaperless Seems like something your students could produce 😉 I think you have a studio #edchat RE http://bit.ly/9GnZp4

4thGrdTeach:  Are you the reform? I am the reform http://ow.ly/2VWrV

cybraryman1:  No myth I’m in between flights. Thanks for great chat My Myths http://cybraryman.com/myths.HTML

carneysandoe:  @fliegs School Pride on Hulu http://www.hulu.com/watch/186012/school-pride-soaring-eagles

edteck: Myth: Test prep works. My post at http://bit.ly/a2mvhH

lemino: Here’s someone who’s trying to break some myths: Greg Whitby http://youtu.be/OpIYsmRkZew #edchat talking about “a new DNA for education”

Larry Fliegelman has been an elementary principal, middle school assistant principal, and middle school social studies teacher for the last 14 years. Larry tweets at @fliegs and blogs for the Connected Principals and his Principal’s Point of View. Other ways to find Larry online are: 

Shelfari, Flieg’s Views, Diigo, email

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? Leave a comment!











August 12, 2010

Creating a teacher workshop

The idea of  deepening and expanding learning by living and studying together is something which has underpinned education for many years and can be seen in many different cultures. The UK boarding school and university systems were created under this principle and many other educational systems through time have seen the value of this shared way of life. With this in mind,  I set out to create a teacher development workshop for a small group of practising teachers.   

The workshops would last for a week, bring together 6 teachers to explore, share and learn. I created a rudimentary timetable which I hoped would give us a basis from which to begin our short, learning journey but which would be broad enough to allow us to travel in any direction we desired during the week.   

I also wanted to have a focus away from, yet related to English language teaching which could help to develop our own personal language and  have local flavour. I chose the Bronte novels. I grew up very near Bronte country and had always enjoyed both the place and the novels. They are universally known, great stories to read and discuss and we could also look at the place of literature in the English language classroom. We would read/re-read our favourites before the workshop, discuss them, visit Howarth, take the walk in the surrounding moors and then watch the films in the evenings.   

The land of the Brontes

Everything was in place and now the only thing was to see who (if anybody) might be interested in such an experience! I have to admit to a lack of research on the matter and I went ahead feeling that as this was something I would love to do then there may be others who would too!   

Fortunately I was right and in June I had my group. Three were teachers from my twitter PLN (Eva, Culya and Alex) and two I knew personally (Blanca and Merces). I was thrilled and very excited about bringing all of these teachers together. In the end Merces wasn’t able to join us but the others were intrepid even though the trip to Yorkshire required a train journey from London!   


 On Sunday evening August 1st we were finally together!   

Hard at work!

For the rest of the week we shared experiences, ideas, knowledge, camaraderie and food.   

We looked at grammar and skills and explored ways of moving all of these online using an amazing array of tools shown to us by Alex and Eva. We explored humour, some weird and wonderful vocabulary, quirky ideas for class activities and of course those brooding Bronte novels.   

On the first night I realised that my DVD purchase of  Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tennant of Wildfell Hall was not, as I had though three films but the BBC series comprising over 10 hours of footage!! Undaunted we decided to give it a whirl and set out to watch all of the episodes through the week. It was a bit of a race to the end but we managed it staying up until midnight each evening ploughing through each story.   

The advantage of the BBC series was that we were presented with more of the story and particularly with Wuthering Heights, which we all hated, we saw more of the dark truth behind the novels than we would have done with a shorter film version. It turned out to be a very intense and emotional engagement with the stories.   


At Home with the Brontes

The Bronte walk (which was longer than anticipated) gave us a good feel for the place and we were delighted by their house yet saddened by their plight.   

Bronte Bridge and Waterfall

There were unexpected bonuses too! We had Spanish peppers and Turkish shepherd’s salad for lunch. Turkish coffee and Turkish delight during our shared edchat session, a delightful Madeira wine for aperitif and of course, afternoon tea! We were even invited to a local organic farm for a tour and to sample Yorkshire specialities.   

Alex the Horse Whisperer

Alex fell in love with our sheepdog Maguire and took him off for walks (although at times it was not certain who was taking whom!) Our other little dog, Duffy, who is less of a handful, trotted along with the others as they explored the local countryside.   


It was a unique experience and I hope everyone agrees. To hear an account straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, see Eva’s beautiful piece ‘Far Far Away From The Madding Crowd‘ and  Teacher Workshops. Alex’s fantastic account Amazing Stories of Sharing  and Culya’s lovely summary of the experience The Adventure of my Life. Eva made a Glogster too!

A Visit to a pub - naturally!

For me it was a rich and rewarding experience and it proved a point:  

 if you take a group of dedicated and committed  teachers and place them around a table real or virtual, they will grow and learn together.

 English language students can come and stay with me for immersion courses all year round – one to one or in groups of up to 4 people (come with colleagues or friends).  Our next Teacher Workshop  is scheduled for January.

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