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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Reflecting on my practice

So here I am again, my head stuck in the waters of my practice whilst at the same time having an out of body experience trying to better understand what I do and why. I found this week's webinar really helpful even though it overlapped with another important one for me (on eportfolio practice). This meant participating live for the first 30 mins then reviewing the rest of the session from the archive. A little disjointed but it is great to be able to return to the recording.

#ocTEL is just one of several online communities (or are they really collectives as defined by Thomas and Seely Brown in A new culture of learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, 2011) and I discover and experience a great richness of discussion and debate around education and learning in online communities through these. So compelling sometimes that it is really difficult to stop and look around above the water level! This week I have been struck by the similarities in the 4 way diagram shared by Sally Chapelle (and others) as they reflect upon their teaching and course design and the one provided by Ernesto Macaro in 2003 representing the polarisation of theories of language acquisition, crucial to my M.A. a few year's ago:

The horizontal axis represents the polarisation between theories of language input. Implicit input arises from natural exposure and sub-conscious processing, explicit from teaching and conscious processing. The vertical axis represents the concept of how language input is processed. Nativist implies that language learning is an innate skill, interactionist that language is a specialised form of knowledge that is acquired through interaction with the environment. This goes to the very heart of what it means to be a language teacher. Thinking through all these quandrants and realising that learning can and does happen best when we have the opportunity to activate all the areas - the informal learning that happens through social interaction as well as the formal directed space, the autonomous self directed activities we do alone or with others - only then do we optimise our learning potential. This has huge implications for the role of the tutor and in my own practice I have been working to support language tutors in considering their place in the learning of their students, facilitating the adoption of technologies for interaction to help redress the balance in favour of the social and the interactionist, the self directed and the personal . 
In #ocTEL it was good to come across other language teachers with similar concerns such as @dustinaced in the language teachers group  and we have produced a couple of shared docs together, a work one shared in my last post and this #eurovision themed one for fun-It remains open, hispanists welcome :)
My reflections lead me to remind myself of the importance of play in learning. We're born to learn, we can potentially learn desirable and undesirable things from the world around us. One of my other communities (or collectives) twitter, reminded me of this today and I shared the source (RSA):

We are all actors in our learning and the learning of others. Taking everything else away (yes, including the technology) what matters are the relationships we build together and the nature of the interactions we have. This I believe needs to be central in our learning design, we need to connect and collaborate with our students and each other with open minds if we are to grow together if we are to be ready for the challenges of the future. The models have lines and limitations, human interactions can transcend these and create truly inspirational learning. 

BTW, had such a good time on twitter with my PLN during #Eurovision last night !


Macaro, E., (2003). Teaching and Learning a Second Language. London: Continuum.

Thomas, D. and Seely Brown, J., (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. (Downloaded to my kindle http://www.amazon.com/New-Culture-Learning-Cultivating-Imagination/dp/1456458884/)



  1. '...I have been working to support language tutors in considering their place in the learning of their students...'

    I am intrigued to know how that is going. Also, are you (or someone) asking students to consider the place of tutors/themselves in their learning?

    1. well, it has been in interesting. The most success has been achieved through our e-portfolio project where we have worked as a team to arrive at a shared understanding of what we value on the language learning process and how we can accredit that. If you're interested you can see more here:
      I also presented some feedback to Eurocall last year:
      which gives a flavour of where we are in our CoP building. I have found that shared activities (across language groups as well as within them) helps us to uncover our often unspoken assumptions about learning and teaching and those discussions can be useful. Here's a little set of slides too I prepsented to prompt reflection on our role when using tech in the learning process: