Featured post

Finding your tribe

One of the most enjoyable and inspiring books I have read this year has been Sir Ken Robinson's "Out of our Minds"  and my ref...

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

More stories of connection

And so to phase 2 of my Clavier story for Simon +Simon Ensor 

When you look at the literature around the use of technology in education you will soon come across references to disruption. Having been an early adopter of technology in language teaching I have experienced this and my Master's research (on the user perceptions of voice over the internet) also identified that embedding technology in learning design does require a return to first principles if it is to be embedded successfully. As such it is a useful mechanism if you need to focus teacher attention on why we do what we do. This perspective from IMS Global on disruption clearly assumes that there is something inherent in the existing status quo in education which needs a shake up and gives an industry insight into learning technology in the business of education. Many of us working "at the chalk face" felt that disruption was "a good thing" I'm sure. After 30 years in education the never ending re-invention of wheels and flow of buzz words takes its toll. However, taking a more critical stance we need to challenge that underlying assumption - what do we value about education that needs to remain in place?

The next phase of my Clavier journey saw new connections, collaborations and co-creations. (This story is not chronological you may have noticed, it is thematic). The serendipity of networked practice together with a heightened attention to the importance of protecting the place of human interaction in education resulted in many conference presentations and publications . The Clavier experience had ignited a spark which fed an intellectual curiosity. Central to this was a realisation of my own agency in progressing educational opportunity for all. I decided to be an open educational practitioner and again my network - an international collection of educators in many different contexts - were reliable in getting involved. This internal event about teaching excellence at Warwick saw staff exploring physical and virtual spaces, connecting virtually with Marcin Klébin @makle1 in Poland; the doors to the EuroCALL conference were opened this year thanks to collaboration with Maha Bali +Maha Bali and Virtually Connecting, my students have created open educational resources and even contributed to online conferences, the WIHEA #knowhow project (see https://storify.com/WarwickLanguage/warwick-window-on-teaching) produced resources and connections to help others decide on a path to opening up their work. Having found my voice in the academic community and a means to engage in the meaningful deployment of my abilities across institutional and national boundaries thanks to the open internet, I have made yet another career "modification" - one where I can pass on a new perspective to students considering teaching languages.(https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/modernlanguages/applying/undergraduate/crossschool/ln306/) I do not wish to be a "teacher trainer" but rather a co-learner in order to support the sustainability of a profession which I have loved throughout my career. Clavier has been part of that unexpected sequence of events and the network which has stretched around the world has seen me working with colleagues in Egypt, Poland, Sweden, Australia, the USA, Spain, Finland, Canada and the UK! 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Stories of connection

The paths we take as we travel through life are sometimes the result of conscious decision making, sometimes the inevitable result of our behaviours, sometimes directed by others, often a complex weaving of all of these and more. Simon has asked me to reflect on my Clavier journey and as I have captured much of it through my writing, publications and discussions I have decided to weave it here in my first blog. 

CLAVIER is more difficult to define than the acronym may appear, as I recall Simon and I discussed the choice of letters as I traveled back from a trip to London for a UCML meeting. At that time I was working with this umbrella group for languages to support communications using social media and to raise awareness of the need for better government support for languages in the UK.  I have always been a passionate advocate of language learning, although my understanding was irrevocably changed when my first son was diagnosed with a language disorder back in the 1990's. 

The first connection with Simon came (as you can see in the artefact shared at the top of this post) in 2011. A supportive intervention in what was becoming a rather bad tempered exchange online. This serendipitous meeting on Steve Wheeler's blog back then was the spark that led to the creation of connected network at a point when I had recently developed an online space using moodle for supporting the teaching of languages at Warwick's Language Centre. The opportunity therefore to connect our student cohorts meant that we could set about creating a shared, large scale virtual exchange

The background to the years since then has been the "elevator music" of the skeptic. Public discourse full of condemnation of social media, a "bad thing" for promoting trolling, anti-social behaviour, even terrorism. I have to say that apart from the negative physical effects of all the time spent sitting working on a screen (which I should have counter balanced more actively through resistance and greater emphasis on physical wellbeing) the connected approach to learning and teaching has been overwhelmingly positive for me. In 2014 I reflected on the happenstance arising from digital connectivity.  

My background coming to this project was quite different from that of Simon. Language teaching has been my career since I left university, I completed my Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) back in the 1980s at Warwick and I had worked for 15 years in secondary education rising to a leadership role before joining the Language Centre as a part-time tutor when my children were still young. I had been an early adopter of learning technologies and when I returned to Warwick I was able to complete further learning including an e-learning award and a Masters in Post Compulsory Education which had provided lots of opportunities to reflect through blogging. I reconnected with the EuroCALL community finding Graham Davies online (sadly now passed away but not before he agreed to deliver some staff training through his Second Life presence, a real highlight for me) and this inspired me to research through my teaching and this community. The learning was further extended through becoming part of the Association for Learning Technology where I have increased my technical and theoretical perspectives in learning technology. 

So that's phase one of Clavier for me...the next post will cover the next phase. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

CMALT review: from now to 2020!

With thanks to @davidhopkins for prompting me to write this!

Last summer I was delighted to get confirmation that my CMALT status has been extended until 2020. With it came the suggestion that my submission could have included reflection on where my career will go next. Well, that really would have required greater powers of prediction than I have. We all know the question don't we: "Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?"

From when I first started out in teaching back in the 1980's I have always been very aware of the importance of setting career goals and I have had what some might call a successful career. I moved into teaching management early on, becoming a Head of French after just 2 years in the job. I have been very deliberate in managing a portfolio of my work in order to navigate my way through the many challenges of having a family, balancing their needs with my own. I took the risk of changing sectors - hence la modification , investing time and energy in professional development, learning and contributing to my communities, supporting and mentoring others. It has been this approach which more recently has shaped my goals, which have become less about my career and more about what I believe to be important: addressing social injustice and working for fairer access to education for all.

Perhaps this means as I have got older I am less interested in being driven and more interested in who is driving! That's not to say I have decelerated my career though. When I became a teacher I was very aware of the privilege of becoming a member of a professional community. I have been shocked by the drive to de-professionalise my profession, successive politicians have undermined the importance of real people working as communities of practitioners, focusing instead upon target setting and league tables. Forgetting the humans at the heart of human learning. As a result there is a huge recruitment crisis in education and a real risk that UK young people will not have access to the learning they deserve. Social inequality is greater in the UK than ever with 4 million young people growing up in poverty.

So my personal career progression seems rather unimportant by comparison. It would probably also rely on completing a PhD. This would mean diverting financial resources away from my family to achieve an ambition. That's a club too far. If I do get there it won't be through the UK system as the financial cost is too high.

I take greater pride in these developments:

  • being part of the EVOLVE project a 3 year project to scale up virtual exchange
  • continuing my commitments to the ALT and Eurocall communities on the Open Ed Sig and the CMC sig
  • the creation and delivery of a new module for the School of Modern Languages and Cultures: LN306 will focus on Developing Language Teaching to provide a new generation of creative language teachers who will pick up the challenges of the digital realm. 
In 2020 I will be 60 years old. I doubt that I will grow old gracefully, never been my style!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Living in the wild

Tomorrow is the final day of the #eurocall2017 conference. Time for a few reflections. The conference has had a packed schedule as usual and there are a few things I have noticed this time which indicate a greater level of technical engagement from participants. Clearly the focus of this conference is technology enhanced language learning but the shift is towards greater use of "wild" technologies. It may just be my impression but I think there has been a mood of determination that what we do is important. I think Graham Davies would have been proud. There was:

  • lots of interest in social media and web tools
  • a dynamic group of MALL (mobile assisted language learning) CMC (telecollaboration etc)  VW (virtual worlds) users and lots of PhD students too
  • a real interest in open practice as we are all keen to continue to connect and collaborate despite travel bans, brexit and other threats to mobility
  • great examples in the keynotes of how the web has transformed learning
I have two further sessions tomorrow. 

A session on CMC in the open

A Virtually Connecting session to reflect on the event before we all bring this year's event to a close. 
I have a feeling that the connections will continue through social media in the coming year too...watch this space!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Working in the open

A post shared by Becky Skrine (@beckyskrinee) on
Currently I'm at the #eurocall2017 conference and wanted to put together a couple of posts around my experiences there. Firstly, like the video image above I spent yesterday afternoon as a virtually connecting onsite buddie and it was very gratifying to be able to provide the means for those who couldn't attend the conference to speak first hand to our first keynote speaker Steve Thorne who was generous with his time and engaged passionately with the network, providing additional insights into his presentation. You can view this session here.

If you are not aware of the virtually connecting network take a look at their blog. Co-directors Maha Bali and Autumn Caines set up the organisation as a way to help those who don't enjoy the freedom to attend conferences for whatever reason, most of which will affect all of us at some point: family commitments, financial or visa restrictions for example to get a flavour of the conference proceedings and get up close and personal with keynote speakers. Everything is managed on a voluntary basis through Slack channels and the resultant recordings shared openly through YouTube.

We had a great session and there is another on saturday with Shannon Sauro and Kate Borthwick sharing their reflections on the conference so join us!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Do you grow out of playful learning?

A selection of my language games

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (The Bible,  1 Corinthians 13.1,2).

This post was inspired by a #creativeHE post by Will Haywood published on his blog yesterday. Will raised the point that perhaps once we move to teaching in a different context (e.g. from school to HE) games and play in learning get a little left behind. I have been teaching French in HE for 15 years, with students who are often highly motivated, some on accelerated courses where they have to make lots of progress in a very short time. I need them to listen and imitate sounds accurately, using their voices with a new rhythm and tuning their ear to a new musicality, they have to make new connections quickly in order to acquire lots of new vocabulary in order to react appropriately in a language and culture that is not their own. Not unlike the process we all went through as little children. I try to make it fun. I describe an early lesson activity here where we play with the sounds we make, a playful ethos is crucial to the success of this activity. 

The toybox shot above shows a range of the games I use in class. Word cards and dice allow us to practice tenses and rhyming sounds, board games and role play help us to exercise our memory and strengthen the links between individual lexical items and meaning. The inflatable globe has lots of uses and often flies around the room to reduce focus on how silly you may feel making strange utterances in front of your classmates. There are lots of commercially made games too but I have found that the best ones are the ones that meet a specific learning outcome. More important than the game itself though is the establishing of a playful, non threatening ethos to play together. I remember a particularly exciting CD-ROM game I used in schools which was called Granville. It was an early form of SIM (simulation) where students had to navigate a small town in France (virtually of course) with a small set of coins, type the correct language into the computer in order to get what they needed (buying food, tickets etc) and then get back to base before time ran out. This was back in the 1980s though so it was not terribly sophisticated by today's game standards. You could even pay to hire a bike but you had to return it (using the correct words) or face penalties. The sort of thing you could do in a virtual world these days as long as you don't mind learning to move "in world" first. You can easily spend 20 minutes below the sea or stuck in a tree somewhere!

There's always a tension when you are designing learning using playful techniques - or serious games - between the time invested and the learning achieved. As a practitioner you get to judge this with experience and feedback from your students. So, do we need games less as we get older? I don't think so, indeed I would argue that we need permission to connect with our inner child even more if we are to free up the headspace we need to learn effectively. The biblical quote above may be misleading. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (if my rusty memories of bible study are correct) because he wanted to remind them of their responsibilities towards each other. As teachers we have a responsibility to support effective learning, that may well include the wise choice of a suitable playful activity or two. Laughter has a place in a classroom as it does in life. When we are older we can also reflect and analyse how the experience can help us break out of our learning ruts. Asking learners to create a game can be a really useful way of challenging assumptions about learning too. Play can support teaching excellence even in Higher Education.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017


I have been invited to meet with trainee language teachers at the Centre for Professional Education here at Warwick this week and I will be taking the WIHEA #knowhow message with me. I will be telling my personal language teaching journey and will also attempt to demystify a bunch of acronyms. This is in order to make it easier to see the paths that exist to finding suitable networks to support their work in schools. My professional journey has involved twists and turns and sharing will I hope make it clear that the most interesting journeys can arise from indulging in a little "flâneurie".

The session will demonstrate heutagogical principles, providing a set of resources for exploration covering "old school" Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC), Online Intercultural Exchange (OIE), Mobile Assisted Language learning (MALL), Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL) and many more! Possibly the most important acronym we will meet however will be the PLN - Professional Learning Network.  Embarking on a career in teaching will leave very little time to draw breath. Connecting with others who can support and share the journey will ensure that each individual will not find themselves alone as they make their way through the challenges that lie ahead. A vital network for me when I started that journey as a Secondary School teacher to Head of Languages many years ago was the Association for Language Learning (ALL) which still is there today. Life is more complex 30 years on and the haystack we know as the internet not always the easiest place to navigate. Together we will explore the many possibilities for creation and curation. I hope I can provide a touchstone which will help to illuminate their future path.

Friday, 21 April 2017


Easter break ending, we must pick up the pace again on the #KNOWHOW project. Having carried out some action research (#LERMOOC) during the break I am determined to get the word out around campus of this opportunity for staff and students to understand and take advantage of the potential of open practice to enhance lives but also ever more aware of the need for strong support. 

First things first, the break has not been without progress on the project front. The #LERMOOC opportunity produced a cognitive review of the project plan which should give a real wake up call to project participants, highlighting as it does the size of the task ahead. Communication with my team is a priority and I will try to get a face to face opportunity for that next week, meanwhile an email and a shared page will start the term. 

We're going to take the metaphor of seeds (which complements the image above, I have been the mother hen incubating her project eggs so far). Once these eggs hatch they will need the product of our germinated seeds if they are to grow and thrive.  Time for the the eggs to hatch, the seeds to be sown and watered, and for each of us to get nurturing so that it is clear across campus and beyond that Warwick is open for learning!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sustaining teaching through little OER

Image: Open CC BY 2.0 on Flickr by Fatimah Fatih
Soon I will be presenting on the sustainability of teaching and recent months have seen lots of talk of austerity, business models for public good which have all been relevant to my thinking. I have been curating a pearltree to capture the many facets of the discussions and engaging with various individuals about open educational practice or practices. There is an issue of definition which makes it tricky for practitioners in education to see the point of working in the open. The concern is there though.
For too long, teachers have been disempowered by an education system that is controlled by politicians who know nothing of how to inspire and lead young people. The barriers to professionalism and the confidence to create have to be removed. This suggestion moved me to creation!

So how do I break free from teaching a coursebook which students cannot afford and reclaim my confidence in guiding students to the necessary competence in my subject? Well, here's my textbook creator guide (slightly tongue in cheek but you'll get the point when you take a look) 

Just do it - practice openly and others will help to improve and remix. Join your community and surface what matters through little OER.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Language learning is dead! Long live language learning...

Image: Babelfish CC BY Tico on Flickr

I had a call this afternoon from our press office asking me to record a response for Sky News to this item which appeared in the Mail about a headset which can translate your interactions automatically in real time.  Would this, she asked, be the end of the need to learn languages? After a quick chat with their contact all was put in place to go live on Sky tonight at 6.45pm. When I finished teaching at 5pm, I returned to my office to polish my responses and prepare myself. I have just taken a call telling me the item has now been pulled but here are my responses anyway!

Firstly it is true that we are benefiting from many rapid technological advances and the field of languages is indeed being transformed by communication technologies. We see that it is easier that ever before to connect people in real time through virtual exchange but it is a complex area. We need to apply some digital wisdom here. 

The inventor of this gadget comes from a country which admits readily it doesn't do enough language learning and the idea came when he met a French girl. Get it?  Of course he wanted their minds (and maybe their bodies?) to meet and urgently needed a shortcut to fluency. Relationships are mediated by language, but as we all well know relationships, like language, are complex. 

My first thoughts were of how, given much of our communication is through gesture and body language, the cognitive demands of listening to an earpiece whilst trying to maintain eye contact, not pull strange faces when the machine translates (actually that is incorrect - translation is the word used for written language) - interprets what she says, may disrupt the flow of relationship building that happens in face to face settings where judgements are made in split seconds. We may see a "sat nav" effect where people ignore their instincts when focusing on the instructions, ending up literally in no-mans land. 

Then we have the complexity of language itself. Accents, speed and clarity of voice input usually require device training and could completely fox the system. Good interpreters understand the speaker's context, can explain cultural references in jokes for example and make appropriate adjustment for idiomatic language use. I wonder what Andrew (the inventor) would make of his new friend telling him "it is raining ropes" (Il pleut des cordes - It's tipping it down!) Language is constantly changing and growing with human progress, check out what's new in the Cambridge dictionary blog. The French can now "liker" a Facebook friend!

So if you are thinking of getting yourself one of these devices, please proceed with caution. You may easily fall foul of any or all of these pitfalls.  Isn't it more fun anyway to embrace what our brains are hard wired to do: figure each other out over time, maybe over coffee and some linguistic exploration on your phones? Andrew, you could have much more fun if you got out more and enjoyed the company of those whose first language is not US English. The negotiation of meaning - be it through food, wine, film, dance or any of the many human ways we get to know each other brings greater rewards and opens our minds to many ways of looking at the world. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Investigating the student experience

I am about to start a second #WIHEA project with an even more ambitious remit that the previous one and I'm delighted to have many of the first team on board as they have already proven themselves to be great co-researchers. The focus of the earlier project was upon how language teaching and learning is changing in the digital age. We found essentially that there are far more opportunities to connect and interact than before and that, despite the learning curves involved in navigating digital spaces incorporating digital approaches (when done well) helps to extend learning and brings access to new literacies which had not always been fully explored in a learning context elsewhere. 

This project will be focussing more on the nature of such approaches and the issues that arise when we embrace open online resources and practices as part of the learning landscape. We are reaching out to a wider Warwick audience for this, involving our careers and skills professionals, Education and Linguistics as well as a fully open audience through a G+ community here. The project, #knowhow will offer opportunities to explore how we manage our professional digital identity, how to manage issues such as copyright and ownership online and of course how to understand the various micro-cultures that operate within the digital environment. The "students" in this case are all of us, whether we are staff or students as we are all learning together. 

I have enrolled on the #lermooc as a way of finding a community of practice to support this work as there is a tight budget and deadline ('twas ever thus) and I need to ensure that I find time and space to reflect on what we discover. I usually find my reflection is facilitated by the input of others. As an open practitioner myself I am keen to understand how working in the open may be perceived by others so I look forward to a challenging but ultimately informative experience. 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

#BYOD4L: Thoughts on creating

What a week! As my head cold finally withdraws I am returning to the last of 5 hectic but rewarding days working with the #BYOD4L team and turning my thoughts to our last topic, Creating. It was my first time moderating/facilitating on this digital ideas fest and the fact that it coincided with a heavy cold (not unusual given the time of year) just revealed how online practice can have a major advantage over the face to face - no one else was put at risk of contagion thanks to my sniffs and sneezes and I was able to participate fully despite everything, assisted by regular medicated hot lemon drinks and the encouragement of others!

I'm no artist (I may well have mentioned that before) but I do enjoy the visual, particularly when it communicates ideas which may be difficult to express. We are surrounded by visual communication, as indeed was predicted some years ago. I remember when the "new" GCSE for languages was introduced some 20 years ago we were told to expect greater use of signs and visual media. I was asked to provide practitioner feedback on a French course book in development at the time based around minitel which had taken off in France. A precursor to what was to become the game changer in communication technology, the internet. 

I knew that Friday night's chat would be a challenge for me, juggling practical tasks with tissues and feeling pretty tired after a busy week but it was great fun and has left me reviewing all I do through the lens of creativity. I couldn't manage to edit and share images in the time frame allowed (see the rather bland pic above for evidence!), it was all rather frantic but I was inspired by those who did - at least one of whom did so on a mobile phone whilst on the touchline of a child's football match! When I accepted my limitations I just settled in to enjoying the creativity of others including the #creativeHE gang who shared the chat too, whilst listening to a playlist shared by @BYOD4L. 

All this activity has left me pondering more deeply about creativity and I am taking those thoughts on to my other blog Espace Sisyphe. Thanks to Neil, Sheila, Deb, Chris, Alex, Rebecca, Ellie, Emma, Chrissi and Sue for the great company and inspiration, a fabulous CoP for digital skill enhancement.  

Thursday, 19 January 2017

#BYOD4L: Thoughts on collaboration

Student created logo for the Clavier Project
As a language teacher, connecting internationally has always been at the heart of my work. My degree required a year in France (my second year was spent teaching English - mostly pop songs and popular culture) in Châteauroux, France in 1980. When I took up teaching I got involved in regular exchanges with our partner schools and accompanied the various associated trips such as the history department's visit to world war battlefields. 

In my teaching role in Higher Education I wanted to continue to give students opportunities to work on their language with real French speakers. Fortunately we have a very cosmopolitan campus and there were lots of opportunities thanks to a great student network. However, increasingly I was finding that the internet offered me lots of ways of keeping in touch with friends and trends in France and french speaking cultures. The skills I needed were relevant and I thought this provided a good way to cross formal and informal boundaries to support deeper language and intercultural understanding. I got involved in developing a virtual exchange in 2010 having met a colleague teaching in Clermond Ferrand by chance on a blog by Steve Wheeler. Explaining virtual exchange is not easy as many in HE are quite reluctant to take computer-mediated communication seriously. 

Over recent years, through my role as a learning technologist I have been able to bring my expertise in telecollaboration and computer-mediated communication to bear in a wide range of projects and collaborations. Most recently this has involved collaborating with colleague from the Open University to publish on the use of open badges in Online Intercultural Exchange (OIE) and working with colleagues from Australia (Monash) on papers to do with produsage and sustainability of teaching. I really enjoyed these collaborations, but collaborating can be very challenging. The language research community has been instrumental in producing research into the experiences of computer-mediated communication which provides great insights into success factors in this area. I am delighted that it has also now established a cross-disciplinary academic organisation to support all HE colleagues who wish to collaborate internationally called Unicollaboration. Please share the news with your telecollaborative colleagues as this will be a great way of sharing best practice and extending internationalisation in HE. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

#BYOD4L: Thoughts on curation

Angus Glasshouse exhibition 2012

To curate 

When I checked the verb I was intrigued by the connections. Curare in Latin to to take care of, from cura (care) is clearly linked. We curate objects we care about, arranging them so that they are perhaps displayed effectively to please you or the others you share them with. Above is a display of my son's work put together (curated, even) by Glasshouse College and showing the skills he acquired during one year of his college life. The above is a digital curation of this curation, displayed by a proud mum on my flickr channel. 

Today I'm thinking about what I curate, why and where and by returning to the origin of the word I have realised some things I do which I had not really thought of as curation before. At one level I digitally curate resources for my research and my areas of interest. This started with bookmarking websites many years ago, but I realise that I rarely do that any longer. Bookmarks soon become unreliable and lost in their folders. Simply no longer practical. I moved on to Diigo where I can co-curate with others publicly and Delicious where again the social aspect helped me find new connections. A further change then arose as my online presence increased, I started using Pearltrees finding the easy interface practical as it is easy to share and to create teams but I am almost at the limit of my free account already. Scoop.it is another tool I rely on for connecting through curation. This shift from the personal to the public has been helpful in my work especially as it enables me to join like-minded collections from around the world. Currently I am putting together a curation linked to my paper for #OER17 because I know that those listening can browse and see a range of perspectives on my topic of the sustainability of teaching. We will thus be able to have a useful conversation and meanwhile I can keep evolving my ideas prior to the session. 

At another level, I realise that my most useful tool for curation is my google account. I've never thought of this as curation, it's more like the central pot from which I can draw material to curate and reflect on. So perhaps it is curation once removed. By default the contents are private, I make my conference notes, slides forms and docs there, my phone photos back up directly to it, instantly available to share and use whenever needed.  My blogs are also forms of curation for a specific purpose, bringing resources together and giving me space to think more deeply about them. The ALTC blog (which I work on as a co-editor) provides a way of curating the many voices of the community, helping to highlight themes which are timely and relevant. There is so much out there and not enough time to trawl through it all so finding trustworthy curators really helps. 

Curation is how I capture the things I care about and how I find others with similar interests and values. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

#BYOD4L: Thoughts on communicating

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is a field of study which emerged from CALL (computer assisted language learning) during the past decade. As you can see from the wikipedia entry this is an area of study that is really coming into its own now as more language learning takes place through interaction in a wide range of online settings. It is interdisciplinary by nature. 

I am also chair of the CMC SIG for EuroCALL and some years ago I took the photo above in Groningen as an illustration of how, as language teachers, we now have to change, becoming amphibious! The analogy is that as much communication takes place below the water line (online) it is not always clearly visible to others who are not involved in social media or other technology enabled channels. When such channels are populated by our learners we need to be prepared to dive in and explore the way communication works in such environments. We cannot just ignore all that is facilitated by new media and devices. 

If you explore the picture above in order of the letters A to D (they will appear as you hover the cursor over the picture) you will see where I would place my professional visibility to those unfamiliar with such environments. Take a look and see where you are most comfortable connecting and communicating. Do you know of others who need to be tempted into communicating with you through new channels? 

Monday, 16 January 2017

#BYOD4L: Thoughts on connecting.

Image: Flickr Pandora connection issue CC BY SA 2.0 by Abraham Williams 

A grey Monday morning has been enlivened today by my participation in the Bring your own device for learning #BYOD4L activities. Today we focus on connecting - spending time in various online spaces encouraging other teachers, researchers, students, learning technologists or other interested folk to connect to the #BYOD4L event: 5 days full of online activities exploring how we can make use of technology in our professional roles to increase our impact across our sector, discipline or even just within our institution!

Connecting has been a major focus of my professional life over the past few years. In particular, making computer-mediated connections to enhance my professional activities and researching how such connections can best work for my context. This work has completely transformed my life as an educator and I would like to share some of the things I have learnt. 

  • Birds of a feather flock together!
Human beings like to join others with similar interests. You can't insist that everyone connects through decreed spaces in order to talk about something - well, you can but ultimately you will fail. You get a kind of begrudging compliance unless there's a real shared purpose which everyone buys in to. It's not all about the tool or the schedule, although thinking about such things may help. You have to create an atmosphere and those you wish to connect with have to believe it is worth investing their time connecting. You may have to accept that only those like you will come along. Of course this leads to the accusation that some spaces are echo chambers and some are hijacked for less than illuminating purposes.
  • Keep an open door and an open mind
Connecting through open groups on social media platforms reduces the barriers to connection. Don't think everyone will flood in, most of us prefer to "lurk" watching what is happening and forming opinions about whether or not to join in. By providing a welcoming presence and dealing sensitively with all new arrivals, gradually you will see discussions taking shape. It is vital that responses are timely, immediacy is known to be key to engagement. Keep an open mind on migrating discussions to other digital spaces, do your research on your connections and find their networks if you want to engage more deeply. You may find that your connections lead to serendipitous encounters and developments. Mine certainly did. You may also experience the demands of such nodal activity
  • Go global!
What is to stop you! Once you have an online presence and connected devices there are no borders preventing you from following your disciplinary interests around the world. There are many networks which connect for fellowship, interaction and mutual support so follow your interests. If you are interesting in telecollaboration for teaching and learning in Higher Education check out this new academic organisation: Unicollaboration.  You can enhance your language skills in the process!

Clavier No Boundaries from Teresa MacKinnon on Vimeo.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Walking the walk!

We should never underestimate the power of imitation! Human beings don't always learn well from following instructions, from listening to advice or from doing as they are told - far from it! The most profound impact we make on each others' learning comes from what we do in front of them. I think that is what my Dad was trying to teach me when, in an attempt to get his rebellious daughter to stop smoking he (a 20 a day man) said:
"Do as I say, not as I do"

Of course, despite promises otherwise I did not give up. Years later though, divorced, newly single and on the lookout for the man of my dreams (now hubbie no.2, non-smoker) it was not difficult to stop smoking to join the pub trips which facilitated our getting together :)

In education, we call it "modelling". No, not the glossy magazine sort, with its unrealistic portrayal of life that crushes the soul. The simple human process of leading by example, sharing what we do (including the mistakes and how we improve) and encouraging others to try it too. We do it to inspire, hoping others see that we value our activity and it brings us joy. That's what I try to do in my language teaching. 

So, this week I'm joining the #BYOD4L team as a moderator and over 5 days we will indulge in a feast of lively activities on 5 C themes, linked here to some of my earlier musings on this and other virtual spaces:

Connecting - let's be open and accessible to all! 
Communicating - informed by my experience with computer-mediated communication
Curating written some time ago now so a good reminder of how it felt! 
Collaborating takes time and interpersonal skills!
Creating made this brief alternative CV as part of #digiwrimo 2 years ago. 

I hope that we will all walk the walk, listen to each other and be ACCCCCE!