lunes, 28 de mayo de 2012

First time in Turkey

English teaching conventions are always fun.  The people who teach English are people persons, and are easy to get along with.  However, imagine a trip that combines the areas that most interest you: in my case, technology, material light learning, and teacher development, with  not only many of  the best minds around, but many of the nicest neurons on the planet.

Burcu Akyol and her posse organized everything beautifully.  Talking to the volunteers, they enjoyed the whole process... a great compliment indeed.  The framework was strong enough that everything went forward yet open enough to enjoy and have space to visit.  

The other protagonists were the Turkish teachers.  Like at the other conferences... they emanate vitality and some of it sticks onto whoever passes by.  Lovely magical beings that seem more from a fairy tale than a classroom.  (By this, I mean one of the highest compliments I can give.  I believe hopelessly in Fairy Tales.  I suspect that the most exciting things that happened to me were the result of  following the faint drift of music over the hills and far away... )

Onto practicalities, which are not incompatible with fairytales, the open discussion hours allowed me to spend some small time group work time learning with, and from, the turkish teachers and teachers in training... I hope they continue in the direction they are going, as they came up with very sensible and student centered ideas.  People I have no choice but to admire and respect, and who make me feel as comfortable as an overused sweater.

I love how it ended, with the faint drift of music turning into an impromptu sing-a-long .

Luke and Marissa at the piano, Ken and Maureen leading the choir, and Anthony playing the drums with his fingers, and the rest of us singing, yes, even Graham, and discussing complexity theory with Willy, while Burcu offered us turkish coffee..  (Scott had long since turned into a bottle of wine by that time, but this was no lugubrious* transubstantiation as he had turned into a fine bottle of Rioja. )

Absolutely magical.

Time to carry a faint drift of music back home, over the hills and far away.

* if I use it three more times it will be in my active vocabulary. Beware.

domingo, 5 de febrero de 2012

Clil tecnologia: hojas de calculo

Ok... One of the things I have been experimenting with has been to do CLIL for ESO students near Madrid, Spain, two days a week.
(CLIL- Content Language Integrating Learning.)

As someone very sympathetic to the dogme principles of getting content from students, not filling their empty little heads with my unending rays of wisdom, it is often very anti-intuitive for me. It has been really hard, after the very fun and useful experiments with teaching through improv theatre last year. Also, full disclosure: I have more training in theatre than spreadsheets.

The content is important to get across, so it is like driving the car with the parking brake on. The rule of "what is taught is not necessarily what is learned" is especially true here. Students have their own level of English, and understanding of technology. I tried to adapt by giving them video tutorials that they could follow along with at their own speed.

It also creates the "Anti-Pareto principle" with 80% of my work going for 20% of my income. There aren't any materials available for my particular levels and guidelines from the school, (Spanish curriculum, using LibreOffice software) so I have to/get to make it. The cheating that goes hand in hand with an economy of marks and the digital tools that make copying effortless means that I spend a good chunk of time "watching the prisoners." (a task facilitated by open source software monitor Italc 2.)

Doing something that is totally anti-me, I had to set up a zero tolerance cheating rule and enforce it ruthlessly (going to the draconian extreme of a public execution, I mean, demo of open source forensic software "autopsy" on a copy of an anonomous (ok, made up) student file).

What does all this mean? It means I spent a lot of time like the monkey in toy story 3. That, of course, is not good for the affective side of things. 

On the other hand:

I had an opportunity to really empower kids with tech.

I made an exercise allowing them to model a Spanish mortgage, allowing them to see how the bank works while "buying" their dream home, and what they really sign when they sign a mortgage.

If more people were aware of what they were really signing, I think the Spanish economy would be much better off right now. (if it is useful to anyone else, you can download it here, and here is part b showing how to use the solver function.)

I got the school to get them google app accounts, and we can now use collaborative software that is being taken up by companies like the BBVA bank, as well as learn skills that will serve them in the rapidly changing world, and try to give them tasks that will make them question things and look at data carefully like here (downloadable), checking if hollywood salaries for actors are sexist. (short answer: yes, they are.)

I don't know if they appreciate my work.  One student looked at the "hipoteca" (mortgage) example and said, "When are we ever going to need to know anything about that! We should do something useful."