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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

English for Academic Purposes, but with a Purpose

Speaking in Social Contexts: Issues for Pre-Sessional EAP Students

In response to this article, possibly linking the course organization, the pre-sessional EAP course, and the criteria used to select the EAP learners would help the adaptation process.

Course organization: The EAP course that offered a social service project would not only provide EAP learners the contact with locals they seek, but also would serve as a way to better the local community in some way.

Pre-sessional EAP course: Mainly strategically based, a pre-sessional EAP course prepares the learner for knowledge, skills and strategies (i.e., more about survival than linguistic skills alone), and dispositions in terms of the actual project to be carried out in the EAP course.

Selection process: The criteria used to select EAP learners would include language and cultural components.  The selection process might include measuring a learner’s language proficiency, (local) cultural understanding, and more specific understandings that relate to the project that is to be covered in the EAP course.

Course organization, the pre-sessional EAP course, and the selection process might benefit from having an online space (i.e., an online social network linking related information required for the project) that is open and ongoing (lasting at least one year), providing the support and feedback all stakeholders would need in order to create an educative experience for the learner as well as a successful social service project that serves a need.

Any other thoughts?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Edupunk, Free, and Openness

I attended a session this morning on free and freedom moderated by My ESL Friend's George Machlan.  George has spent countless hours online helping a number of English language learners better their proficiency, and for that, I applaud him!  However, we do tend to disagree from time to time and after this morning's session, I feel compelled to share a different perspective.  Let's begin with his.

George begins his discussion on free and freedom (at 31:26) where he states the following:

Is freedom free?

Internet expectations - free...value...advertising...sustainable

Motivation - students...[entrepreneurs]...teachers

freedom - where, when, how, who

healthy community

What does freedom do?

  • cheapens product


  • dependency


  • devalues teacher


  • creates/maintains power structure


  • sets up a false paradigm


  • slows creativity


  • ensures mediocrity - the best move on


  • Is anything free?  At what cost?


Today's session is part of an ongoing series dedicated to what he frames as an "Edupunk movement", and his purpose is to support the notion of You get what you pay for. If you do not pay for it, then it must be of lesser value.  If anyone offers free classes to English language learners, for example, the classes will be less creative, mediocre, and learners will be less participative than if learners paid for classes.  Also, the perception will be that if teachers are offering free classes that they will be viewed as being devalued yet still maintain a power structure that puts students at a disadvantage.  This is my understanding of George's perspective and from where I plan to base my argument.

For the purpose of my argument, I will define the term free as 1) gratis and 2) open.   Regarding the latter, I think George and I agree on the value of using open educational resources that allow users to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute content as long as attribution is given.  But regarding the former, it's difficult to be open when one has to pay for that openness.  Edupunk (i.e., a do-it-yourself education) is based on the premise that learners take responsibility for their own learning and look for ways to incorporate both formal and informal learning opportunities to best suit personal needs, wants, and learning preferences.  I have never associated the Edupunk "movement" with the notion that one must pay money to have a quality learning experience with an instructor who is seen as more valuable simply because a fee exchange has taken place.

I equate the idea of since it's free, it must be of lesser value similarly to those who feel that Wikieducator must be useless because 1) it's free and 2) anyone can edit the content.  Let's consider the following questions:

  1. Is anyone really benefiting from Wikieducator? I would argue, yes!  I would dare say that if it weren't for Wikieducator, we would still be paying tons of money for printed encyclopedias that would be outdated the day of being published.  Consider the people around the world who have access and who benefit from this free (gratis and open) information.  Having access to open information that promotes learning has to make them less dependent and more powerful at the end of the day.

  2. All things being equal, let's assume that Wikieducator suddenly started charging users to access information.  Would this automatically make the content more valuable? I don't think so.  This would mean less people contributing and less people viewing the content, both of which would actually devalue the content in my view.

  3. But if anyone can edit Wikipedia, doesn't this mean that some content could be inaccurate? Well, yes it does.  But this also means that 1) people need to be more critical of what they read (regardless if it's an online source, book, article, etc.) and 2) if the content is of poor quality, anyone can theoretically make it better.  There are other aspects of openness other than reuse that promote cooperation and collaboration of content, namely revision, remix, and redistribution.  Learning to be critical of all content (even peer-reviewed) and playing an active role in content development are two skills that will serve the learner well in the future.


The misconception is that because one pays for something, it must be valuable.  You don't always get what you pay for.  And if a learner has to pay for a class, there is much more power among those who have money than with those who do not - 80%-20% power law.  Additionally, promoting creativity and dependency of the learner towards someone else relate more to how participants (i.e., teacher, educator, coach, instructor, etc. and learners) interact with each other and the content, less about how much one pays for a course.

What does freedom do?

Freedom affords individuals to a do-it-yourself (DIY) education that requires a level of creativity, criticality, and caring when placing value judgments on one's education.  These value judgments are independent of whether a monetary transaction happens to take place or not.

Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires - Bertrand Russell

Many learners are still faced with two obstacles that reduce their freedom to learn: 1) money and 2) being confined to one teacher or class (e.g., being obligated to finish a paid course delivered in isolation).

How can we eliminate obstacles that interfere with the freedom to learn?

Edupunk, Free, and Openness

I attended a session this morning on free and freedom moderated by My ESL Friend's George Machlan.  George has spent countless hours online helping a number of English language learners better their proficiency, and for that, I applaud him!  However, we do tend to disagree from time to time and after this morning's session, I feel compelled to share a different perspective.  Let's begin with his.

George begins his discussion on free and freedom (at 31:26) where he states the following:

Is freedom free?

Internet expectations - free...value...advertising...sustainable

Motivation - students...[entrepreneurs]...teachers

freedom - where, when, how, who

healthy community

What does freedom do?

  • cheapens product


  • dependency


  • devalues teacher


  • creates/maintains power structure


  • sets up a false paradigm


  • slows creativity


  • ensures mediocrity - the best move on


  • Is anything free?  At what cost?


Today's session is part of an ongoing series dedicated to what he frames as an "Edupunk movement", and his purpose is to support the notion of You get what you pay for. If you do not pay for it, then it must be of lesser value.  If anyone offers free classes to English language learners, for example, the classes will be less creative, mediocre, and learners will be less participative than if learners paid for classes.  Also, the perception will be that if teachers are offering free classes that they will be viewed as being devalued yet still maintain a power structure that puts students at a disadvantage.  This is my understanding of George's perspective and from where I plan to base my argument.

For the purpose of my argument, I will define the term free as 1) gratis and 2) open.   Regarding the latter, I think George and I agree on the value of using open educational resources that allow users to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute content as long as attribution is given.  But regarding the former, it's difficult to be open when one has to pay for that openness.  Edupunk (i.e., a do-it-yourself education) is based on the premise that learners take responsibility for their own learning and look for ways to incorporate both formal and informal learning opportunities to best suit personal needs, wants, and learning preferences.  I have never associated the Edupunk "movement" with the notion that one must pay money to have a quality learning experience with an instructor who is seen as more valuable simply because a fee exchange has taken place.

I equate the idea of since it's free, it must be of lesser value similarly to those who feel that Wikieducator must be useless because 1) it's free and 2) anyone can edit the content.  Let's consider the following questions:

  1. Is anyone really benefiting from Wikieducator? I would argue, yes!  I would dare say that if it weren't for Wikieducator, we would still be paying tons of money for printed encyclopedias that would be outdated the day of being published.  Consider the people around the world who have access and who benefit from this free (gratis and open) information.  Having access to open information that promotes learning has to make them less dependent and more powerful at the end of the day.

  2. All things being equal, let's assume that Wikieducator suddenly started charging users to access information.  Would this automatically make the content more valuable? I don't think so.  This would mean less people contributing and less people viewing the content, both of which would actually devalue the content in my view.

  3. But if anyone can edit Wikipedia, doesn't this mean that some content could be inaccurate? Well, yes it does.  But this also means that 1) people need to be more critical of what they read (regardless if it's an online source, book, article, etc.) and 2) if the content is of poor quality, anyone can theoretically make it better.  There are other aspects of openness other than reuse that promote cooperation and collaboration of content, namely revision, remix, and redistribution.  Learning to be critical of all content (even peer-reviewed) and playing an active role in content development are two skills that will serve the learner well in the future.


The misconception is that because one pays for something, it must be valuable.  You don't always get what you pay for.  And if a learner has to pay for a class, there is much more power among those who have money than with those who do not - 80%-20% power law.  Additionally, promoting creativity and dependency of the learner towards someone else relate more to how participants (i.e., teacher, educator, coach, instructor, etc. and learners) interact with each other and the content, less about how much one pays for a course.

What does freedom do?

Freedom affords individuals to a do-it-yourself (DIY) education that requires a level of creativity, criticality, and caring when placing value judgments on one's education.  These value judgments are independent of whether a monetary transaction happens to take place or not.

Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires - Bertrand Russell

Many learners are still faced with two obstacles that reduce their freedom to learn: 1) money and 2) being confined to one teacher or class (e.g., being obligated to finish a paid course delivered in isolation).

How can we eliminate obstacles that interfere with the freedom to learn?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finding a space to create, critique, and care

I've been spending a lot of time recently reevaluating my virtual space, online identity, and general approach as to how I can open up my own teaching and learning.  For example, I've decided to connect a lot of what I've done in the past and what I plan to do in the future to a Udemy course dedicated to anyone interested in teaching English to students of other languages (TESOL).

What drew me to Udemy is its ease of getting a course up and running and its networking concept.  Other sites tend to focus more on the content or the live sessions as separate components whereas Udemy focuses more on the instructor (i.e., teacher, educator, trainer, coach, etc.) and the course itself.  Instructors can bring in live sessions and content directly to the course, rearranging the content if the learning progression is of importance.  And through livestream, Udemy live sessions can be recorded and uploaded so that the recordings themselves become additional content as well.  Essentially, any document, audio, or video file can be uploaded to Udemy including content that is embedded from virtually any other site.  This is what sets Udemy apart from the others: content can be either brought into a course directly or it can just as easily be linked to other sites such as YouTube, BlipTV, among others.

Along with Udemy, I am also investing more time into a complementary wiki.  The wiki provides the means for greater interaction between educators interested in TESOL since all content (shared in both the wiki as well as the Udemy course) can be reused, revised, remixed, and/or redistributed as long as attribution is given and its use is noncommercial (i.e., Creative Commons, attribution-noncommercial-sharealike 3.0 unported license).  The goal in connecting technologies in this way is to grow connections between educators interested in TESOL in ways that foster creativity, criticality, and caring.

If you are interested in the ongoing live events that are a part of this open and ongoing course, check the schedule and add your comments and suggestions as to how you'd like to participate and what should be included.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Connecting ELLs to the community































This past October, we had our 3rd Annual English Festival at the UAA. Our undergraduate English language learners had the opportunity to present a leader of the past by creating an altar that depicted the individual. Neighboring schools brought their English language learners and their English language teachers (who acted as judges) who interacted with our students, giving our learners a purpose for learning a foreign language. We also had our university students visit other altars and learn about the various leaders from around the world which allowed them to not only increase their language capacity but also their knowledge of what makes a good leader. Our students were also proud to demonstrate all their hard work for other teachers and administrators from the UAA as well.

In addition to the English festival, we also just created a facebook page where English language learners and educators can interact. We want our language learners to learn how to connect with others in ways that help them achieve their language goals...a strategy that will serve them well both in their current classes as well as in the future.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jim Scrivener on Traditional PPP in the EFL Classroom

My response to this post...







I think the problem I have most with this technique is the lack of contextualization, and the tendency to fall into a teaching rut.  I don't discredit it completely, but do think that the inclusion of technology, for example, affords teachers and English language learners more opportunities to learn the target language in more authentic situations (at all levels).  The more authentic the situation, the more motivated the learner.  It's all about mixing it up.