Personal Learning Networks – the what, why and how from darren elliott on Vimeo.

A presentation at the 4th International Wireless Ready Symposium, Nagoya, February 19th 2010.

A good starting point for twitter. I’ve made a list of ELT professionals and educational technologists worth following… there are many more out there too, but these might get you started. Don’t forget to include a decent bio in your profile so that potential followers know you are a real person, not just a robot, a pornographer or a marketeer.

The reading and research for this presentation can be found on my diigo social bookmarking page – the PLN list and tags should yield most. I particularly recommend the works of Warlick, Downes and Seimens (all of whom are on the twitter list, too)

There are some great listservs in yahoo groups. I’ll start you off with the webheads group, and follow with ELT dogme. Both very different, but very lively. A tip – set to receive a daily digest.

If you are looking for blogs, onestopblogs has a good selection. Choose the ones you like, put them in your google reader… tweeters on twitter may have blogs of their own, check the profiles.

If you want something more involved, join a ning! Bloggers in ELT is a favourite of mine, Classroom 2.0 is very active.

But your Personal Learning Network should be just that  –  PERSONAL. Take your time building relationships with real people, don’t be afraid to turn off or cut out when things become distracting rather than helpful, and have fun!

“Oh, it must be wonderful to be educated. What does it feel like?”

“It’s like having an operation,”  said Treece. “You don’t know you’ve had it until long after it’s over”

(Eating People is Wrong – Malcom Bradbury)

Isn’t that true? Aren’t the best learning experiences the ones which you have time to absorb, reflect upon, digest? Perhaps the ones which click into place a year later, ten years later? What worries me is that we no longer have time to reflect. If an afternoon with a good book is a long look in a full-length mirror, is the internet a glimpse caught in a shop window on a pell-mell dash through a shopping mall? Maybe I strangled that metaphor…..

But it seems to be something of a ‘meme’ in the twitterverse / blogosphere at the moment. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, but noticed others pop up with the same message over the last week or two. Maybe a lot of people are reaching the same point at the same time. There’s a very nice little graphic (and post) from Jeff Utecht which shows the stages of Personal Learning Network adoption.

Cresting that wave now, I think.

Alex Case asked me a couple of questions in his recent interview which I think are pertinent. The first was (a tongue in cheek) query as to whether I wanted to become the next Scott Thornbury. Well, the reason someone like Scott Thornbury becomes an ELT superstar (stop sniggering at the back) is through quality work over many years. His online presence is another outlet for that. Alex then asked “Do you think it is still worth getting published on paper?” The phrasing itself gives away his feeling, perhaps. But I absolutely think it is… and I worry that the amount of time I spend online is detracting from “real” research, “real” reading and “real” writing.

Bear in mind that I am blogging this, and I will tweet my new blog post, and I understand the irony in that. I have commented on several other blogs today, and got a great deal out of reading them. But I’ll just finish with this second quote from a book I am reading and enjoying at the moment…

“Well, that’s the lot of people like us. We abstract ourselves from the sphere of national effectiveness. We’re too busy taking notes to do anything… and the fault lies precisely in the things we value most”

So, are we all wasting our time? Deposit kickings in the comments box below and regular, classroom based discussion will resume soon.

A presentation at the Japan Association of Language Teachers conference in Shizuoka,  21/11/2009.

Choosing the technology that works for you! from darren elliott on Vimeo.

You can download a copy of the handout here. I’d love to hear your feedback on the presentation itself or, better, any of the technology you are using. How do you check out whether it’s right for you or not? Any questions I missed? Have I neglected issues important in your context?

Barbara Hoskins-Sakamoto Interview from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Barbara is an EFL materials writer, teacher and teacher trainer working mainly with children in Japan. This interview was conducted for the lives of teachers website at

If you have ever taught children, you may well have come across the ‘Let’s Go!‘ series, now on the third edition and a multimedia behemoth! I met with Barbara, one of the authors, today at the ETJ Chubu Expo, and she was kind enough to give this interview. As you can see, she is delightful company and I wish I’d left the camera running because we talked for as long again after I turned it off. She has a lot to say about teaching children and professional development in particular, but we also touched on a few other topics. If you haven’t already, you should check out Barbara’s blog and have a look for her on twitter. Thanks Barbara, I hope to see you again soon!

I’m not sure where I sit in the whole digital native / digital immigrant scheme of things.  I am old enough to remember my parents having a serious discussion about betamax and VHS video. And when the VHS arrived (my father would point to his prescience) it was linked to a ‘remote’ control by an eight foot lead.  I also grew up with a 48k ZX spectrum, later upgraded to the 128k with built in cassette deck (!), and spent many happy hours listening to the high-pitched screech and whine of ‘Jet Set Willy’ loading up.

Does this make me a digital native, or an immigrant? Am I of a strange generation which could go either way? What worries me is not that future generations will be different (it was ever thus), but that I myself am changing. I’m sure I used to be able to concentrate for longer, I used to get more done….

I’ve spent the afternoon re-joining twitter and beggering about with it to get it synched up to various other blogs, feeds and whatever else. Why? I’m not exactly sure. I have a feeling I’m missing out on something but the constant drip-drip-drip of information might not be what I need. So I thought I might jot down a few ideas about unplugging…

Turn off your wireless connection.
I used to type my essays with an electric typewriter. If I hadn’t been such a lousy typist and hadn’t spent so long waiting for tippex to dry, I would have stuck with it. The temptation to play urban dead when I turn on my computer is almost overwhelming. But whelm it I must….

Listen to records.
I didn’t even have to dust off the record player – it’s never been out of service. CD’s started the problem of the twitchy finger, mp3’s made it worse… now I struggle to listen to a whole song. But put on an LP and sit in a comfy chair and listen to the entire album, getting up once to turn it over and you will have time to absorb some of the things you’ve been cramming into your head.

Read books.
The ones made of paper.

Leave your phone behind.
Sometimes it happens by accident, and for the first half an hour it’s terrifying. But then, nothing much. I even know people without a phone, but that’s taking it a bit far.

Get a clockwork alarm clock with brass clappers.
Because using your phone as an alarm clock leads to all kinds of midnight mischief. You wake up in the night and take a quick peek to see what time it is and before you know it you are checking the football results.

Drink more tea.
I know it’s full of caffeine, but it still seems more civilised than coffee. Especially if you sit down and drink it whilst looking out of the window, reading the paper or doing a crossword.

There is more to know now than at any point in history. Tomorrow, there will be even more. Don’t even think about next week. Do we really need to know all of it? I’m sure I’ll be playing with my phone on the train to work tomorrow, checking tweets. I might even learn something useful. But I’m not putting away my record player just yet.