An Interview with Zakia Sarwar from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February 2015 I attended the NELTA conference in Kathmandu, Nepal and was fortunate to meet Zakia Sarwar. NELTA is an important regional conference so as well as the ‘local’ attendees (many of whom had travelled great distances across Nepal) there were large contingents from India, Bangladesh and Dr. Sarwar’s country of Pakistan.

Dr. Sarwar is probably best know for her work with The Society of Pakistan English Teachers (SPELT), of which she is a founder member. They have a number of publications, and invite submissions. Please have a look!

At the NELTA conference Dr. Sarwar presented on her projects promoting learner autonomy and working with large classes, collaborating internationally, and these topics we discussed in our interview. Dr. Sarwar maintains a personal website which you can visit to read more about her research (and also to read some of her delightful juvenilia).

Please subscribe on iTunes for the irregular podcast, and visit us on Facebook or twitter for sporadic updates. I’m not the social media slave I once was, but I think these interviews are still finding an audience. I’m currently submitting proposals for 2016 conferences in Japan and internationally, and have an eye on a number of interview subjects. Thank you for your continued support!

An Interview with David Hayes from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February of this year I was fortunate enough to visit Kathmandu for the NELTA conference. As an outsider and an observer I felt the conference itself had a very interesting dynamic. It seemed to me that as the local organisers and the foreign developmental agencies seemed to respectfully dance around each other, trying to balance financial support, advice and autonomy. In that kind of situation it can be awkward for a foreign presenter to be parachuted in – feted as an ‘expert’ yet with little understanding of the local context. Overall, I think the outside agencies try their very hardest to offer support without overpowering the recipients of that support, but I don’t know …. I’d be interested to read your comments on the topic below, or even in a private message if it’s too delicate to discuss.

However, in David Hayes, I think the organisers identified someone who could offer insights to his audience. David has worked all over the world and been involved in teacher development projects in many different contexts. We talk about some of them here, as well as teacher training and development in general.

The next NELTA conference will take place in March 2016. Sadly, there are still many people who need support after the devastating earthquake of 2015. At the time of the earthquake there were a number of Nepali-led local groups who were very active. As the relief efforts have become less urgent some of these have wound down, but if you would like to support the reconstruction there is still a lot to be done. For long term benefits, Room to Read has a strong programme in Nepal. If you know of any other small but effective charities, please comment below.

An Interview with Robert O' Dowd from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I met with Robert O’ Dowd at the EUROCALL2015 Conference in Padova, Italy in August and had a really interesting conversation about telecollaboration. If you know anything at all about the topic you will have heard of Dr. O’ Dowd, as he is amongst the leading figures in the field. If you don’t know anything about it, then watch this short video and learn!

Dr. O’ Dowd has been involved in the INTENT project and the development of UNI-Collaboration amongst many other projects. Although I had heard of telecollaboration (and it’s variants) I was surprised at the number of projects in progress in Europe and beyond. For example, I learnt about TILA and SOLIYA as other examples of teachers and students striving to build linguistic and intercultural understanding.

If you like this interview, please visit the interview index to find many more. I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks. You can also subscribe to the audio podcast version via iTunes. The updates are sporadic, but the archive is building!

Presented at EUROCALL 2015, University of Padua, August 27th, 2015

The Background

When the university I was working at bought a set of small video cameras, I was intrigued. I started playing around with them in class, first I had the learners record and transcribe conversations, then I guided them to make skits and instructional videos. You can see some of the projects I have worked on previously here.

Over the last few years since I first began using student video, there have been two major developments. The first is the ubiquity of smartphone technology. We have now reached the point (in my context, at least) at which almost every student has a video recording and editing suite in his or her pocket. The next development, obviously connected to the first, is the rise of online video. YouTube, Vine, Facebook, Instagram, LINE; this is what our students are watching. Instead of television? Perhaps.

I had these ideas in mind when I was presented with the opportunity to teach an advanced and an intermediate communication class at a local university. I had carte blanche, and I decided to make this a video project class. I set up a website to deliver the content, and chose a number of different video genres (some traditional, some more modern) to analyse and replicate with the learners.

I decided from the start to allow the students a lot of freedom in how they produced the videos. I suggested different methods, but gave very little technical instruction unless asked. My goal was to allow them to use the tools with which they were most comfortable, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to support each other. I wanted very much to avoid ‘technological determinism’ – the tools were secondary to the learners and their products.

To begin, it was necessary to find out what they had, what they could already do, and what they thought.
Fortunately, every single student had a smartphone.

Eurocall Extract.001

Recording is always easy. The main challenges in student produced video are editing and sharing the completed file. Unfortunately, my favoured tools were unfamiliar.

Eurocall Extract 2.001

The students were mixed in their willingness to share online. Some were quite keen.

Eurocall Extract.001

Others were more conservative, and actually quite naive.

Eurocall Extract.002

Eurocall Extract.003

There were also some differences in their familiarity with editing software.

Eurocall Extract.004

But for pretty much everyone, the smartphone would be the tool of choice.

Eurocall Extract 2.001

The learners’ first task was to create a self-introduction video and deliver it to me. This example took me a few minutes, using the apps Splice and Vimo on an iPhone 6.

An Introduction to Darren Elliott from darren elliott on Vimeo.

The students fared quite well, and were able to teach each other the techniques they had used to broaden the knowledge base of the whole class.

At this point, we started the project work. Please visit the individual pages at the website to see how each project developed.

News Report

YouTube Movie Review

Directors Commentary

Subtitling

Vlogging

TED Talk

Soap Opera

For each of the projects, we analysed quintessential examples and tried to replicate them. For example, the YouTube movie review is delivered straight to camera with jump cuts and onscreen text and pictures. Soap operas tend to cut between the actors and dwell on reaction shots in close up. TED Talks begin with a personal story and lead in to the message.

What I found was that, although learners had technical trouble with hardware and software, they were generally very adept at replicating style accurately. For example, the background music may have been too loud, but the actual song fit perfectly with the style of video the learner was making.

To conclude the semester, the students interviewed one another (on video, of course) using this list of suggested questions.

broadcasting-final-questions

I’d like to highlight a few common responses.

Firstly, the students almost all referred to technical skills when asked what they had learnt. Editing skills, adding audio commentary and subtitling, these were the things they took home from the course. Some of them had used their new skills in other classes, others in their personal lives.

The most popular project across both classes was the subtitling project. This was quite challenging technically, but it allowed the students to express their creativity and also to talk about issues which affected them directly. This also came out in the TED talks and the news reports – students tended to choose local issues and topics important to them as university students.

Finally, there was a shift in attitudes towards their smartphones. Most of the learners had initially seen their phones as communication tools. Actually, I believe that if they had assessed their use more carefully they may have found they were using their devices to consume, create and share media too. However, the general perception of the smartphone was that its main function was text messaging. By the end of the course, many of the students reported a broader view of their phones and of their own relationship with their devices.

If you attended my presentation in Padova, thank you! If you didn’t, thank you for reading. Either way, I’d be happy to hear your questions or comments below.

Bibliography
Goodwyn, A. (2003). English teaching and the moving image. Routledge.

Marshall, J., & Werndly, A. (2002). The language of television. Routledge.

Potter, J. (2012). Digital media and learner identity: The new curatorship. Palgrave Macmillan.

An Interview with Laxman Gnawali from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February of this year I visited Kathmandu for the second time in my life, this time in a professional capacity, and had a great experience hosted by the good people of NELTA. Amongst them, Dr. Laxman Gnawali, who I present here. Dr. Gnawali has contributed a great deal to the success of NELTA over the last few years, helping it become a model for other national teaching associations. Nepal has its challenges, but I met many, many wonderful people who had gathered from across the country to share ideas and enthusiasm. My overwhelming impression from my visit was that of burgeoning self-confidence and pride in the achievements of the association and its members.

In this spirit, after the terrible earthquake of April 2015, I’d like to encourage you all to support NELTA and its affiliates in trying to help those who need it most. The Jai Nepal Youth Group is a group of Kathmandu University graduates and other professional volunteers who are working right now to get supplies out to neglected areas. One of the organisers, Umes Shrestha, was interviewed as IH scholar at the recent IATEFL conference in Manchester. NELTA itself is involved in relief work, and perhaps the best place to keep up to date with them is via Facebook. Other aid agencies are now on the ground and taking contributions.

There will be more to do after the dust has settled, so please continue to support Nepal and don’t let this story just fade away out of international sight.

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An Interview with Claire Kramsch from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I spent a very enjoyable half an hour talking with Claire Kramsch at the 2014 JALT National conference in Tsukuba, Japan, and here it is for your perusal. Professor Kramsch is the director of the Berkeley Language Center, a teacher of German, and a researcher with an extensive body of work related to culture and language, discourse and language pedagogy.

If you like this interview, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to hear more as soon as they are released, and tell your teaching friends!

An Interview with Thomas Farrell from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Reflective practice is a way for professionals (in education, social work, medicine and many other fields) to assess their work and manage their own development. Even if you don’t know it by name you may well have engaged in a form of reflective practice in formal or informal training programmes. In this interview we discussed reflective practice, what it is, what it isn’t, and where it’s going.

I’ve done quite a lot of these interviews now, and everyone I have spoken to has been gracious and thoughtful. Some of the interviewees I knew little about before I spoke to them but in preparing for, and then conducting, the interview I have become interested in their work. On the other hand, Thomas Farrell is someone whose work I have been interested in for a long time. What would he be like in real life, I wondered? I enjoyed a long conversation with the charming Dr. Farrell at the JALT conference in Tsukuba, Japan last autumn. Both his plenary and his workshop demonstrated that academics do not have to be dry to be rigorous.

Dr. Farrell hosts an excellent website, where you can read more of his work. If you are looking for a book to start with, I think ‘Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice’ published by Continuum is a very accessible introduction. His latest book is on my list when the next budget allocation arrives in April….

If you enjoy this interview please share it with your colleagues. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

An Interview with Rubina Khan from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Rubina Khan is Professor of English Language Teaching and Teacher Education at the University of Dhaka, and joined us at the JALT National conference in 2013 as general secretary of the Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA). We talked about her work with the association, and about English language education in Bangladesh, as well as the many joint regional projects BELTA is involved in. JALT’s connection, through the Teacher Helping Teachers SIG, is a very worthwhile long term project.

There are more interviews to follow, and if you like this please visit the archive for more. You can subscribe via iTunes, and I would appreciate reviews there if you have time. You can also find us on Facebook and twitter.

An Interview with Regine Hampel from darren elliott on Vimeo.

This interview took place in June 2014 at the JALTCALL conference in Nagoya, Japan. I was joined by Professor Regine Hampel of the Open University, and we discussed CALL, distance learning and blend learning.

There are more interviews to follow, and if you like this please visit the archive for more. You can subscribe via iTunes, and I would appreciate reviews there if you have time. You can also find us on Facebook and twitter.

An Interview with Glenn Stockwell from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I talked to Dr. Glenn Stockwell from Waseda University, Tokyo, at the 2014 JALT CALL conference, held in Nagoya, Japan. In fact, this interview takes place in my own personal office!

Dr. Stockwell had just given an excellent plenary talk, and we discuss his ideas about teaching and technology here.

There are more interviews to follow, and if you like this please visit the archive for more. You can subscribe via iTunes, and I would appreciate reviews there if you have time. You can also find us on Facebook and twitter.