Digital invasion and safety

Author: Pushpa Gopal

I love technology. Have always been in awe of its capabilities. 25 years back, when I took on as instructional leader for Informatics Computer Systems, I felt blessed and empowered to initiate an ICT curriculum in schools. We started with LOGO, BASIC and COBOL and got the kids excited with the capabilities of a machine. I was as excited as the kids.

25 years and how much we have tread.

Technology and our lives are interwoven today. It has invaded our lives. Most of our communications are emails, texts, tweets, posts, and forwards. We don’t leave our mobile phones even while sleeping. What is this doing to our relationships, our society and our thought processes? We are slowly realising that this digital invasion might cost us some sleepless nights even as we are slowly becoming aware of the dangers lurking around the corners of this massive digital empire. Privacy issues, data security, extortion, sextortion, hacking, cyber dares are some of the immediate dangers.

Today, as I sit here in the airport observing people and kids around me, I am left with a sense of apprehension and worry. Has technology invaded our lives? Have we lost the real life connect?

Some ways we could manage this invasion is by

-       rationing tech time with children.

-       allotting an hour every day for “no-phone” time.

-       taking out time for tech detox.

The waiting rooms, airport lounges, railway stations and auditoriums are my favourite places where I get to sit quietly and observe people around me.

As I wait at the airport, I notice this young child mesmerised by the iPad in front of him. His parents seem lost in their own phones. This is a common sight. Isn’t it? What is it, in this gadget that can retain the attention of this young child and the adult alike for hours on end?

I continue observing the child. As he clicks on one video, a list appears on the right panel suggesting more. Innocently, the child clicks on the next and the next. Oblivious to the fact of the dangers lurking in that small screen. The parents are oblivious too, as they seem peaceful. I can almost read their thoughts – My child is engaged. My child is busy. My child is safe. He is right in front of my eyes.

The repercussions and the impact on this young mind could be serious. What if he lands on a wrong page? What if he is drawn towards inappropriate content?

Setting parental controls could be one way of managing this. Developing some monitoring mechanisms to keep an eye on children’s browsing behaviours could also help. Most important having a conversation with children about ‘screen-time’ and issues around randomly accessing information is of prime importance. It is about awareness, staying alert and taking a timely action.

I turn away and am caught by a bunch of teenagers lost in their phones. They don’t seem to want to interact with each other. They prefer their screens. I can see them laugh, smirk and grimace all at themselves or at least it seems so. Suddenly one boy positions his camera, readies himself and pounces on his friend. The friend drops down. This boy holds him down, looks at his camera and voices some words. And dramatically clicks a button and announces ‘I dare it. I win the challenge. What’s next?’ A fist fight ensues as the boys recover from the shock. I am not so much bothered about this physical fight. My thoughts are on the boy’s act.

Isn’t this a dare? Someone out there is waiting for this video and preparing the next level of challenge for this boy. And I cannot but relive the blue whale challenge and the many innocent young lives it snuffed out. Some are reported. Some are not.

Aren’t these kids in danger?

It is important to bring awareness in children about the latest cybercrimes and problematic cyber trends. A good practice to have discussion with them to understand what their digital interests and activities are can be useful. Professional counselling also helps to detox and provide alternative avenues to keep them engaged and fulfilled.

Technology has opened huge possibilities, no doubt.  The machine can do all that we have been doing in the past. Earlier, we believed that machines are incapable of one human capability – thinking. But Artificial Intelligence has proved beyond any doubt that it is capable of everything that comes out of human thinking. Predictive analysis and Internet of Things have left little for the common people. Are we ready for the pace at which this technology ‘progress’ is taking place?

The digital natives will learn fast. They are growing with the gadgets. Their foundational milestones are marked in the net space. They will learn to cope and survive.

But what about people who are caught in the transition generation?

This digital invasion has impacted our lives from all sides. We are leaving our digital footprint all around us. Everyday, whether we want to or not, most of us contribute to a growing portrait of who we are online- a portrait that is probably more public than most of us assume. It is essentially for this reason that we become aware of what kind of trail are we leaving and what are the possible effects of this on our lives.

Have we not become vulnerable to the unknown threats lurking in the corridors of the digital empire? How do we gather ourselves, sit up and face this challenge?

Technology is not going to slow down any time soon. In fact, it is galloping ahead much faster than anyone can expect. How do we protect ourselves and our family from these threats?

Digital citizenship is the key. Becoming aware of and teaching good digital citizenship skills to children helps them connect their everyday actions with their choices in a digital society. It’s important to understand unethical behavior and its impact for all of us.

Staying smart and alert is a skill. Critical thinking and decision making is also important in the digital world, as decisions are made at every point. Its about making the right choices- clicking the right button, keying the right words and opting to read the right text and choosing to ignore/delete the unwanted text.

Some general tips to be safe are:

  • start with creating complex passwords than mindlessly use our DOB.
  • develop and boost network safety and invest on safety software.
  • always use a firewall to block unauthorised access. Consciously stay away from careless clicking and entering unknown sites and web spaces. These can be as dark as an unsafe alley.
  • share only validated information.
  • be well informed and keep ourselves updated on the latest scams. Prevention is always better than cure.

With great power comes great responsibility.

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Collaboration in the classroom: a learner’s road to success

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Author: Ashlesha Rodrigues Dsouza

‘I speak, you listen!  I order, you obey!’ Teaching has come a long way from this doctrine, and teaching styles have changed immensely. All for good reason. We speak now of collaboration and interactive learning. We speak of 21st century skills and preparing learners for the future—building social skills, developing effective communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. It is all very exciting, but what does this really mean for our students in the Indian context? How do we hone these skills in our language classrooms?

A good start is ‘Collaboration’. Empowering our learners with the skills essential to work together. In the words of Henry Ford above ‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’

Collaboration involves deciding goals together with others, sharing responsibilities, and working together to achieve more than could be achieved by an individual on their own. (Barfield, 2016)

Where do we start?

There are a variety of strategies to introduce collaborative learning experiences in the classroom. The simplest of these being whole-class discussions, group work and pair work. Students work together, share different perspectives, and listen to the thoughts and opinions of their peers. All of these processes ‘discussion, clarification, and evaluation of other’s ideas’ facilitate learning.

Project-based learning is another interesting way to engage students in collaborative learning. Besides being a welcome break from the usual classroom routine, project work also promotes autonomous learning. It provides students’ with the opportunity to think out of the box and devise solutions to real-world problems.

With the dawn of the digital age, several apps and websites have surfaced to help students collaborate on digital platforms inside and outside the classroom. Padlet is great for collaborative brainstorming; Edmodo is a good learning management platform where students can continue classroom discussions, download handouts, and submit assignments. Google Drive lets you edit and share documents and spreadsheets online and is a useful tool for student collaboration.

Easier said than done!

Although collaboration is effective for student learning, we cannot simply put students into groups and pairs and expect them to work productively.  Students will only be able to work together if they have learned how to do so. They also need the relevant oracy skills to express themselves during the activity. (Littleton and Mercer, 2013)

More often than not, stronger learners take the lead during collaborative tasks and steer the discussion as they deem fit. Weaker learners may shy away from sharing or simply nod in agreement, defeating the purpose of a collaborative activity.

How do we work our way around these challenges? It all boils down to effective set up.

Get it right

Setting up the task appropriately is key to the success of collaborative work.

  1. Discuss objectives: We need to tell students why they are being asked to work together and convince them of the value and benefits of collaborative work for learning.
  2. Set ground rules: Get the students to put together a set of rules that they need to follow during collaborative activities, e.g. Everyone must share, listening is key, respect everyone’s opinions, agree/disagree politely.
  3. Establish goals: State a clear aim for each collaborative task and let students know what they need to achieve together within a given time frame.
  4. Create moderately sized groups: A group of 4-5 students is ideal for active participation.
  5. Introduce talking points: Give students specific points for discussion and encourage exploratory talk around these points.
  6. Monitor carefully: Monitoring is key to ensure students are on-task and engaged. It is essential to check that there is a positive learning environment.

Moreover, we as teachers must model what we expect in a collaborative classroom—listening patiently, paraphrasing appropriately, questioning politely, and artfully negotiating. The way we talk to our students has a strong influence on their attitude and conduct during group work.

Encourage exploratory talk in class where students critically but constructively discuss ideas. Value diversity, build trust, promote open communication, and watch these trickle down to your students during collaborative tasks. More importantly, praise and appreciate students’ efforts at every step of the way to bolster this positive learning environment.

Don’t take our word for it

Lev Vygotsky (1978) stated that cognitive development stems from social interactions within the zone of proximal development (See figure below). In simple terms, two heads are better than one! According to Vygotsky, the Zone of Proximal Development is the area where the most sensitive instruction or guidance should be given. This will allow the child to develop higher order thinking skills that they can then use on their own. Interaction with peers is said to be an effective way of developing skills and strategies, and Vygotsky recommends that teachers use cooperative learning exercises in order that less competent children develop with help from more skilful peers.

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Figure: Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development

There is a marked difference between what a child can achieve independently and what a child can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner. Students are said to learn better through guided learning as they co-construct knowledge with their peers in pairs or groups.

Why not try it out and see the difference in your classroom? Empower your students to collaborate and simultaneously hone their life skills—critical thinking, questioning, negotiating, problem-solving, compromising, and decision making. Get them up and ready to face the world!

Useful links:

Core skills – how they apply to real life and why they are essential for students.

https://connecting-classrooms.britishcouncil.org/develop-skills/online-courses/introduction-core-skills

Exploring Creativity and Imagination in the classroom – learning app

www.britishcouncil.in/teach/resources-for-teachers/exploring-creativity-imagination-game

Grouping techniques

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/grouping-students

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/group-work-v-whole-class-activities

Project-based learning techniques

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/tbl-pbl-two-learner-centred-approaches

Bibliography:

Barfield, Andy (2016) Collaboration, ELT Journal, 70 (2), 222–224

Littleton, Karen and Mercer, Neil (2013). Interthinking: Putting Talk to Work. London: Routledge.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Future News Worldwide 2019

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As Future News Worldwide conference kicks off in London today, let’s hear it from Hanna Paul, student at City University as part of the Erasmus Mundus Journalism Programme and one of the three delegates from India participating in the mega event, what she looks forward to at the conference this year.  

Some people tell me that they enjoy seeing the world through my words and eyes when in fact, I enjoy writing about other people and the world around us. This is one among the many reasons why I fell in love with journalism. It provides an opportunity to be at two spots at once. The invigilator and the spectator. The world of journalism has changed immensely today as, unlike the days of Doordarshan and All India Radio, anybody connected to the internet can communicate to a crowd or even virtually to a large audience thanks to social media. But how do you stand out from the clutter? 

The Future News Worldwide conference, organised by the British Council, Thomson Reuters, Facebook and Google News Initiative is the perfect platform for answering such questions as it brings together top quality journalism and the people behind the scenes of these social media platforms, together. Using social media effectively and finding the line between use and misuse of these platforms are issues both journalists and everyday users face. This is also what I look forward to the most at the conference this year, along with the excellent line up of speakers. The myriad of perspectives the conference offers, with over a hundred students participating from all over the world, is another highlight. The differences in culture, thought process, and ideas are definitely going to make it a unique experience!

Join the Facebook LIVE with journalist Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV who will be giving his take on ‘Speaking truth to power: how journalism can rebuild trust by investigating and exposing official falsehoods.’

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Future proof your business

In a Human Capital study conducted by Deloitte in 2016, 90% respondents rated soft skills as a “critical priority”. In this study, organisations indicated that communication and soft skills can enhance employee retention, improve leadership and build positive organisational culture. And yet again, LinkedIn’s annual learning report shows that 57% of senior leaders state that soft skills are more important that hard skills and they never go out of fashion.

Yet another L&D study, conducted in 2019, reveals that organisations with highly engaged employees are over twice as likely to prioritise soft skills training. Soft skills, including communication skills, are top priority for the majority of organisations in 2019.

After globalisation, which has resulted in the increasing importance of communication skills and intercultural fluency, the next big wave to have an impact on jobs is automation. As industry gets more and more automated, the jobs of the future will increasingly be those which rely on soft skills and the human touch. There is a growing emphasis on customer service, and impactful and professional communication skills will be in even greater demand in the new age of AI. More and more, jobs require greater creativity, collaboration and relationship building.

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Essentially, the only common denominator in L&D studies conducted over 1990s, 2000s and 2010s was soft skills. This is of no surprise to us at the British Council. We work with many organisations in India and around the world and have seen how our soft skills and communication skills training programmes make a difference to business performance. Productivity, collaboration, intercultural fluency, networking, creativity, customer satisfaction and communicative effectiveness are just some of the areas our training programmes cover. It also has a positive washback on the outcomes of other training programmes, which have English as the medium of instruction.

It is important for organisations and L&D professionals to consider these factors while designing their training programmes. Communication and soft skills training can future proof your employees and in turn help you set your organisation apart.

Author: Shivangi Gupta, Assistant Director, English India

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5 Tips to Become a Better Speaker at Work

Author – Neenaz Ichaporia (Academic Manager, Blended Learning)

How can you become a better, more confident speaker at work? Read the tips below for a range of useful ideas on how to do this. You’ll learn about websites, links and other resources that you can use. You’ll also learn how the British Council’s online language improvement course, myEnglish Workplace, makes you a better, more confident speaker.

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Assessment for learning in action in the classroom

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Author: Michelle Bambawale

Formative assessment or assessment for learning is a familiar term in education. Most teachers know the theory but struggle with the practice. I felt the same, till I took this Assessment for Learning Masters’ class, and experienced it firsthand.

For the first class, we had to read an article (Black, 2009) on formative assessment and were encouraged to posit our own theory. I did my homework, thought I had understood the concept and was ready for the teacher to explain it to us in class. Much to my surprise, she put us in groups and told us to discuss our ideas with each other, compare notes and see if we agreed or disagreed. I did not want to listen to what my peers thought! I just wanted to listen to what the teacher had to say. I wasn’t ready for either autonomy or peer learning.

Activating students as instructional resources for one another and activating students as owners of their own learning

I tried to ask the teacher questions directly, she guided me through the process of taking control of my own learning and peer learning, she asked questions like: ’What does your group think?’, ’Have you asked your peers?’ ’What do you think?’ I was required to redirect my attention to the group and construct my own learning based on the reading and the discussion. I felt very frustrated after this first class and hoped things would change, and we would be back to a lecture format. They did not.

For the next class, the reading was quite challenging, hence I really hoped the teacher would explain, it was on the power of feedback (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). She used a jigsaw reading in the classroom for us to discuss and understand the article. Left with no option and no teacher teaching, I decided to focus and slowly realised that I was learning from my peers.

Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievement

After about four classes, we were given an assignment to write a short paper on what we thought assessment for learning was and how we could use it. I had to push myself to reflect on the class and analyse the ideas and strategies used and how they had been effective. I was beginning to develop my own ideas, beliefs and theory on assessment for learning. I was learning from my peers and through self-reflection.

Providing feedback that moves learning forward

Over the course we worked on goal setting using the following steps:

  1. Setting personal goals: this was an individual activity as everyone was at a different place in their learning and also had different goals for themselves.
  2. Finding strategies to reach our goals: for me, these included reading related research papers, watching videos and discussing with my peers.
  3. Providing support: the teacher used several techniques like wait time, pair and share, and exit slips.
  4. Providing feedback which was timely, focused and precise and deepening learning by asking probing questions and suggesting readings.
  5. Reflecting on progress to develop self-assessment skills.

On reflection, I realised our teacher had used all the strategies for formative assessment in action in the classroom and I had learnt them through experience. I encourage you to do the same: reflect on your own teaching practice and try these strategies in your classroom. Empowering learners to take control of their own learning will enable them to do better and feel better about their own learning, just like I did!

Useful links:

Some ideas for self and peer assessment in the language classroom www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/jvl-narasimha-rao/self-assessment-peer-assessment

Easy assessment for learning ideas you can use

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/assessment-learning-activities-0

More ideas on Assessment for Learning

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/assessment-learning

Read how to run a jigsaw reading in your English classroom www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/jigsaw-reading

Watch Dylan Wiliam elaborate on the five strategies discussed here in this blog, from his book Embedded Formative Assessment

www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3HRvFsZHoo

Read Black and Wiliam’s original research paper ’Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment‘ to understand how assessment for learning can work in the classroom.

www.rdc.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/InsideBlackBox.pdf

Bibliography:

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded Formative Assessment. Solution Tree Press. Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007, March). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112.

Black, P. a. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability (formerly: Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education).

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Conferences for professional development

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Authors: Amy Lightfoot, Adi Rajan and Deepali Dharmaraj

Conferences are a great way to collaborate, learn from peers and meet colleagues from across the globe. It is also an opportunity to present your own research and learning thus sharing with others. IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) conference, held annually, is one such example that brings teachers from across the globe together. It’s a key event in the professional development calendars of many teaching professionals and an opportunity to attend or present at the IATEFL conference can be a significant career milestone.

This year’s conference was held in Liverpool in the first week of April and had over 500 talks, workshops and sessions over a four-day period. Around 3000 delegates from over 100 countries met and shared ideas through these scheduled sessions as well as social events such as quizzes and pecha kucha presentations organised in the evenings. A popular exhibition takes place alongside the conference, giving delegates an opportunity to engage with ELT publications and institutions. The exhibition is also the venue for the IATEFL Careers Fair and a series of pop-up presentations on topics ranging from becoming a freelancer to presenting at IATEFL for the first time.

There has been a clear evolution in the IATEFL conference in the last decade, becoming more diverse and inclusive. This is evidenced by the election of the association’s first president from Africa – Dr Harry Kuchah Kuchah from Cameroon. As he recently posted on Twitter, ‘IATEFL is increasingly inclusive to teachers working in the global south [and this] is something to celebrate. I’m definitely interested in pushing this on because it’s been long overdue and very few thought it was a problem’.

This inclusivity has two key effects: first, it enables teachers from diverse contexts to benefit from the professional development on offer at the conference and through its Special Interest Groups. Second, it provides opportunities for teachers to network with peers from around the world, potentially establishing collaboration between their students as well.

We’d like to recommend some talks from the conference if you weren’t able to attend:

Teacher empowerment: leaving the twilight zone by Paula Rebolledo

This insightful plenary drew on research from general education literature to demonstrate a link between empowered teachers, effective teaching and learning outcomes. Rebolledo explored six dimensions that play a role in empowerment: impact, professional growth, autonomy, self-efficacy, status and decision making. Within this framework, she reiterated the importance of teachers making their own decisions about their professional development and encouraged institutions and associations to go beyond talking about empowerment, to practising it in meaningful ways.

British Council: Is English teaching inclusive? Do we practise what we preach?

Inclusion was one of the recurring themes at the conference this year and the British Council’s signature event explored an integrated approach to inclusive practices through policy, educational culture and classroom practice. The speakers at this event included Maha Khochen-Bagshaw, Varinder Unlu, Fiona Robertson and David Crabtree who presented best practices from different contexts and prompted an engaging participatory discussion with the audience on the possibilities and challenges of adopting inclusive practices.

Developing teachers and enabling reform and internationalisation in higher education

ocus on teacher development has always been an important part of the IATEFL conference and this year was no different. Of interest to professionals who work in teacher education was a talk by Zhanna Sevastianova from the British Council in Ukraine and Simon Borg who explored findings from a five-year teacher development programme at 32 Ukrainian universities. They identified practical ways of enhancing the teaching of English as a Medium Instruction (EMI) and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) at the tertiary level.

Future directions in ELT: where are we headed?

Finally, the concluding plenary featured an Indian speaker, Amol Padwad. This talk was by a panel of speakers from different contexts and areas of expertise and Dr Padwad was joined by Mercedes Viola who specialises in inclusive practices, Katherine Bilsborough who is a materials writer and Evan Frendo who is one of the joint coordinators of the IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group. These four speakers looked at the future of ELT from very different perspectives. Dr Padwad spoke about the English teacher of the future, suggesting he or she would still be a human being and probably a non-native speaker who is multi-skilled and navigates technology effectively.

Useful links

 

Plantation Primary photo (002)Photo: The South Asia IATEFL delegation visits Plantation Primary

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The criticality of critical thinking in the classroom

written by Girish Mulani and Soumen Das Choudhury, Freelance Training Consultants, British Council 

Why do we have brakes in a car? Take a moment and try to answer the question before you read further.

Here are some answers from a class of teenagers:
To stop the car.
To slow it down.
To prevent accidents.

Were these some of your answers? All of them are correct but one may surprise you: So that you can drive fast!

When explored further, this unusual answer responds to another question: What is the real purpose of a car: to drive it or to stop it? And that’s how critical thinking works.

Identified as a 21st century skill, critical thinking can be defined as the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea, without allowing feelings or opinions to affect you. [1] In other words, it is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analysing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. [2]

Often closely associated with problem solving, these skills promote self-directed thinking that produces new and innovative ideas and that solves problems. They are also about reflecting critically on learning experiences and processes, and about making effective decisions. [2]

The process of critical thinking

Critical thinking can be divided into seven stages:
1. Formulate the question clearly and precisely.
2. Identify the purpose, reasons, goals and objectives of what needs doing or answering.
3. Gather information, facts, data, evidence, experiences about the problem from various sources.
4. It’s also a good idea to get different points of view.
5. Distinguish between facts and assumptions / opinions.
6. Analyse and try to find similarities between similar incidents in the past.
7. Conclude and decide on the actions to be taken or opinion to be formed

Critical thinking in the classroom

Very often as teachers, we feel the pressure to know all the answers and to have all the solutions. However, in our experience of being teachers and teacher educators, this has been the most liberating aspect of our practice. When we focus on developing the curiosity of learners to explore and question, it’s not up to us to have all the answers – it’s up to them! We delivered a workshop at the recent ELTAI conference where we demonstrated just how this could be done. Using ‘fake news’ as our topic, we showed teachers how simple learner training can help young people today discern the reliability of all the information that is thrown at them on a daily basis.

These questions can help teachers be more purposeful in promoting critical thinking with their learners:

  • How am I directing learners in the classrooms to think beyond the obvious?
  • What should I do to hone their skills to think beyond the textbook?
  • How can I adapt the syllabus to promote critical thinking?
  • And am I, in fact, asking questions to make them think at all? If yes, what are those questions?

 Resources

  • Improve your own critical thinking skills by doing free Sudoku puzzles. You can pause, print, clear, modify difficulty level and ask, ‘How am I doing?’ in the middle of the puzzle.
  • Encourage your learners to create their own stories based on current events or topics using StoryboardThat.
  • The Critical Thinking Workbook, available as a free download, helps you and your students develop mindful communication and problem-solving skills with exciting games and activities. As a paid support, there is also a teacher’s workbook.
  • For teachers, watch this sample lesson on encouraging critical thinking with the help of the map of the world.
  • For a paid course, Business Result, published by Oxford University Press, comes with interesting case studies at the end of each unit. Except for beginners, there is  one for each level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
  • Preparing charts on a given topic, using song lyrics for subjective interpretation, giving project work, analysing simple situations and showcasing practical aspects of them, brainstorming ideas, reflecting at the end of a lesson on what was learnt and more importantly how it was learnt are some of the ways to promote critical thinking in the classroom.  
  • Watch this creative lesson, Learning to be a superhero, which develops critical thinking.  

 Additional references:

[1] dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/critical-thinking

[2] The Foundation for Critical Thinking at www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766. Last accessed on 21 November 2018.

[2] schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/international-learning/core-skills Last accessed on 21 November 2018.

 

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Make meetings matter – Expert tips to improve your meetings  

Meetings that run on endlessly or where everyone is preoccupied with their gadgets can be a frustrating part of work for most of us. Don’t jump on the ‘boring meetings’ bandwagon. Here are 4 tips to hold effective meetings that energise your team and leave clear objectives.

1The endgame   

Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve through this meeting. Clearly define to the group what will happen because of this time spent together so they will better focus in the meeting.  Share clear action items, like ‘by the end of this meeting we will have created a marketing action plan with timelines and decided on leads for each activity.’

The medium   

A face-to-face meeting may not be the best medium to achieve your outcome. A shared, collaborative document such as Google Docs provides, or an online meeting platform such as Zoom or Skype for Business can help your team review a proposal in real time. Project updates could be shared effectively through a project management tool or communication platform such as Basecamp, Asana, Slack, or Microsoft SharePoint. Our ‘myEnglish Workplace’ courses delivered online with a teacher to facilitate is a great starting point to practice and build confidence using online collaboration tools for meetings and more.

The invite 

2Meetings are more productive if you engage your invitees even before the physical meeting happens. The meeting actually starts as soon as the invite is sent out. Set a clear, specific agenda so people know exactly what to expect. For instance, ‘identify three business opportunities’ sounds more specific and organised than ‘discuss business development’. Include all the details so that people know the venue and what to bring. Perhaps you could set a task for attendees like ‘think of one key opportunity to share with the group’ so that everyone comes prepared. Effective communication like this helps build long-lasting and effective work relationships. For more tips on relationship building, read this interesting article with language tasks.

The preparation 

3Use the pre-meeting time to carefully plan your approach. Have discussions with key players attending the meeting to uncover any important or sensitive topics. Understand the team dynamics if you want people to collaborate in the meeting and don’t want any surprises. Get a preview of the participants’ thoughts before the meeting. This helps you anticipate concerns, questions or challenges so you can prepare clear solutions.

What are your top tips to make meetings more interactive? We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your comments below.

If you know someone who spends a lot of their time in meetings, share this article with them. You could also enquire about our ‘Managing Meetings’ workshop for organisations which focuses on preparation, planning and timing in meetings, and skills needed for chairing a meeting.   

Each year, the British Council reaches over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs.  Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant in our courses.   

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact us on 0120-4569000 or visit our website for more information.

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Planning your company’s L&D strategy?

English has emerged as the lingua franca for international business. The rise of the internet and multicultural organisations demands proficiency in using the ‘universal language of the internet and the world’ a.k.a English.

Here are the three main reasons why English language training should be your top L&D priority for the year.

Avoid communication breakdown: The popular request ‘Please revert/reply back as soon as possible’ may present a limited awareness of English and could be a direct translation from a local language, ‘Please reply as soon as possible’ is as effective and the use of ‘back’ is unnecessary.

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Non-standard English in international contexts causes confusion and poses barriers to building good business relationships. If not corrected, they can even lead to communication breakdown. To get quick and easy tips on Email writing and useful practice exercises visit here.

Save time, save costs: We spend 28% of our work week reading, writing or responding to emails according to The Muse and a massive 35% on meetings as published by Mashable India! The purpose of most communication in emails and meetings is to get things done. When employees improve their Business English, messages conveyed are clearer and further clarification is not needed. Colleagues then better understand what is expected and perform tasks more effectively. Many companies report that highly-paid senior managers often have to edit presentations and emails for non-standard English. If that’s the case in your organisation, it is time to consider English language training. With a range of resources and courses available, you can start right now with our free grammar practice app.

12 oct 3Boost confidence and propel leadership: You may hire people with excellent technical skills, but can they lead on projects that require a high level of communicative expertise? Effective language training empowers them to lead and perform beyond their job description. Don’t be surprised when a manager cracks that deal with a major client all on his own just because he/she recently attended a negotiation skills workshop!

Tweak your L&D plan todaysave costs and shape leaders by making language learning your top priority for 2018! You could start with our Podcasts for Professionals here with workplace contexts and embedded language practice.

Have you struggled with communication breakdown in the workplace and the high cost of training? What do you look for in language training programs? Comment below and let us know.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs.

Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant in our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact us on 0120-4569000 or visit our website for more information.

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