Pedagogy is an art and urgently needs to be implemented into our education system – Sayed’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

Humans of British Council

I am Sayed Faiz Tanvir. I was born and brought up in New Delhi. Since 2010, I have been living in Bangalore and have been working in the IT industry in different capacities.

As a young student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), I could read and write pretty well, with a few grammatical mistakes. Speaking was a major impediment to me.

This year I read about the British Council in a national daily; most probably the Times of India and enrolled myself on a course. The best part of the quality of education was that it was not a ‘learn by rote’ methodology. I learned many valuable things, had fun and always felt motivated. The teachers never put a dent on my morale.

And has my view on learning changed in any way after my time at the British Council? Yes, of course! I have stopped reading books on grammar; as I feel these are often too tedious and clumsy and even after hard work it’s difficult to grasp many grammatical rules. Instead, I visit the web portal advised by the British Council teachers and do exercises with more comfort and enjoyment.

Finally, I would like to say, try innovation. I think pedagogy is an art and urgently needs to be implemented into our education system. One should and must visit portals and learn online.

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Barkha’s #CELTA Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

Humans of British Council

Hi, my name is Barkha Vahi and I have been a teacher for five years now and have taught at private schools, corporates, and language schools. I had completed another initial certification in EFL teaching which only motivated me to do The Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA). When I started teaching and looking for prospects abroad, one name which came up, again and again, was CELTA and I couldn’t have avoided acquiring this certificate. As an ELT professional, I couldn’t imagine a pathway forward without having completed CELTA.
CELTA lived up to its reputation of being super intensive. Even though I had previous experience in teaching, CELTA gave me a fresh perspective to a lot of concepts which I dismissed earlier. Initially, it was difficult for me to be able to adapt to all the input but when I sat down to analyse everything pragmatically, it just seems to flow so logically. My teaching changed forever.
Now every time I walk into my class, I know exactly what I am doing, how I am doing and why am I doing it. As a teacher, CELTA has raised my awareness of different learning styles, learner needs, and managing learner expectations. It has helped me so much in planning lesson aims and achieving them by the end of the lesson. CELTA has been a great experience. I am in touch with my tutors and seek help if need be. It has opened doors for me globally and gives me an edge in the industry.
I would recommend this course to anyone who is seriously thinking of getting into the ELT industry.

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From Learning English to Building Confidence – Benazir’s Learning Journey – #HumansofBritishCouncil

Benazir Roshni Imroz

 

Hi, I am Benazir Roshini Imroz, an undergraduate student in English Honours (3rd year), from A.J.C Bose College under Calcutta University. I want to become an English teacher or professor because I love teaching. After giving my first-year final exams, I thought about learning English. Though I wanted to become an English teacher, I also wanted to ensure that I made no mistakes in English. Hence, I got in touch with British Council.

Apart from learning the English language, I also learned manners, politeness, and discipline from two of my English teachers – Neha Bulsare and Maya Waldman during my CELTA classes. They might not know that I was also learning much more than just English from them, as it seems to come naturally from their side, but all these opportunities which I got, were only because of my teachers and the British Council.

I had always struggled with “tenses”. That too was cleared up during my classes and nowadays neither do I hesitate in writing any applications nor I hesitate while speaking. My advice to friends and learners is to play with words and sentences, as this will make their learning interesting and help to remember things for a long time as well as encourage you to learn more.

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Investing in innovation: UK-India Education Week

With the recent budget announcements in India and the huge expectations from the Finance Minister with regards to the education sector; (the 2017 budget allocation to education was upped by 10 per cent from the previous year, now standing at INR 79,000 crores / INR 790 billion),  it seemed like the perfect time to press the pause button in my hitting-the-road-running life, to take a deep breath, reflect and perhaps (Un)learn! The opportunity to do just this came in the form of an invitation to participate in an exciting outing as a delegate at the UK-India Education Week, organised by the British Council offices in India and the UK.

Janaka Pushpanathan at the Bett Show

At the Bett Show

During this time, I along with other delegates was exposed to current and future technological trends in school education practice; the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers using advanced technological tools; a library of experience for diversity and inclusion (facilitated by a Microsoft partnership); digital democracy and the overwhelmingly huge Bett show, to name a few. The common denominator underpinning all of these remarkable developments in education is the snowballing of computing technology, coupled with a strong desire to create disruptive innovation.

Two experiences amidst many that stood out for me personally: the visit to Christopher Hatton primary school located in central London and the meeting with the team at NESTA. I could totally relate to the background and setting of the primary school, with many children from disadvantaged communities (opting for the free school meals scheme), and almost 26 different languages being spoken in the school. The dedication of the head teacher Gwen Lee and her team of very driven staff touched me and it was no surprise that the school recently received an ‘outstanding’ rating from the English government inspectorate: Ofsted. It was interesting to note that many of the challenges that the schools’ sector faces in the UK were similar in nature to what we are facing in India and in Tamil Nadu, where I am from. For example, at Christopher Hatton school, more than two thirds of the children were learning English as an additional language (which is the given, in our classrooms in India). The school has also invested deeply into teacher development – the recruit, train and retain policy that Gwen follows in the school uses technology very innovatively to strengthen teachers and make them more self-aware. This includes the use of the Iris Connect system.

At the end of the week, I had made new connections, not just with people in the UK, but also with fellow delegates from back home. Along with our full schedule of meetings and events, we also had time to eat hot desi khana (Indian food) and hip fusion cuisine (thanks to some seriously awesome hospitality from the British Council), hang out at an uber-cool Sherlock Holmes themed pub and just simply walk the streets of London, soaking in the beauty and busy-ness of it all. Even the classic London weather taught me something significant: change is constant, but it is magical too.

Back home now I’m looking forward to following up on my conversations, exploring collaborative possibilities and continuing the learning opportunities with potential partners.

Post and images by Janaka Pushpanathan, Founder, UnLearn.

Tower Bridge, London at 3.55 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.55 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.57 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.57 PM

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Valentine’s Day – the Romeo and Juliet Way

Mix the Play with Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant

Valentine’s Day, a recent phenomenon in India, has caught the fancy of people especially the youth. February 14 is a day when people express their love to their significant others (and also to their friends, teachers, siblings and parents). Popular Valentine’s Day symbols include flowers, cupid, arrows, love birds, hearts and the colours pink and red.  Restaurants, cinemas, malls and other popular hangout places are packed as couples celebrate the day in togetherness.

Legendary romantic couples down the ages have included Laila-Majnu, Shahjahan- Mumtaz Mahal,  Antony-Cleopatra,  Shirin-Farhad. And of course Romeo and Juliet –  the lead characters from Shakespeare’s tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers. Adapted numerous times for stage, film, musicals and opera it is perhaps the most-filmed play of all time. The most celebrated film versions have been George Cukor‘s multi-Oscar-nominated 1936 productionFranco Zeffirelli‘s 1968 version, and Baz Luhrmann‘s 1996 MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet. The latter two were both, in their time, the highest-grossing Shakespeare films ever.

Romeo and Juliet have become emblems of young lovers and doomed love. Fatefully referred to as “star-cross’d” the stars seem to have predetermined the lovers’ future.  And Indians are the greatest believers in destiny and fate. More than a tragedy, people regard the plot as an emotional melodrama.  So how could Hindi cinema stay far behind from a storyline which offers so many exciting ingredients ?  Still talked about Bollywood adaptations have been Ek Duuje Ke Liye (a cross-cultural romance between a Tamil boy and a Goan girl),  Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak  (which introduced  mega star Aamir Khan),  Ishaqzaade (which revolved around  honour killings).   More recently Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opulent  “Goliyon Ki Rasleela – Ram Leela” with current heart throbs Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh was a blockbuster hit.

The timeless story has also been interpreted in modern times using social media inventions. The Royal Shakespeare Company presented a version entitled Such Tweet Sorrow, as an improvised, real-time series of tweets on Twitter and YouTube pictures and video. In the age of  mobile  phones, the story would perhaps have had a modern twist –  Romeo and Juliet would have had location-aware apps telling them of their whereabouts, and thus “the course of true love would have been… more connected” .

Mix the Play with Kalki Koechlin and Adil Hussain

The British Council invites you connect with this fabulous tale of love via an exciting online app called Mix the Play.  You can control the casting, interpretation, setting and music and create your own version of the famous balcony scene.  The platform is intuitive and it is easy to share your creations on social media. Without any prior knowledge of directing or Shakespearean text, you can create your own scene and experience what it feels like to “direct” a scene from a Shakespeare classic. You never know when you may get an opportunity to direct your own play or film in the future. Here’s your training ground. And you can’t go wrong!

Reimagined by well- known theatre director Roysten Abel the classic balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet has been shot in different locations – a modern day café, on a wooden staircase in a theatre, in   a locked room in an old ancestral home. By making a choice of actors, storylines, sets, costumes and music there are 24 ways in which you can “mix” this scene, every permutation and combination leading to an exciting new version.  The cast includes well-known film and theatre actors Adil Hussain, Kalki Koechlin,  Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant.

You can then upload the scene “directed” by you on Facebook or Twitter and mark it to #ShakespeareLives and #MixThePlay. And  of course you can tag your friends. Come on what are you waiting for ? This could be the most fun way you send your love online to your Valentine!

Written by Vivek Mansukhani

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Authors from Bloody Scotland at the 2017 Kolkata Lit Festival

Bloody Scotland is an annual Crime Writers festival held in Stirling, Scotland, and sees participation from some well-known crime fiction authors from Scotland and India. Earlier in February, three Scottish authors participated in a series of sessions with Indian crime fiction authors to explore themes around crime writing:

Lin Anderson shares her experience of participating in the Kolkata Literature festival in this Blog post here  

My favourite memory was of a boy of about ten who had chosen his book from a selection of classics. Clutching it to his chest like a prize possession he was approaching the pay desk with a broad smile on his face.

Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson is best known as the author of a series of crime thriller novels and for her part in founding the annual ‘Bloody Scotland’ crime writing festival. Lin’s novel Paths of the Dead was shortlisted for the 2015 Scottish Crime Book of the Year award. Her novels have been published in translation in a number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Russia. Lin is also an award-winning scriptwriter, with her work broadcast internationally on radio and TV.

 

 

 

Doug Johnstone also writes about his time in Kolkata, dodging the traffic, meeting authors from India and gorging on masala omelettes in his blog here

Turns out we had a lot in common with our Kolkatan counterparts, and we learnt a lot about the crime scene there, as well as spreading the word about our own writing. Ideally, we ‘d love to have some Indian writers come over to Scotland in the future, and I hope we can make that happen.

Doug Johnstone. Picture: Chris Scott

Doug Johnstone. Picture: Chris Scott

Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His eighth novel, Crash Land, was published by Faber & Faber in November 2016. His previous book, The Jump, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel. Doug has had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies.

 

 

 

 

Find out more about the Bloody Scotland Festival 

 

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How is technology being used in schools in India?

95805Technology is often seen as a solution to improving learning and teaching, but what exactly does this look like in Indian schools? Which types of technology are being used? Does technology actually enhance learning in this context, and if so – how? Can technology be successfully used in government and low-income private schools in rural India?

To answer these questions, British Council India and Central Square Foundation recently launched a joint publication Teaching and technology: case studies from India edited by Dr Gary Motteram from the University of Manchester, UK. Twenty two case studies were selected from over 430 submissions following an open call. The selected stories highlight the innovative ways in which teachers, schools and organisations are using technology to improve student learning and teacher development across the length and breadth of India.

The collected data highlights a number of interesting features.

  • Technology is frequently used to show their learners videos or images are frequently used to demonstrate concepts more clearly. This is particularly prevalent in science classes, but also used in social sciences and English lessons.
  • Many teachers give their students tasks and projects in which they have to research topics using the internet and then co-create presentations of their findings. Such tasks can also benefit learner autonomy, as learners are required to find things out for themselves rather than rely on the teacher and textbooks. This also helps to develop digital literacy and internet navigation skills.
  • There are several examples of flipped classroom approaches, with teachers asking learners to watch videos or read articles before coming to class, so that class time can be used for going into more depth and clarifying any misunderstandings.
  • A number of organisations aim to increase the quality of education available to disadvantaged learners by using tablets, videoconferencing, projectors and other technology to support their learning.
  • Many teachers mention how they use technology for their own professional development, such as participating in social media communities of practice, following massive open online courses (MOOCs) and using the internet to deepen their own subject knowledge.

This publication studies reveal that there are a lot of enthusiastic teachers and organisations using technology to enhance learning, and aims to inspire further action from others working in similar contexts. We strongly encourage you to try out some of the ideas from the case studies in your own schools, building on the knowledge and experience gained by these individuals.

You can download or view the publication here, along with a research report published in 2016 on how teachers in South Asia use technology for their professional development. We will also be doing some further activity around the themes from the current publication and individual case studies in coming weeks, via webinars and our social media channels.

Post by Rustom Mody, Senior Academic Manager – English Partnerships, North India.

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#ELTHeroes interview: Dr Neena Jha

Dr. Neena Jha is an educationist who has traversed both rural and urban landscapes as part of her work with various schools, universities and NGOs. She has mentored children from rural backgrounds, conducted various capacity building programmes and teacher-training workshops and recently worked in developing public libraries into digitally inclusive spaces. Switching from teaching Commerce in Delhi University, she moved to teaching English and communication skills formally as well as non-formally. Currently she is an independent consultant engaging with the education and development sectors. Find out more about Neena’s journey here.

1. Tell us a little bit about your career in ELT.
Growing up in multiple cities of India gave me ample insights into English being spoken in all its regional senses and savours. It fascinated me to absorb various intonations and mother tongue influences on this globally unifying language.
While pursuing my doctorate in public finance, I taught commerce to undergraduates in Delhi University in 1989. The ELT journey began after my relocation to Champaran, Bihar post marriage in 1991.The kids here were good at Maths and Sciences but struggled with English. They felt alienated from the language despite studying in English medium instruction schools. That set me to shift gears to ELT. I started to impart English lessons and later joined a missionary school as a teacher of English. Apart from textbook lessons, I encouraged children to interact in English in everyday situations, making a conscious effort not to negate learnings from their mother tongues. I used their home language/s as a resource for cross-linguistic linkages. Thereafter in Patna, I conducted English communication classes for students, professionals and government functionaries who had had their education in Hindi or other regional languages. My assignment with the World Bank on the Bihar Teacher Education project recently, reinforced the conviction that enhancing teacher effectiveness adds to improving student learning outcomes resulting in robust education systems.

2. What advice do you have for teachers when they’re developing their skills and knowledge in the professional practice ‘Understanding educational policies and practice’?
It goes without saying that our own education has to be ongoing. Both proficiency and professional awareness are important. To keep abreast of the developments in policies relating to educational practices in India, I would recommend that teachers visit the NCERT portal. Teachers may also visit the websites of other non- government organisations like British Council, BBC, CSF EdMonitor and Pratham to raise their awareness about recent trends in education and access resources. Being aware of the updates in educational policies and practices can be valuable pegs for ELT professionals to hinge their classes on and keep them attuned to the national educational goals. As outlined in British Council CPD Framework for teachers, teachers should be able to locate relevant information about educational policies and practice at multiple levels. However this is still a challenge despite such phenomenal growth in online content and resources.
We, then, should adopt such professional and pedagogical practices that go hand in hand with the policies relating to various aspects of our profile ranging from goals of education to access to education. We have to remember to customise them in tandem with local learner needs and aspirations. We also need to consider the changed circumstances in which English language is learned and used in this era of globalisation to make it accepted and acceptable.

3. What educational policies do you think teachers need to be aware of to develop their understanding of classroom practices? How can teachers find out more about these policies?
The teacher in the classroom is responsible for aligning the vision of the stated policies with ground situation of learners. The goals of education have to converge with a child’s holistic development- physical, mental, moral, emotional, social and spiritual. NCF 2005 is a key document that teachers need to be thoroughly familiar with in order to enhance their understanding of the key principles that should guide their classroom practice. Also reading of online resources come in handy. For instance, the CREATE- collaboration, relevance, evidence, alignment, transparency, empowerment approach to ELT policies and practices makes a lot of sense to ELT facilitators. The recent insights from linguistics, psychology, and associated disciplines have also provided a principled foundation to revitalise curricular practices for teachers.  They all point to a more empirically grounded approach to ELT that would assist to supplement our content for curriculum and pedagogic purposes. In ELT roles, let us strive to create multi-linguals who can enrich more languages than one. This methodology, I feel, would address growing apprehensions of regional language and culture getting endangered with the adoption of a new language. In addition, the pedagogic code of moving from the known to the unknown shall come into play in this way.

4. What key points from these policies would you like to highlight for teachers of English?
For teachers taking language classes, I think it is important that they are aware of the language policy governing their respective region and state. Moreover they must be in sync with ICT and integrate them in their classrooms to strengthen learning processes. Since language has a direct bearing on literacy, that is another relevant area for the teacher to keep in mind. Teachers are in a position to achieve national literacy goals as also usher in equality and inclusion in the communities they work with. Another focal point would be to sensitise students about the importance of implications of language and vocabulary. Yet another key thing would be to empower the learner by equipping them with better communication skills that would augment their confidence and competence in other disciplines too. Teachers of English can foster peace skills in children by avoiding use of aggressive or violent language, thereby contributing to mitigate the flaring gap between purpose and processes of education. Instilling gender sensitivity in their classrooms is another lifelong skill that would help towards realising a goal as fundamental as equality. The young students would grow up to respect and celebrate diversity, practise tolerance and value peace. Education would thus serve the ultimate purpose of harmonising and humanising its stakeholders.

5. How do teachers use their learning from these policies to help them in their classroom practice?
A nuanced understanding of these policies enables teachers to achieve much beyond defined course objectives. The NCERT position paper on English gives a simple yet effective suggestion about having print-rich environments, especially to enable pre-literacy learning. Putting up charts, blurbs, signboards, and even graffiti in the classroom helps familiarize the elementary learner with the school environment, and sows seeds of early education. Moreover making smaller groups in the classroom and organising activities like role plays and radio shows not just makes learning fun for students but also facilitates the teacher in knowing and assessing individual and team skills better. Another important takeaway from policy documents like the NCF 2005 would be establishing co-curricular and cross-curricular linkages. While taking up P.B. Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind in class for instance, the teacher could compare the use of imagery and symbolism with John Keats’ Ode to Autumn. The phenomenon of the westerly from geography and the process of water cycle from natural sciences may be referred to for integrated and reflective learning. Turning every lesson into an experience of its own, rather than merely reading and interpreting it, goes a long way in helping students connect with the subject in particular and with life outside the classroom in general.

A few other resources that teachers may find useful are:

  1. British Council online teaching resources
  2. New methods of teaching on Pratham blog
  3. ELT section of OUP website

I shall be happy to hear from you at neenajha@outlook.com

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#ELTHeroes interview: Nicky Hockly

Nicky HocklyThis week in our #ELTHeroes series, we are talking to Nicky Hockly. Nicky is the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an award-winning online training and development organisation. She is an international plenary speaker, and gives workshops and training courses for teachers all over the world. She has written several prize-winning methodology books about new technologies in language teaching, many of them with co-author Gavin Dudeney. The latest of these books are Focus on Learning Technologies (2016), and ETpedia Technology (forthcoming 2017). Nicky lives in Barcelona, and is a technophobe turned technophile. You can find out more about Nicky on The Consultants-E website here, including a complete list of her publications.

1. Tell us a little bit about your career in ELT.
I started teaching English to adults and young learners in a language school in Spain in 1987, and got involved in teacher training a few years later after doing my DELTA. I started teaching online ten years later in 1997, when I joined a consortium of Spanish and Latin American universities offering one of the first fully online MA in ELT degree programmes. I joined as the Academic Director of the MA programme, but also taught online, and mentored other online tutors. This year (2017) marks 20 years of teaching online for me!
In 2003 my colleague Gavin Dudeney and I set up our online training and development consultancy, The Consultants-E. I’m the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, and we specialise in consultancy work with educational institutions who would like to work with online and blended learning, and educational technologies. We also provide f2f and online training to help teachers integrate technology into their language teaching. And that’s where I am now.
I also do quite a lot of writing. So far, I’ve authored or co-authored 8 methodology books for English language teachers about how to integrate a range of technologies into the classroom. I also write regular columns about integrating technologies into ELT for English Teaching Professional, and for the English Language Teaching Journal (ELTJ).

2. What advice do you have for teachers when they’re developing their skills and knowledge in the professional practice ‘Promoting 21stcentury skills’? 
As I’m sure readers are aware, there are plenty of excellent free opportunities for professional development available on the Internet. There are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), webinars, and professional communities that teachers can join in order to explore 21st century skills in more detail. Some online professional communities that I especially recommend are the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group (LTSIG), the Webheads in Action group, and of course the British Council’s Teach English in India Facebook page. Probably the most important piece of advice I can give to teachers is this: once you feel you understand the topic better, and have some ideas about how to work with 21st-century skills in your classroom, try out some teaching ideas with learners. You can then can share your experiences – both triumphs and challenges – with an online professional development group to get feedback, suggestions, and further ideas. Developing professional practice in 21st century skills means not just knowing more about it, but integrating it into practice, reflecting on the experience, and then refining your practice based on those reflections and feedback.

3. Do you think promoting 21st century skills is a real movement or just the latest educational fad? What makes you say that?
There is no doubt that our increasingly digital society requires new skills, and these skills tend to be lacking in traditional educational curricula. Ministries of Education in most countries in the world now include some element of 21st century skills in educational curricula for primary, secondary and even tertiary education – at least on paper. This responds to the need of countries to support the development of fully functioning digital citizens, and the very future of those countries depends on this. So, although the term ‘21st century skills’ does sound rather fad-like, once these fundamental educational needs are integrated into curricula at all levels of education, the term itself should hopefully become redundant. At the moment, it’s a useful term to help raise teachers’, students’, and even parents’ awareness of the importance of these skills in education.

4. Why is it important for teachers to understand and develop 21st century skills among learners? How likely will it affect learners in the future, if they don’t have these skills?
21st century skills are increasingly a feature of the modern workplace. If schools do not support the development of these skills for learners, where else are they going to acquire them? The skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and so on are obviously desirable in the workplace. Also, in our increasingly technologically driven world, literacy is not just being able to read and write in the traditional sense, but knowing how to understand and manipulate a range of digital media. Hence the importance too of digital literacies. Students who don’t have these skills are clearly at a disadvantage, not only when it comes to employment prospects, but also when it comes to being a responsible and fully empowered digital citizen.

5. Which do you think is the best way to teach the 21st century skills, within a school subject OR separately? Why do you think so?
I think integrating 21st century skills is far more effective than trying to teach them as some sort of stand-alone or separate subject. 21st century skills cut across curricular content – they are not related to only one subject in school. Trying to teach 21st century skills as a separate subject immediately divorces it from everything else, and makes it feel less applicable to daily life. Integrating these skills across the curriculum gives students plenty of exposure to and practice with developing the skills.
For example, an effective way to integrate a range of 21st century skills into school subjects, is to have learners work together in small groups of 3 or 4 to produce a digital artefact such as a podcast or a blog post, explaining the key points they have learnt about a certain subject: they could recount a historical event as part of a history lesson, or explain a process like photosynthesis as part of a science lesson, or share information about a country for a geography lesson.  Working together in small groups on a digital project like this integrates a number of key 21st century skills, namely creativity, critical thinking, leadership and management skills, communication and collaboration, and of course digital literacy.
The key to integrating 21st century skills successfully is that teachers receive the necessary training and support from their institutions. It’s simply not feasible to just tell teachers to ‘teach 21st century skills’, when they may be unsure exactly what these are, why they’re important, or how to integrate them into their existing classroom practice.

6. In what ways can teachers integrate 21st century skills when teaching English?
Because of my background in educational technology, I’m most interested in the digital literacies component of 21st century skills.
As described above, having students work together on digital projects is an excellent way to integrate a range of 21st century skills into one main activity. In case of the English language classroom, students can create digital projects on any number of topics. For example, if you are working on the topic of food with your students, how about getting them to produce a multimedia online poster of their favourite meal, with images and text? Multimedia poster tools like Glogster enable learners to embed images and video, so they could find videos on YouTube to embed, or even film their own videos if they own a simple mobile phone. Working in small groups requires students to communicate and collaborate together. It also requires good time management skills, and knowing how to work effectively with others (a key leadership skill). They also get the chance to be very creative in their creation of a visual poster, and critical thinking is required in deciding what information to include in their poster, as well as what information to leave out. Finally, the creation of a digital online poster students need to work with a range of media (images, text, video), and integrate these into an effective overall presentation, so digital literacy is developed at the same time.
I wrote a book called Digital Literacies with my colleagues Gavin Dudeney and Mark Pegrum (Routledge, 2013), in which we look specifically at how digital literacies can be operationalised in the classroom. This seems to be the biggest challenge for teachers – although everyone talks about the importance of 21st century skills and digital literacies, there is very little practical information out there to help teachers actually work on these skills with their students in the classroom. The book has plenty of activities focused on developing students’ (and by extension teachers’!) digital literacies, and you can also find some ideas in a series of blog posts about digital literacies on my professional blog, E-moderation Station (see also the links at the end of the blog post). I’d encourage teachers reading this to try out some of the ideas with their students!

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#ELTHeroes interview: Dr Anand Mahanand

Dr Anand Mahanand has been a Professor at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad working in the field of materials development for learners and teachers in English and multi-lingual contexts and has authored and edited books and articles in related areas. At present he is Dean, Publication and All India Coordinator, District Centre Scheme, an outreach programme of EFLU. Find out more about him on www.anandmahanand.blogspot.in

1. Tell us a little bit about your career in ELT.Anand Mahanad

I have been in the Department of Materials Development at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad for nearly twenty years.  I have been teaching courses for teachers and teacher educators.  I have also developed materials for the teachers and learners of English.  My research interests include English in Multilingual Contexts, English for Specific Purposes and Language through Literature.  I have guided research projects, published books and articles in these areas.  Some of my important publications  in ELT include English through Folktales, English for Academic and Professional Skills,  Learning to Learn: Study Skills in English, Diversity: Tales for the Multilingual Classroom and  Multilingual  Education in India: The Case for English. I believe that English is a powerful tool and it has potential to empower learners. At the same time, learners’ languages and forms of culture are as important as English so these should be integrated with English language education. That’s the reason why my research and publications focus on the use of learners’ languages and forms of culture

2. What advice do you have for teachers when they’re developing their skills and knowledge in the professional practice ‘Using multilingual approaches’?

My advice would be to integrate learners’ languages and forms of culture with English language teaching.  Teachers should have a liking for learners’ first language/s and learners should be allowed to use their languages in the classroom. Learners’ first languages are usually considered inferior to standard languages. This attitude needs to go. Teachers could use learners’ first languages as inputs before the actual tasks. For instance, before giving them tasks on writing, learners can be engaged in discussion on the topic of the writing task. This will help them to translate their knowledge into English. Learners’ languages can also be used for giving instructions, suggestions and encouragement. While it is not expected from teachers to know all languages spoken by their learners, they should not prevent learners from using them.

3. What are some of the benefits of using multilingual approaches while teaching ?

There are many benefits of using multilingual approaches. Firstly, learners feel accepted in the class and they can relate to things they are being taught. Learners come to the class with a lot of resources in the forms of stories, songs, ideas about plants, flowers, festivals and so on in their first languages.  These resources should be exploited by teachers for teaching and learning as this will make learning easier. Secondly, learners’ languages and forms of culture are sustained.  It is important as some opine that with the emergence of English our local languages are threatened. Thirdly, such integrating approaches help learners in learning peaceful co-existence maintaining one’s heritage and respecting others.

4. How can teachers deal with a class of learners who speak different first languages?

As said earlier, it is not expected of a teacher to know and use all languages spoken by their learners, but it is possible for a teacher to allow the learners to use them in class in a judicious manner. I have taught such learners.  I used to make groups according to different language users. They would discuss in their own languages first. Then translate that into English and present it before the class. Learners had fun as well as learning. They also took interest in learning one another’s languages. Some did pick up certain words while they also had an opportunity to practise the target language.

5. What are some of the challenges teachers might face while using multilingual approaches to teach English in their classroom? How can they overcome these challenges?

One of the challenges could be a tendency to use too much of mother tongue, which might defeat the purpose. Judicious use is advocated. Also many teachers translate from English to mother tongue. Actually, the process should be from mother tongue to English. If it is done in a reverse way, it will not serve the purpose. Learners will learn mother tongue at the cost of English. Another challenge is that administrators and parents may not like the idea of using other languages in an English class as they think that learning local languages means going backward and it will affect the learning of English. They have to be convinced by showing good results in English as well as in the first languages. Also having a class of learners who speak different mother tongues could be challenging too, but as stated in 2 and 3 above, this should be treated more as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block in the process of learning as they bring with them rich linguistic and cultural resources that teachers can exploit meaningfully.

6. Can you share some assessment techniques or ideas that would help including learners’ linguistic backgrounds or the languages they speak at the time of assessment?

Have a progressive view of assessment.  Understand where and why a learner has used mother tongue in certain places. For instance, learners may use their first language if they do not know a particular word or a grammar structure. Instead of arbitrarily terming it wrong, a teacher should try to understand the problem so that it can be mended. Since the teaching is multilingual, assessment should also be following multilingual approaches. For example, in case of young learners, rubrics/instructions could be given in their first language/s and the main task could be in the target language. This helps learners understand instructions easily and they know what exactly is expected of them. Translation of texts could be one of the criteria for older learners. Using multilingual dictionary and assessing them on their use could be another.

7. What three tips would you like to give teachers who wish to begin using multilingual approaches to teach English in their classrooms?

These tips would be -

  • have a liking for the learners’ first language and forms of culture. This will help you build rapport with your learners
  • have more of group activities. These will allow learners to share ideas in their own language/s freely before they do the same in English. This will help them understand/explain complex concepts and also make them more sensitive towards each other’s culture and languages and build rapport
  • encourage translation. Include translated versions of the same texts
  • and one more – encourage learners to bring their resources to the classroom as mentioned earlier and make use of them through allied skills like art, craft, songs, story and so on.

 

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