Six things to know about an e-workbook

Well everyone it’s that time again on Six Things when I give a little commercial for Global. OK, actually a big commercial for Global. I’ve been quiet about it for six months (on this blog at least). But I had promised (threatened?) to tell you about the digital component of the course in a little more detail and now I can. Here are six features of the much talked-about e-workbook, the latest in self-study from my course Global.

1 It’s not a simple CDROM.

The e-workbook comes on a disc, it’s true. But it is unlike the recent CDROMs in a few different ways. First of all, it isn’t stuck in some little plastic envelope and glued to the back of the student’s book. We’ve found that many students don’t even touch those CDROMs, or they end up on the floor. Teachers don’t bother to show students how they work. So a little improvement has been to give the e-workbook an A4 pamphlet of its own complete with screen shots and explanations of how to use it. Like a technical manual. Also, you install the e-workbook on a computer and activate it (with an activation code). You don’t need the disc any more after that.

2 It allows different ways of working.

The e-workbook contains of course lots of interactive exercises for grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading, writing, pronunciation the lot. But we realised that not everybody wants to work on the computer all the time. So all the language practice activities are also available as downloadable pdfs, with corresponding audio files. Which means you can print and work. These pdfs aren’t screenshots, they are in fact a complete printed workbook with artwork and proper layout etc. There are more than 100 interactive activities and 80 pages of printable worksheets.

3 It has lots of extra audio, JUST audio

When I was learning German, I desperately wanted to be able to JUST LISTEN to things in German. Basically hear the words, the phrases and perhaps short little conversations. “Doing” listening exercises was helpful, but I didn’t want to do that all the time when I studied. So in the e-workbook we’ve put both. There are plenty of listening exercises (true/false, matching etc) but there are also a whole bunch of files of “just listening”. These include: word lists by category, useful phrases by function, mini conversations (to put words and phrases into context) and extracts from the literature in the book read aloud in an audiobook format. All of these have a feature that allows you to read the text on screen, with the words being highlighted as you read and listen.

4 It has an impressive video offering

We wanted to include video on the e-workbook as well. Lots of ELT video is… how to say… a bit crap. The settings look unreal, the production cost is not so high and it shows. So we decided to save on that budget and instead get great actors and a great writer to do very simple, almost improv theatre-like videos. Here’s an example of one below:

The video material for these was written by the extremely talented Robert Campbell, known for his great magazine iT’s for Teachers (check it out!). But that’s only HALF of the video material. The other half is the authentic material. For this it was like a dream come true: we managed to get the full backlist video archive of the BBC documentaries to choose from. So there is some incredibly good material on there. I’d include one here but we aren’t allowed to display them on the internet!

So in total there are 20 videos on the e-workbook. They are all short clips. Each video comes with a worksheet with comprehension and language activities for the student to do if he/she wants to. An additional bonus is that the teacher has the same 20 videos he/she can use in class, along with an extra 10 clips from the BBC (that follow on from the original documentary clips)

5 It supports mobile learning

Here’s the best part. All the video and audio can be downloaded and put onto any portable music or video playing device: an MP4 player, an ipod/pad/phone or any phone which supports audio and video files. So students can practice their English anywhere, at any time.

6 It has testing and reference tools

If all that wasn’t enough, there is a self-test machine that generates grammar and vocabulary mini tests (the student can choose a number of questions, or take a timed test). The questions will be different each time. And (running out of breath here) there is a reference section too with wordlists and definitions, grammar help, writing tips and a link to the dictionary. Oh, and for those schools big on Common European Framework there are all the language passport and dossier documents as well as self-assessment checklists too for students to build their own portfolio.

The e-workbook also keeps track of all the work done on it. You can create a pdf of your markbook, showing EXACTLY what you have done so far in any given session. This means that the teacher can ask students to email or print off a record of their work.

FINALLY… if your school is using a moodle or other virtual learning platform then the content of the e-workbook can be licensed directly from Macmillan and put onto your site (it’s SCORM compliant, which means it can work in a moodle).

Phew! Well, that’s it. And yes I KNOW this was a commercial plug but it IS my baby after all. So consider this like looking at a bunch of baby photos and making nice noises like “ooohhh” and “how beautiful”… šŸ˜‰

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 9:32 am  Comments (9)  
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Six more things to know about Global

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At the beginning of the fall season here at Six Things (for some reason I seem to think of my blog as running in seasons, like television shows) I warned you all that I would be sharing information about my new upcoming book Global. The reaction to my first post Six things to know about Global was very positive – more than 3000 visits in its first two days of being live and 45 comments, a record for me on the blog at that time. So, I think I can try and get away with another six things you might find interesting about Global. Here goes…

1. Teaching about English

In addition to using texts and topics that I hoped teachers and learners would find more intellectually satisfying that much of what is on offer I also wanted to include a strand in the book that dealt with our very own subject matter – the English language. How it got to be a world language, different kinds of English, aspects of English etc.. This topic is sometimes given a passing glance in our books (a lesson on Global English, or loan words, or the ubiquitous US/UKĀ  differences) but not really dealt with in depth. Just as we have Global Voices as extra listening practice, I wanted extra reading texts on Global English.

2. A star guest author

Following on from point 1, I began looking for source material for this. I found myself again and again dipping into work by David Crystal. For those who don’t know him, you can see about his work here. He is really one of the world’s top experts on the language and the status it enjoys today. Try as hard as I might, I thought there would be no way I could even come close to what he produced. Finally, in a moment of wild abandon, I suggested to the publisher and editors that we invite him to write the texts himself. We agonized about this for months, then finally screwed up the courage to send him an email. To our delight, he accepted and has written extra reading texts material especially for the course. Again, this is authentic material, slightly more challenging than other texts perhaps in the book and designed to mirror typical reading exam tasks and promote discussion on the issues.

Not only that, but he also agreed to be interviewed on video at his home about some of these things. Here’s a clip from an interview (also up on the Global site now).

And here is another free sample of a Global english reading text and tasks from the Pre Intermediate book.

3. Literature is back

Some people have been arguing a return to more literature in general English courses. This used to be a staple of language learning, which dropped off somewhat I think with the rise of the communicative approach and a more utlilitarian view of language. I can see the sense in this but I think it’s a great shame. I mean, you ask a person in a general language courseĀ  ‘Why do you study X language?’ and they may answer a whole variety of things (travel, work etc). Ask someone ‘Why do you love X language?’ and that’s where you’ll hear cultural reasons: its literature, its music, its poetry. I loved learning Spanish for example (another international language) not just so I could order a taco, but so I could read and understand Pablo Neruda’s poetry.

One criticsm of including literature in English course books was that it tended to be merely DWMs (dead white males) from the English literary canon. A Global book cannot restrict itself to that, BUT I didn’t want to ignore these authors either (that would be a kind of reverse-snobbery in my mind). We wanted a range of authors and extracts from the English language world. I could list them, but it’s nicer to show you a beautiful word cloud I made in Wordle.net with the names of the only some of the authors whose work we are using.

LIteratureGlobal

4. Teach Global, Think Local

Contrary to popular belief, I think that all coursebook authors realise that their material cannot meet all the needs of all the learners all the time. Teachers often need to adapt the material to suit local needs. A good coursebook will have enough flexibility for teachers to do that. A good teacher’s book (in my opinion) will include suggestions on how to do this. For that reason we included very regular Teach Global Think Local suggestions throughout. You may have seen them in the sample. Oh, and another thing. The authors of the student’s books have had considerable input in the teacher’s book (in my case, I’ve already half written one and contributed to another; I aim on writing for each teacher’s book that I’ve worked on). This is not always the case.

5. Going Global

Localising the material is one part of the equation, but you (or your learners) may wish to in fact bring stuff into class that is from beyond the local experience but that is motivating or links well to the topic of the lesson. With the spread of the internet and good broadband access this is more andĀ  more possible. My own experience with this blog and on twitter has shown me hundreds of great educational sites and tools for teachers to use inside and outside the classroom. I included suggestions and tips for extra web-related work in each unit of the teacher’s book in a section called Go Global.

The advantage of using so much real world material is that there are often loads of websites that you can use to follow up the lesson with. If you have a connected classroom, great, but these suggestions can be done by students at home too (and they are only extra suggestions! before any of you start saying what about my students without internet access etc).

6. Thank you and more.

I could probably go on and on about other things in this course. I haven’t even mentioned the specialist teaching methodology essays (you saw one of them by Scott Thornbury, there are plenty more by others…), the digital component material, the videos and audio and so on but I don’t want to get into trouble with my publisher by giving it all away! In January the course will be out and I’m sure you can get a copy to look at from your local Macmillan rep.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank the more than 10 000 people who have visited the Global site so far and especially to all those who have left encouraging comments and sent me emails or tweets about the course. The positive reaction has really been a great motivation to me and also shows me that people are ready for a change. Thanks a lot.

And now, regular programming at Six Things resumes…

Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 4:03 pm  Comments (9)  
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Six things to know about Global

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The beautiful, intricate astrolabe which we chose for the image on the cover of Global.

OK, now I warned you that you could expect at least ONE post about my upcoming book. Yes, that’s right for those of you who did not know already I am a writer of books for teachers and coursebooks for learners. My new course is called Global and it’s to be published by Macmillan in 2010 and 2011. I’m very excited and proud of it for various reasons, and I’m going to share six of them here.

1 Global Voices. First of all, check out the cool little video embedded below. This is an excerpt from an actual listening we did for the book. Totally unscripted. Totally authentic.

Why am I telling you this? Teachers have been recognizing for some time now that learners need to be exposed to accents from around the world. From the very beginning I wanted to include a strand in the book with authentically recorded audio of various accents from around the globe. It took some time to set up, but we did a great deal of these with students at a language school in the UK and with people on the street. We first recorded the audio, and then I wrote the material (usually it is the other way around, which can result in artificial listening material).

2 Try before you buy. If you go to this site, you can see the film again (or show a friend) and also download a sample unit from the forthcoming book. When I say unit, I mean WHOLE unit, with teaching notes and audio too. Not just a pdf of two pages which doesn’t tell you anything.

Why am I telling you this? In a discussion on Twitter around five months ago, Karenne Sylvester was having a go at ELT books (she sometimes does that, you can see examples here). Anyway, the topic of “try before you buy” came up. I immediately went to the publisher and said “we gotta do this.” It was a pretty major fight to get everyone to agree but finally we did. Now, it’s true that most books have a downloadable sample but they aren’t exactly instantly useable in class – they might be missing the audio or answer key or stuff. We put a whole unit up there, which consists of four completely different main lessons, a functional lesson, a writing lesson, Global voices lesson and study skills activity. It’s from the Pre Intermediate book. You can use any bits of it in class, for free. Enjoy.

3 Moving away from typical topics. The unit you can see there is called Hopes and Fears. It doesn’t feature your typical cosmopolitan, fudgey, middle classy, woman’s magazine topics. There is a lesson on aid workers, on real children’s hopes and fears for the future (including war, death, single mums, poverty etc), on famous dystopias in literature, on Pandora’s box and on An Inconvenient Truth and climate change.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think many coursebooks are guilty of portraying a rather comfortable kind of lifestyle and I wanted to try and do things differently. I also find that coursebooks are sometimes a bit lowbrow. We don’t need to dumb down.

4 No celebrities. There are no film stars, music stars, reality television stars, sports stars or any celebrities at all in this book. Or in the whole course. They have been banned.

Why am I telling you this? It’s kind of linked to point 3 above. Plus I wrote an article for a magazine about how I wanted to try and write material without recourse to celebrity culture so I had to keep my word, right? My feeling is that if celebrities are to be used in class then it’s best for the teacher to bring in something more current and appropriate off the net. They don’t need to be in books.

5 A different design. We went through about a year of wrestling with design to try and make something that looked different from other books.

Why am I telling you this? Too often the coursebooks look the same, all boxy and rigid. I personally love how the designers have made the pages and the text, but that is a personal opinion I’ll admit. Like it or not, at least there is something different about it.

6 A prize. There is a prize for either a Flip Mino video camera or an antique Globe if you sign up for more details. There is of course the option of checking a box if you don’t want to be emailed by Macmillan or have your email shared etc.

Why am I telling you this? I personally wanted to do a post that only focused on certain key elements of the book but since Macmillan were nice enough to offer a prize I thought I’d better mention it. You can find out more here.

So, there you have it. A nice little video you could probably use in class to spark a discussion on reasons for learning English, a set of four or five whole lessons with teacher’s notes and audio, an essay for teachers by a well-known methodologist and a chance to win a prize. All free. Even if you don’t rush out and tell your school to pre-order a million copies šŸ˜‰

In November there will be more exciting stuff appearing on the Global site, more news about technological elements of the course too which I will definitely want to tell you more about. Until then, it’s back to business as usual here at Six Things. Commercial message over!

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 7:56 am  Comments (48)  
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