Six subtitled films

In addition to writing materials and teaching, some of you may already be familiar with my subtitling work. Around a year or so ago I discovered Overstream, a great site which allows you to add subtitles to any video you want. Of course, there are good pedagogical uses you could put this to. You could also use this medium to create funny little videos about what goes on in English language teaching and the ELT blogosphere. Here then, are my six subtitled “masterpieces” as one kind critic called them. 😉

Settle down with some colleagues, grab a cup of tea and enjoy! Curtain up…

You are probably wondering what the football uniforms have to do with Dogme…

1. ANY GIVEN DOGME

  • Based on: Any Given Sunday (German dubbed)
  • The context: This was my debut tribute to Scott Thornbury and Dogme methodology. Someone told me they used this video as an introduction to dogme in a workshop, which I loved! Here Al Pacino plays Thornbury, giving a dogme class to a group of football players.

Click here to see the film.

In 2010, a young DOS went to a conference on a battleship...

2. BATTLESHIP ELT

  • Based on: Yamoto (Japanese film)
  • The context: In early 2010, International House held its annual DOS conference on board HMS Belfast, a warship docked in London. This was just too good a chance to pass up for a bit of satire…

Click here to see the film.

I am Guardian of the Tweets...

3.THE SEVENTH TWEET

  • Based on: The Seventh Seal (Swedish film)
  • The context: Gavin Dudeney wrote a blogpost about how we should be careful what we tweet, retweet and so on. Couldn’t resist spoofing it…

Click here to see the film.

"Language is like ecosystem. Not McNuggets."

4.HARROTAR

  • Based on: Avatar (Russian dubbed trailer)
  • The context: IATEFL 2010 was notable for the large number of talks on technology. This trailer follows an undercover teacher working for the evil EduCorp. They want to destroy the gentle and pure Dogm’ee, who are resisting technology in education.

Click here to see the film.

Prepare for a humanistic sacrifice...

5.ASH CLOUD ELT

  • Based on: The Mist (Russian dubbed trailer)
  • The context: When the ash cloud hit Europe it threw everyone into turmoil and anxiety. Would we ever travel by air again? This trailer tells the story of a Saturday morning training session gone terribly wrong.

Click here to see the film.

"I think some crazy anti-coursebook bloggers put me here!"

6. BURIED ELT

  • Based on:  (Russian dubbed trailer)
  • The context: Ryan Reynolds plays… erm, me! Buried in a coffin underground and being forced to burn my books. But is this really an anti-coursebook plot or a cruel marketing trick from my publisher?

Click here to see the film.

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Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm  Comments (15)  
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Six utterly random laws

Clandfield's Law of Procrastination clearly states that...

Time to put your thinking caps on readers! One of the things I enjoy watching are the TED Talks (I’m sure many of you know them, but in case you don’t then be sure to check them out here). One of the latest I saw was Dan Cobley talk about everything physics had taught him about marketing. It was an ingenious little talk about theories of physics and how they could be applied to marketing.
It got me wondering, could we not do the same with ELT? I seem to remember fellow blogger Alex Case writing once that anything, absolutely anything, could be made to relate to ELT if you were ingenious enough. So here’s my idea. Below are six utterly random laws from various fields. Can you take one and form it into a law relating to ELT? For example, Murphy’s Law states “If anything can go wrong, it will”. So I could change this to be Clandfield’s Law of lesson observation: “If anything can go wrong in an observed lesson it will”. Get the idea? That was the easy one. How about the following laws?

1 Newton’s First Law. Every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.

2. The Second Law of Thermodynamics. In a system, a process that occurs will tend to increase the total entropy (disorder) of the universe.

3. Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle. It’s impossible to measure the position and the momentum of a particle because the act of measuring it, by definition, changes it.

4. Parkinson’s Law. Work expands so as to fill the time available.

5. The Peter Principle. In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence.

6. Tobler’s First Law of Geography. Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.

Try it out with your colleagues. Can you make one or more of these relate to English teaching? Or perhaps another law of your own invention? Post a comment – you may assure yourself a place in ELT stardom!

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm  Comments (9)  
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Six merchandising gimmicks for Dogme ELT

The "Dogme Circle" - a very nice image but is it now time to expand to more tie-ins and collectibles?

The other day I was going through and clearning up some old folders on the computer when I came across a document called Teaching Unplugged Marketing ideas. It was a very short document, and had a few notes for marketing the well-known book by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings. As it turned out, Delta publishing had no marketing department (or budget really) at the time and so nothing came of it. But judging from the furore around Dogme and Teaching Unplugged (for example, here) I thought it was time to unleash some more ideas. I can see that this movement has some legs, so I figure why not try and make some money off it? Here are six bits of merchandise, with suggested list prices, to help Dogme reach a much wider audience and make me a wealthy marketing guru in the process!

1. Dogme Chastity Rings

The dogme ELT movement was launched ten years ago with a Vow of Chastity regarding materials. If you have taken the vow and are a confirmed Dogmeist then why not show the world? These little rings will identify you immediately as an unplugged teacher and come in a range of attractive colours.

Suggested price: 29.99 euros

2. Doggmie bags

All that focusing on emergent language generates a certain amount of detrius in the form of hastily scribbled notes, post-its and so on. Keep it all together with these ecological Doggmie bags! Made out of 100% recycled coursebooks.

Suggested price: 1.99 euros

3. Limited edition action figures

The Limited Edition Luke Meddings doll, without glasses version

You now can have a miniature Scott Thornbury or Luke Meddings with you at all times! These customized action dolls come with two changes of clothes (formal and informal) and, when you pull the string in their backs, they will utter classic phrases like “No more grammar mcnuggets!” or “I don’t believe in learner-as-consumer methodology”

(footnote: I actually found a site (here) that will make an action figure of you, and suggested it to Luke and Scott when we were about to publish Teaching Unplugged; I am still waiting for an answer)

Suggested price: 289.00 euros (they ARE limited edition after all)

4. Collectible Dogmemon cards

The very rare Karenne Sylvester trading card - with full Dogme challenge powers!

If you have children you may have heard of the Pokemon card-collecting craze. Now unplugged teachers can collect Karenne Sylvester, Jason Renshaw, Diarmuid Fogarty, Gavin Dudeney, Vicki Samuell, Jeremy Harmer and many other beloved characters from the Dogme universe. Play with them, frame them or trade them! Each pack comes with ten cards and instructions for gameplay. I’ve got a rare Lindsay Clandfield card to trade that I just can’t seem to get rid of by the way…

Suggested price: 9.99 for the starter pack, and 1.99 for individual packs of 5 cards.

5. The Official Unplugged coursebook

This attractive blank notebook is a must for any teacher. All you really need to teach any level, any length of course or any number of students is contained inside. You can also get the special Englishraven edition with the blank pages written by Jason Renshaw himself for 2 euros extra.

(footnote: I nearly did convince DELTA publishing to do this as a marketing giveaway to coincide with the launch of Teaching Unplugged, but it never happened in the end)

Suggested price: 4.99 (6.99 for Jason Renshaw authored version)

6. Pack of “Materials light” safety matches (discontinued)

This pack of safety matches comes in an attractive box with the Vow of Chastity engraved on the back of it and instructions on how to hold a “coursebook bonfire night” inside. This item was the product of an overeager marketing department that seized on a quip about burning books. Since Thornbury and Meddings have clarified that they are not really in favour of book-burning the item was quickly shelved. However, some copies are still in existence. Only for the most die-hard extremist dogmeist.

Suggested price: 499.99 euros (only 5 left in stock)

Please place your orders in the comments box.

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm  Comments (27)  
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Six writing analysis tools

 

Warning: this post might seriously waste your time!

 

Another day idly watching my twitter stream go by… I came across one of those links that analyze your writing for you (I can’t remember where from now). It’s fun to know about your writing, and some of these might even in fact have a pedagogical use too.  This is a short little post but that could end up wasting a LOT of time 🙂

1 Vocab Profiler – This is a great site of more pedagogical value. Paste in a text, and it shows you through a system of colours the frequency of the words. In their own words “Vocabulary Profilers break texts down by word frequencies in the language at large.” I used this tool quite a bit when writing low level texts or adapting texts for lower levels (I used something similar for a graded reader I wrote which never in the end saw the light of day… but that’s another story). I think this tool is a favourite of Scott Thornbury‘s too, or at least it was!

2 I write likeThis website says the following: “Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.” Then it gives you a little badge you can put on the blog. When I pasted some of my text I got the following. Cool! (or should I say ‘spiffing’?)

I write like
P. G. Wodehouse

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

3 OFaust – This site does the same as I write like, but you can also enter your blog url to analyze a larger sample. According to oFaust, I have a slight similarity to Lewis Carroll on my blog (a 22% likeness!)

4 Gender Genie – This one made the rounds a little while ago. It analyses a piece of writing and tells you if it’s more masculine or feminine. It seems to have become a bit more sophisticated recently and you can specify the genre. When I entered some of my writing I came up as Male (195 score) but a high level of female there too (105 score). I guess that’s because I have a girl’s name…

5 Text Content Analyser Getting more serious again now this site seems a bit more like a simplified Vocab Profiler (from above). It gave me the number of words according to numbers of letters which didn’t feel that useful. But it also gave information about lexical density, and something called the Gunning Fog index, which tells you what level of education (American education) your reader needs to have to understand. My writing requires a grade eight education to read which is either a testament to my clear and incisive prose or shows that I’ve been writing simplified grammar exercises and texts too long perhaps.

6 I actually write like

If all this is going to your head, then the last site brings you back down to earth hard. It also analyzes your text and lets you put a badge on your blog like the one above. Here’s what I got…

 

I actually write like
a moonstruck lunatic possibly actually wearing a straightjacket

I Actually Write Like Analyze your writing!

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm  Comments (6)  
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Six villains in English language teaching

Mwahahaha!

Every profession has its bad guys. For doctors, it may be the evil pharmaceutical companies. For soldiers, it’s the enemy army or the “top brass”. What about English teachers? Well, I think there are six kinds of villain that are invoked at our conferences, in our methodology books, during workshops and especially on blogs. Here they are, in no particular order.

1 The old-fashioned teacher

Curious that the first villain is actually a teacher. Now, of course I don’t mean teachers like you dear readers. Never. No, I mean the infamous “old-fashioned” teacher. The kind of teacher that bores his/her students. That punishes them for no good reason. That beats students (thankfully these teachers are not so common now one hopes). That humiliates them. That is inhuman (as opposed to the good “humanist” teachers). And even more unforgiving, the kind of teacher that uses old-fashioned methods. Recently, this villain could be the kind of teacher who refuses to incorporate technology into his/her teaching. That old-fashioned teacher is one who we love to hate or, at best, pity.

2 The backpacker teachers

Our second villain is another teacher, but this time of a different ilk. The spectre of the backpacker teacher is often raised as part of the lament of lack of professional standards in English Language Teaching. And many of us have met (or, gulp, were) backpacker teachers in the past. The worst kind of villain in this category is the teacher with no qualification, no teaching experience who will give classes for just enough money to cover beer costs. Needless to say, this kind of teacher is favoured by villain number 5 below.

3 The publishers

The ELT publishers, and especially the really big ones, are always a good target in a blogpost or general rant along the following lines: They’re commercialising education! They’re moving in on “our” social networks like Facebook and Twitter! They’re giving away too much (flooding us with junk!) They aren’t giving away enough (why can’t I have another ten sample books and CDs to pilot?)! They put on a practical workshop at a nice hotel, gave a free lunch and then had the sheer audacity to try and… sell us a book at the end of it! They ignore too much raw talent (especially true if you’ve been turned down). The publishers are sometimes viewed as bottomless pits of money, making “billions”, and really just out there to hoodwink honest-to-goodness hardworking teachers and the poor students. They are our very own version of Big Tobacco, the Arms Industry or Big Pharmaceutical. Choose your metaphor!

4 The coursebook authors

These are more a villain of the lesser kind, perhaps only lackeys to the real culprits above. The more villainous the coursebook author is tends to be in direct proportion to how successful they are. Which means that the authors of books such as Headway or Interchange are sometimes thrust in the role of arch-villain in our ELT pantomime. Their work stifles teachers’ creativity, imposes a foreign world-view on classrooms around the world, or are simply out-of-touch with students’ reality and needs.

5 The private language school owners

The small-time crooks of our profession. They are really just interested in “bums-on-seats” and make huge gobs of cash by fleecing the students and cheating teachers at every opportunity. This is combined with trying to sell fake visas (if they are based in the UK) or evading tax (if they are based anywhere in the world). Finally, they don’t really know anything at all about education and tend to neglect or exploit the raw talent that works for them (when they aren’t trying to get in bed with them).

6 The grammar syllabus and exams

Not human, these twin evils are more akin to monstrous demons that control language courses everywhere. They frog-march publishers, coursebook authors, teachers and students through their all-powerful totalitarian system and make us dance to their tune. Like death and taxes, they are the inevitables in our world. And are often loathed for it.

Now, are there any villains I’ve left out of our pantomime? Education ministers perhaps? The Common European Framework? Certain kinds of student? Post a comment!

Published in: on September 12, 2010 at 8:15 am  Comments (67)  
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