Firstly my apologies for not getting to everyone's comments very quickly over the weekend.

I was at the TESOL France conference in Paris and also being visited by my sister (who lives about 1.5 hours' drive away from Paris), so it was a very busy weekend and I rewarded myself with some time off from 'being connected'!

I'm not sure if anyone from the TESOL France committee will read this, but it was a fantastic conference, well-organised, diverse in speakers and very social too. I got to meet some old friends and acquaintances (Jamie Keddie, Burcu Akyol, Lindsay Clandfield, Penny Ur, Ken Wilson, Simon Greenall, Hugh Dellar, David Hill, Valentina Dodge, Cleve Miller, etc.) and also to finally meet in real life some virtual friends from Twitter and Second Life (most notably Shell Terrell and Kenny Christian). Being able to spend time laughing, eating and drinking with people is fantastic, and Paris was a great place to be for a couple of days too.

But of course we can't always get to conferences in real life (apart from anything else, it's actually very expensive and we have to work) and luckily there are plenty of opportunities for professional development online. If you click any of the names above you'll be taken to the Twitter account of the people mentioned - if you don't use Twitter yet, consider joining and following some (or all) of them. You might also be interested in online conferences: last week there was the free AVEALMEC conference, some of which I attended, and coming up this week another conference (free and online) talking about technologies and teaching. If you can't get to the event, sometimes the event can get to you...

At the conference I had a couple of interesting conversations about teachers and technology. In my session I did some light theory, looking at new digital literacies and then moved on to look at several tools which I think can enhance some teaching situations: we looked at using images in the classroom, using video, word clouds and cartoons - and, as always, some teachers had seen some of these tools, whilst others were delighted to find new ones. I remember the 'whoop of delight' from one participant to see how easy it is to work with Wordle. Nice reactions and a good crowd - my thanks to everyone who chose to come to my session.

After the session, talking to Lindsay Clandfield, he was telling me about a recent set of teacher training sessions he'd done and how he'd noticed that teachers responded very well to certain technology tools (video, Wordle, etc.) but less well to others (wikis and video subtitling were ones he mentioned). As we talked, we thought perhaps it was the tools that leave the teacher at the centre of the materials production and more in control of the class that were more attractive and that tools which put the emphasis on learner control were met with less enthusiasm. I can certainly see why that might happen, but I hope it's not a long-term thing!

What do you think?



Gavin's now finished blogging on the site - check the Guest Writers page to see who our current blogger is.


Dear Mr Dudeney, I am sorry I am not responding to your comments in an order. But I hope you do remember me well. I think technology can supplement the teacher but it will never replace or supplant the teacher. It is true that in the present teaching scenario, the teacher cannot do away with technology and get on with chalk and talk method.when I was a student,the radio was the only technological device.At that time I was delighted to listen to the lessons by air broadcast by ciefl, Hyderabad.These days most government schools are equipped with students are operating computers better than me.I hope you do remember my comment because i kept the ball rolling first.You told me about  your Bangalore experience and i talked about my rajahmundry experience to drive our point that technology is always not dependable.You are undoubtedly a high tech scholar and the names of the technologies you used by you are new to me. Anyhow you are living in a technologically developed country and i am working in a semi urban school. I am trying my level best to master the use use of technology in the class.Being  a teacher,trainer and resource person and text book writer I need to master the use of  technology.My daughter is helping me a lot. British council and you are helping me a lot. Nevertheless, I feel that technology can supplement  a teacher and it will never supplant him or her. with kind regards, Yours sincerely, jvl narasimharao  

Good to see you back!I think you're absolutely right - a large part of my work is training teachers to enhance what they already do in the classroom with various technology areas that they have access to. Technology will not make a bad teacher good, but it can make a good teacher more relevant and interesting to their learners. Technology cannot effectively replace good human beings doing a good teaching job, but as a supplementary tool where it is available, it can make a difference to classroom teaching when it is used by a trained and creative teacher.I think our jobs are safe for a long time to come!Gavin

Trained and creative teachers: is there a way of evaluating 'creativity' in terms of its usefulness to learners? Everyone can be creative - in their own heads. (You should hear the brilliant songs I make up in the shower.) Is it the case that 'creativity' in terms of TEFL is becoming beyond criticism and is perhaps overly revered in the overall context of the combination of skills and qualities that make a classroom teacher 'good'? Of course, it is such an appealing and powerful word: who would possibly want 'uncreative lessons' or to be considered 'an uncreative teacher/person'? But, in the end, do teachers have to rely on their own jugement s to whether their creativity can turn out to be brilliant or just lots of fun for themselves and rubbish for everyone else (like my songs)? 

Iain,I can't speak for your songs, but I think creativity is desirable in all teachers - and by creativity I'm speaking about the skills to see beyond what is in the prescribed coursebook and curriculum to ways of making that 'content' attractive, stimulating, motivating and useful to the learners.It's not so much about singing, or juggling or telling jokes or indeed having fun - it's about knowing what stimulates your learners, what engages them and what will lead to better learning. That's creativity for me, going beyond the 'one size fits all' of materials most people are forced to work with, to something more relevant and useful to the people in the classrom.Gavin

Dear mr Gavin Dudeney, Thank you very much for remembering me. Since you, the god of technology, assured us, your messengers, working at the grass root level and secondary level like me, we can be assured of our safety.It is really the hall mark of a great high tech teacher like you to accept gracefully the comment of a low tech teacher like me that "technology can supplement a teacher but it will never supplant him/her". It is true that technology can't make an average teacher a creative teacher but it will surely make a  creative teacher more useful in the class room in this age of technology explosion. Only the British Council can accommodate and utilise properly the services and the expertise of a teacher of your stature.Thank you and  THE BC once again for your noble cause of making english teachers across the globe more useful and enlightened and making them resourceful round the clock. Thank you god, yours sincerely, JVL NARASIMHARAO  

I very much agree with your description of 'creative' in terms of teaching and I completely agree that this creativity is desirable in all teachers."it's about knowing what stimulates your learners, what engages them and what will lead to better learning. That's creativity for me, going beyond the 'one size fits all' of materials most people are forced to work with, to something more relevant and useful to the people in the classroom."This is a specific description and my doubt would be whether this matches what is generally understood by being "creative". Being able to 'know' what can stimulate learners towards better learning is, as far as I have seen, more a matter of 'experience and intuition'. Maybe it's just quibbling about words but 'experience and intuition' are not automatically available to everyone while 'creativity' is. And it is with this 'easy' interpretation of 'creative' where the  declared aim of 'better learning' may be obscured.In my original post I wondered if there was a way of evaluating 'creativity' and the description you provide is certainly very helpful.  However, I don't think that 'creative teaching' is just about songs, telling jokes and juggling  and I certainly don't think that one size fits all. Maybe the fact that these points get wheeled out goes to illustrate the point I made that 'creativity' is beyond criticism.  

Iain,Thanks for getting back to me. To be honest, and having given it a bit of thought over breakfast, I really have no idea what is generally understood by being 'creative'. Of course you're right - experience and intuition come into it, but so does creativity (at least in *my* definition) in terms of choosing, adapting and presenting materials we decide to work with in the classroom.I'm not sure how you measure these things, but I'd say that (at least in my definition) 'creativity' *is* something that can be acquired, as can 'experience'. Where I definitely agree with you is that it's more difficult (if not impossible) to acquire 'intuition', though of course teachers get better at their 'hunches' the more experience they have. But people can be given suitable training to help them find, evaluate and implement more creative materials in their classrooms, and this *can* lead to higher motivation, and motivation often has an impact on learning. Of course, we're talking in very oblique terms here - difficult to measure at best.I often evaluate things by watching their effect, rather than with charts and numbers. Seeing a text prediction exercise presented using Wordle (as one simple example) is more creative, I reckon, than sticking some words up on the board or other similar devices. Seeing the effect that has on the learners, it's easy to see that they find it more stimulating. Watching learners unpick, say, question forms which are presented as Wordle pictures, you get the impression that deeper thought is going into it than if they had been presented with linear unordered words. But, at best, it's all just a hunch for me...We've been through a lot over the years, with all that 'eclecticism' and 'creativity' and 'fun', and maybe you're right, perhaps I fell back into a stereotype there, but I do think there's a difference between being a creative teacher and being a 'fun' teacher. I think there's a big difference between 'creative' and 'clown', though they often get lumped together.Hugh Dellar does an interesting talk on why creative isn't necessarily the way to go. You can find it here...Gavin

Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments