English for Academic Studies – Collaboration Works!
Posted by Byron on 19 March, 2013
Epigeum. It’s not a name that will automatically be familiar to those of you who know the old faces of UK ELT, but it’s about to launch a brand-new suite of EAP courses for Universities using a radical collaborative publishing model – which makes it a very exciting place to be for HEIs (Higher Education Institutions).
Epigeum has actually been around for a while; it’s a spin-off from Imperial College London, and up until now has published a range of wholly online courses for university teaching and management, which are aimed at blended delivery. According to their website, 65% of UK HE institutions have purchased their courses, including 95% of Russell Group members and 9 of the top 10 UK universities.
The unique aspect of Epigeum’s offer is that they don’t just throw a product together and hope it sells. Instead, everything they produce is a collaboration between leading institutions and specially-commissioned authors and advisers. Technical development is managed in-house – the final product is then deployed on each institution’s own LMS, so no need to mess with annual contracts, subscriptions and multiple logons, the bugbear of third-party products like Macmillan English Campus and English360.
The process kicks off with invitations to participate sent out to key prospective partners, and leads to a workshop (often held at Imperial) where the basic framework of the programme is discussed and the outline is finalised. The company then commissions the materials, all of which are peer-reviewed on the go by the consortium. The end result is a product which truly reflects the needs of higher education, and which enables the consortium members to obtain a finished, class-leading product which would be excessively costly otherwise, both in terms of financing and staff time.
Epigeum has just launched its latest collaboration, English for Academic Studies (if the link is broken paste http://www.epigeum.com/component/programmes/?view=programme&programme=73 in your browser) - a comprehensive blended programme which, judging by the outline on its website, should be of massive interest to all universities and places of higher learning including international business schools. Not only will the (limited number) of consortium participants have an outstanding, appropriate educational tool at the end of the process, but they will also have the opportunity to network with other major international institutions.
Epigeum is to be congratulated on putting together a proposition which eschews the usual EAP book-based model and which is driven by peers, not publishers. Check it out.
Oh – and one of the lead advisers is our very own Pete Sharma!
Interested in Writing EFL Material? This new SIG is for You!
Posted by Byron on 7 February, 2013
It goes without saying that the majority of EFL teachers are also writers.
Many of us have ambitions to be published, or (increasingly) to publish themselves, but it’s a big wide world out there and budding writers – with whatever goal they ultimately have in mind – need support and advice.
With a group of colleagues (Karen Spiller, Karen White, Sue Kay, Jill Florent and Nick Robinson) we’re putting together a new IATEFL SIG group for all who are interested in exploring ways to write better materials, either for your own class or for wider publication. It doesn’t matter whether you are new to writing or an experienced author with practical knowledge to share – whichever end of the spectrum, this SIG is for you.
MaW SIG – yes, that’s its name – will share and promote best practice among authors and materials writers, encourage new authors, and disseminate information regarding professional writing opportunities among members.
There is no commitment (financial or otherwise!) needed at this stage, just register your interest and we’ll do the rest. If you feel this new SIG could be for you, email us on MaWSIG@outlook.com and we’ll be in touch! And watch out for us at IATEFL Liverpool 2013!
Byron RussellRead More
Macmillan Education – sale week on all apps
Posted by Byron on 28 January, 2013
Just a quick heads-up to start the week…Macmillan Education is running a sale on all their mobile apps this week. This includes the premium version of the excellent Sounds app, all 5 IELTS Skills apps, and the Macmillan Diccionario Pocket. Apple and Android versions are included.
All apps are available for a fixed price of £1.99/$2.99/EUR 2.69, via the usual app stores. Grab yourself a bargain, as they say on eBay.
IWB Debate result – a close C.A.L.L.!
Posted by Pete on 20 January, 2013
Wow – great debate this afternoon……despite my losing audio. By engaging in such debate, we move forward! More to follow on the LT-SIG Yahoo Group Forum……Read More
McGraw-Hill announces launch of the SmartBook
Posted by Byron on 18 January, 2013
Investor company Apollo’s recent $2.5bn investment in McGraw-Hill Education is starting to bear fruit. At the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas this month, McGraw-Hill Education gambled on the launch of suite of adaptive learning products for higher education; most interesting among these is the SmartBook, which uses sophisticated software to improve learning and student performance. Actually of course plans for this project were well advanced before the investment, but such products are potentially more nails (there are lots already) in the coffin of the traditional coursebook.
New technology tends to replace old when it can do stuff that cannot be achieved by more traditional methods, and when the cost comes down. A classic example is the field of popular photography, where the joy of viewing photos and videos instantly – a huge benefit – became mainstream when cameras started cost so little that consumers could afford to replace them every year or two with the latest model.
McGraw Hill’s new SmartBook products achieve both the aim of being innovative – they are basically dynamic, multi-platform digital textbooks ( or ebooks ) that “learn” where individual students need reinforcement and adapt the text and revision questions accordingly – and will be relatively inexpensive at just under $20.00 per “book”.
Of course, digital textbooks are available on a variety of platforms and from most of the major textbook publishers. The advantages are clear. They are cheaper, easier to carry around and usually incorporate interactive features such as videos or social media to make learning tasks more appealing. The SmartBook takes this to a new level by incorporating algorithms that adapt learning content to the student, based on given responses in test and revision units.
The SmartBook will then continue to monitor learner progress, and adjust to student needs as they progress through a course, constantly updating to offer the most appropriate content pathways. A SmartBook also predicts what material the learners are likely to forget over time – and when – and can build in revision sessions accordingly.
There are further benefits to the publisher, using feedback and data analysis to allow McGraw-Hill to build a dialogue with authors, to help refine areas where learners struggle most.
The SmartBook is a nice concept. Not entirely new – back in the nineties there were early attempts at creating offline dynamic learner pathways in response to input, but you had to be sitting at your PC to study (assuming you had a PC back then). But coupling this technology with the web and multi-platform delivery represents a very interesting step forwards – ELT publishers (and providers like Macmillan English Campus and English360) take note. As ever, expect McGraw-Hill’s new baby to take off first in the US – and be over here in Europe sometime in the next five to ten years…
Happy New Year, if it’s not too late…
Enter the Doki…an app that uses a games-like approach to great effect
Posted by Byron on 13 December, 2012
One of the interesting developments in the past couple of years has been the proliferation of apps for language learning, and it seems everyone is getting in on the act. We have peripheral products, such as OUP’s rather over-priced and inanimate readers; Dictionary apps; Exam practice apps, such as Macmillan’s IELTS Skills. Such products, focusing on the minutiae of language learning, can be successful as long as they have a sound business model, such as IAP (In App Purchase, where the customer has the opportunity to try a a free sample before making a purchase decision), and are appropriately priced. However, many educational apps seem to have been rushed to market without a great deal of care or forethought in their execution, and represent an exceedingly dull journey for the user.
One which really breaks this mould is the latest language learning app to hit the market; called Doki (don’t ask!) it’s well worth checking out. Available from launch in Spanish, Latin American Spanish, German, English and French and in most of the leading national app stores worldwide, Doki is one of the very few language learning apps that is actually great fun, whether used for self-access (its original target market) or in the classroom. By the way, don’t confuse it with DokiDoki, a rather saccharine range of kids’ manga character apps…
Two units of Doki are available as a free download for iPad, with additional units for IAP. The free version demonstrates something of the “games” approach used in the programme, though this only really comes out in scenarios such as the Bar and Supermarket. Two levels – Basic and the oddly-named “Further” – which appears to mean lower intermediate – are currently available. Unlike the majority of language learning self-teach programmes, Doki is non-linear, which makes it more relevant for the learner, and more motivating. A further innovation is the extensive use of cartoon-quality animation – with a unique design style – throughout. On opening the programme the user is invited to choose an interface language from a choice of 17 – including Polish and Chinese – and then given a choice of two age ranges (7 – 14 and 15+). I understand the mild “adult” references in the 15+ version have been excised from the kid’s edition, though I’m certain any youngster using Doki would automatically opt for the grown up version…
One the language has been selected, users are taken to a “cityscape” which is a nice way of navigating through the various scenarios – restaurant, hotel booking, emergencies, shopping and so on. Only two of these (Greetings and Travel) are actually open on the free version. The full version is available via in-app purchase for a modest $1.99 for three units (or “Chapters”, as they are called), or $7.99 for the package of 12 units. Learners can therefore follow their own route through the “city”, choosing the language scenarios – and learning sequences – most appropriate to their needs. Picking up on the interactive Bar sequences, for example (where else would you go first?) I had a presentation session and practice conversation with animated barman Luigi. I was then swiftly able to pick up the language needed to order those all-important beers, and an orange juice with ice for the kids – despite having no prior knowledge of Spanish at all. I could even be a Madrid barman myself. Pretty impressive.
The new app offers a basic vocabulary loading of 400 words and over 20 hours of learning, more than enough to assimilate the basics of a language for casual holiday purposes. From the teaching point of view, I tried Doki out on an interactive whiteboard and the bright Technicolor and lively animation come across beautifully – the scenarios would make for excellent additional classroom practice if used on an IWB or with a projector. The developers, Eazyspeak, clearly have taken a leaf out of games developers’ books, and are to be congratulated for making the most of this crossover approach, which is the way I think all Educational apps will be going.
Society of authors: talk and handout
Posted by Pete on 12 December, 2012
Pete’s talk for the Society of Authors, London
It was a great pleasure to go down to London last month and deliver a talk for the Society of authors. The talk was entitled: Challenge and Change in Educational Publishing.
The audience were mainly in the area of educational publishing, and what was lovely for me personally was the number of attendees whom I knew from the world of ELT. (Long time since I’ve typed ‘whom’).
The talk was focussed on: Blended Learning, relevant types of technology (such as blogs and e-book readers), and the challenges facing publishers and authors. This is such a time of change that it was highly relevant to consider how publishers make money from digital (some clearly do!) and how authors will be remunerated in the future.
The talk raised many issues, but as we are in the middle of this paradigm shift, it’s probably fair to say that concrete answers are still ‘blowin’ in the wind’. How we view the future comes, like so much in digital, to one’s beliefs and attitudes about tech developments. There will always be both good and bad, as eloquently argued by musician David Byrne in a recent e-mail to fans, extolling the positives of the e-mail and lamenting the demise of print….
Many thanks to the organisers for inviting me to speak at this post-AGM event. Please feel free to download an 11-page Handout of the PowerPoint of the talk. plenary
Here comes India’s Aakash…so what’s you’re mobile learning strategy now?
Posted by Byron on 28 November, 2012
So you’re happy with your iPad? Of course you are. It’s sleek, fashionable and sexy. OK, it has a few irritating niggles. For example, it won’t handle Flash. There’s nowhere to upload files via a USB port, and attaching peripherals such as a projector needs a clunky adaptor, and if you have the new one you have to buy new charging cables, but you can live with all that. And of course it only cost £400 or thereabouts.
But what if there was something else out there, that didn’t look quite as sexy as an iPad but was a whole lot more versatile? Something that could accept USB devices, something which had a 7-inch touch panel, 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of Flash storage, Android 4.0.3, built-in WiFi and a front-facing VGA camera and could even be user-programmed, or used to teach programming.
Something which costs (are you sitting down?) $21?
Well, just such an object has arrived. You’ll only pay the subsidised $21 if you happen to live in India. Outside the continent the new Aakash 2 – built by British company Datawind – will sell for a whopping $80. Get your credit cards out right now…
As Steve Jobs might have said, this changes everything. There have been cheap tablets before, of course. Pearson have tried to get in on the act with a bundle solution of tablet and software for schools in India called MX Touch. Difference is that the MX Touch 7 inch computer bundle is roughly five times the price of the Aakash. That’s a lot (relatively speaking) to pay for software. Put into perspective, the average per capita income in India is 61,000 rupees, or 50 times the cost of the Aakash – but nine times the cost of the MX Touch bundle. The Aakash is to be presented at the UN today (Nov 28th) before an invited audience, including Ban-Ki Moon
At the price of the Aakash, learning in India – and elsewhere – really is going mobile (it’s hardly worth even stealing one at this price). At least Pearson are trying. Publishers who aren’t planning a raft of material for this big new learning market – or who aren’t doing it already – are really running the risk of losing out, big time. And if I were an author, one of the first questions I’d ask my publisher is “what is your mobile publishing strategy?”.
Ultimately the Indian government would like all 220m students in India to have a $20 tablet. And nobody using a tablet for everyday learning – a tablet pre-loaded (or ready to be loaded) with content, either as pdfs or interactive exercises – is going to have much use for a satchel full of heavy, expensive textbooks.
Social media workshop
Posted by Pete on 25 November, 2012
Starting the session on blogs – waiting for coffee!Read More
BESIG Stuttgart – Shift Yourself!
Posted by Byron on 19 November, 2012
Just back from Stuttgart. Another year, another BESIG behind us. Next year’s venue is a closely guarded secret, but for 2012 Stuttgart treated us to two days of unseasonably sunny weather, and the conference was the biggest ever – around 500 delegates crowded into the atrium of the SpOrt building in Neckar Park, in sight of the vast Mercedes-Benz arena and the striking architecture of the carmaker’s museum.
The conference programme kicked off with a hugely entertaining plenary on defining digital literacies from Gavin Dudenay. I’m not going to spend ages blogging about this or the other presentations, but there were two initiatives really worth drawing some attention to, and Gavin’s plenary highlighted two particular paradigm-shifting issues.
The first of these is the growing importance of gaming approaches in digital learning. Gavin referenced the use of “non-ELT” games like foursquare to motivate learners, as well as overtly games-based learning tools of which our fave vocab app Word Carrot is one. The other is the dramatic shift in the use and availability of technology in the past five years, none more so (I think) than the introduction of the wifi tablet. Suddenly learning on the move – the anytime, anywhere potential of m-learning – is a reality that all publishers and writers will be paying close attention to.
Overall there was less overt focus on technology at BESIG this year, both in the exhibitors stands ( a notable exception being that of gold sponsor english360) and in the talks themselves. This isn’t to say there wasn’t a lot of technology about. Just that in many talks the digital angle was presented less as the core, but part of the integrated whole: a certain level of knowledge and practice was assumed, which certainly would not have been the case even three years ago. As Gavin said, shift happens. He rightly pointed out that this means all of us involved in this profession – as writers, teachers, or publishers – have to add a veneer of technical awareness to everything we do. Technology impacts on our research, our professional development (check out sites like TeacherTube and the Utubersity), workflow management, lesson planning and specific content creation. And of course on our professional image. You don’t have to be a so-called digital native (how I hate that term!) to be in this business, but you do have to be digitally literate. Who would employ you as an educator if you couldn’t read and write?
Finally, two initiatives from Nick Robinson and Sue Kay / Karen Spiller of eltteacher2writer brought a shift in perspective to the conference’s usual focus. Though the growing importance of digital delivery of content can mean the re-use of assets, overall publishers will need more content rather than less. Tired old course books cannot simply be recycled in a digitised format and win eager new customers. Along with a growing hunger among publishers for fresh, up to date materials – particularly for ESP and business training – professional writers like Paul Emmerson have found they can bypass the traditional publisher altogether, and publish their own ebooks or print-on-demand titles. But it isn’t an easy call.
Nick Robinson and eltteacher2writer help teachers to become professional, published authors via – in Nick’s case – an agency representation (one of the most difficult aspects, particularly for newcomers to writing, is marketing yourself to a publisher) and – in the case of eltteacher2writer - via a searchable, free database and a range modular self-help training course texts.
Both Pete and I will be contributing to eltteacher2writer training modules, so watch this space for more details. And if you have any writing aspirations whatsoever – and I don’t know ANY teacher who isn’t a practising materials writer! – check out http://www.eltteacher2writer.co.uk/ and http://nickrobinsonelt.com
- Announcement (75)
- Blended Learning (75)
- Byron (19)
- Conferences (69)
- CPD (1)
- E-lessons (64)
- Events (24)
- General Posts (86)
- Kevin (12)
- Learning Technologies SIG (10)
- Networking in English (6)
- Pete (22)
- Presentations (84)
- PSA (10)
- Reviews (25)
- Social (22)
- Teaching materials (53)
- Teaching tips (48)
- Technologies (67)
- Uncategorized (181)
- Using LT (9)
- Writing (2)
- June 2013 (1)
- May 2013 (1)
- April 2013 (4)
- March 2013 (2)
- February 2013 (3)
- January 2013 (6)
- December 2012 (4)
- November 2012 (9)
- October 2012 (7)
- September 2012 (4)
- August 2012 (4)
- July 2012 (9)
- June 2012 (9)
- May 2012 (9)
- April 2012 (7)
- March 2012 (7)
- February 2012 (6)
- January 2012 (12)
- December 2011 (7)
- November 2011 (11)
- October 2011 (8)
- September 2011 (7)
- August 2011 (3)
- July 2011 (3)
- June 2011 (7)
- May 2011 (8)
- April 2011 (6)
- March 2011 (8)
- February 2011 (4)
- January 2011 (4)
- December 2010 (6)
- November 2010 (9)
- October 2010 (2)
- September 2010 (4)
- August 2010 (2)
- July 2010 (7)
- June 2010 (5)
- May 2010 (10)
- April 2010 (6)
- March 2010 (12)
- February 2010 (9)
- January 2010 (6)
- December 2009 (3)
- November 2009 (9)
- October 2009 (4)
- September 2009 (2)
- August 2009 (4)
- July 2009 (3)
- June 2009 (7)
- May 2009 (10)
- April 2009 (6)
- March 2009 (4)
- February 2009 (5)
- January 2009 (9)
- December 2008 (1)
- November 2008 (5)
- October 2008 (10)
- September 2008 (4)
- August 2008 (2)
- July 2008 (10)
- June 2008 (7)
- May 2008 (8)
- April 2008 (10)
- March 2008 (11)
- February 2008 (8)
- January 2008 (14)
- December 2007 (16)
- November 2007 (15)
- October 2007 (12)
- September 2007 (10)
- August 2007 (4)
- July 2007 (10)
- June 2007 (13)
- May 2007 (10)
- April 2007 (15)
- March 2007 (13)
- February 2007 (5)
- January 2007 (8)
- December 2006 (7)
- November 2006 (7)
- October 2006 (8)
- September 2006 (6)
- August 2006 (4)
- July 2006 (4)
- June 2006 (6)
- May 2006 (3)
- April 2006 (4)
- March 2006 (4)
- February 2006 (4)
- January 2006 (4)
- December 2005 (8)
- November 2005 (5)
- October 2005 (5)
- September 2005 (6)
- August 2005 (4)
- July 2005 (9)
- June 2005 (10)
- May 2005 (4)
- April 2005 (2)