>The future just ain’t what it used to be

>A teacher describes his experience at using tele- & videoconferencing in teaching: “While teaching in France I was asked to teach on an online course. IMHO it was a disaster. People came and went from the virtual room and nobody seemed to know what was going on. It was a bit like one of those horrible dreams you have about having no control of a class. I think it MIGHT work IF you have the opportunity to meet the students in the real world before you go virtual – and have a limited number of well-motivated students.”

I think we have to keep in mind that this is a moving target, very dynamic, constantly changing and improving. People, including our students, are using VOIP and videoconferencing more and more. Managers and staff in offices are using this to communicate with each other and with colleagues around the world. Everyone will get used to the protocols of usage and behavior.

It’s not that it is a special tool for English teaching. It is becoming an increasingly common way of communication with all people around the world and something that we can use, too.

It is quickly reaching the point that it is not a cheap and convenient way to teach English but it is a more realistic way of teaching English because it is the way our students are actually using English. My students here in China report to me that of their spoken English communication, about 95% is on the phone and about 5% is face-to-face. Yet, just about ALL of our English teaching is face-to-face. So I think teaching by VOIP, videoconferencing and even by telephone, with all the associated difficulties, are not only authentic but necessary mediums for teaching.

Additionally, improvements are being made on audio and video quality. In ten years, many of us will be sitting down at a table looking at a life-like video image of our student(s) on the other side of the table. Except for the fact that it is two-dimensional instead of three, it will be the same as being there. I and many of you have seen demonstrations of this technology already.

It is no longer called “videoconferencing”. Rather, it has become “Telepresence”.

That is an interesting term to ponder, “Telepresence”. Teachers could work in tandem. The primary face-to-face teacher could hand off to a telepresent teacher for ten minutes to explain some aspect of English and then carry on. When a question comes up he doesn’t know how to answer he could bring up a colleague.

In a Friedmanistic style flattening of the world, teachers can be anywhere teaching students who are anywhere. These dynamics will change many things about our profession in unusual ways. British teachers living in the UK may find it more difficult to compete with British teachers living in China or India where the cost of living is vastly cheaper and a lower salary can be accepted. Indians have mastered call centers, even adopting American or other accents, and it wouldn’t take too much for them to teach American English or whatever flavor is desired to anyone anywhere.

The future just ain’t what it used to be.

>LIMO means Little In Much Out

>Some people have written me for information about some games I have been using. I got one or two of them off the TEFL-China website but then modified them. So I’ll just explain them here.

There is a certain quality to finding good learning and practice activities that require no prep on the teacher’s part. Sometimes these types of things work out much better than activities consuming many hours of preparation. At times when I’ve put the most work into my preparation these were the same times that the students didn’t share my enthusiasm for my idea.

One teacher explained that she had been trained to try to do as little as possible and get the students to do as much as possible.

Here are three quick and easy games. We can call this sort of activity a LIMO, Little In Much Out:

1. Dictionary Liar Game
2. Alibi
3. True Answer or False Answer Game

1. Dictionary Liar Game

Get or choose three volunteers. Explain to the class that these three students are going to tell them a word and what it means. But one will tell the truth and two will tell a lie. The class will have to determine who is telling the truth.

Take the three students out of the classroom and help them to choose a word from (preferably) an English-English dictionary. Words we used in the past were: beret, zebra, igloo, etc. Let the students decide who will tell the truth and who will tell lies.

The students come back in and give their definitions. The liars try to lie convincingly. The class can ask questions of the students. Then the class tries to pick the one telling the truth.

2. Alibi

Ask for volunteers. You should get one volunteer per five students in the class. So if there are 40 students then you should choose eight volunteers. Tell the class the bad news. Last night, at 8 p.m., some people robbed a bank and got away with a lot of money. However, we think we know who did it!

Turn to your group of volunteers and say that we think THEY did it!

This always has a shocking effect on the class and is very funny. The good news is that the rest of the class are policemen and will question the suspects. Explain what “alibi” means. Get four volunteers and send them out of the classroom to develop their alibi about what they were all doing TOGETHER at that time.

While they’re out of the room, divide the remaining students up into groups of four students each to be teams of “police”. Review some types of questions they can ask the suspects.

The suspects return to the class. Ask them if they robbed the bank. They all say they didn’t. Divide the suspects up and send them to different corners or spots in the room and send a team of police to question each suspect. Encourage the police to take notes. After 4-5 minutes the police teams rotate to another suspect and they can ask the same questions hoping to find something different in the suspects’ alibi. If the suspect says they took a taxi somewhere, coach the police teams to ask him who sat next to him, etc.

After each police team has a chance to question three or four suspects, you can stop the activity and found out what inconsistencies they found in the suspects’ story.

This game is lots of fun. Students forget it is an English lesson and get absorbed in the challenge of the game.

3. True Answer or False Answer Game

Get one volunteer. Tell him to say “Yes” to your question whether it is true or not. Ask him a question like, “Have you ever traveled to a foreign country?” Then other students will also ask him questions and the student should give true answers if the student did it or make up answers how about doing it if it was not true. After several exchanges ask the class if they think it is true or false. Then ask the student if it was True or False.

Other questions are:

Have you ever had a pet?
Have you or one of your relatives ever met someone famous?
Have you ever won a prize for something?
Have you ever broke an arm, leg or finger?

What are your LIMO activities?