Μήνας: Ιουνίου 2018

An Interview with Daniel Xerri

This interview first appeared on the March-April issue of the ELTA Serbia newsletter

By Vicky Papageorgiou

αρχείο λήψης

Daniel Xerri is a Lecturer in TESOL at the University of Malta. He is a member of IATEFL’s Conference Committee and of TESOL International Association’s Research Professional Council. Between 2015 and 2017, he was the Joint Coordinator of the IATEFL Research SIG. He holds postgraduate degrees in English and Applied Linguistics, as well as a PhD in Education from the University of York. He is the author of many publications on different areas of education and TESOL. His most recent books are The Image in English Language Teaching (2017, ELT Council), and Teacher Involvement in High-stakes Language Testing (2018, Springer). Further details about his talks and publications can be found at: www.danielxerri.com

Vicky : Daniel, first of all, I would like to thank you for agreeing to give this interview.

Daniel : Thanks so much for inviting me to be interviewed. I’m very happy to share my thoughts and work with your readers.

Vicky : You are a very active and creative person. How do you manage such multiple interests?

Daniel : I don’t sleep much and work most of the time. Joking aside, I think it’s all about doing things that I’m passionate about. I’m lucky enough to be able to find the time to work on the things I’m interested in. Writing is perhaps what I enjoy doing the most in my professional and personal life. So, I consider it natural to spend a lot of time every week working on new articles and books.

Vicky : I know that your interest fields are creativity, research, CPD, etc. The fact that one of your research fields is poetry I think is fascinating. Can you tell us about using poetry as interview stimulus material?

Daniel : In my research on creativity education, I’ve used poetry as a means of exploring the attitudes, beliefs and practices of teachers and students. This involved providing them with a reflexive poem that depicted a lesson scenario and asking them to comment on it. By discussing the poem, they revealed what they thought about creativity and the use of creative texts in the classroom. The poem acted as a stimulus for their thoughts and perspectives.

Vicky : I was reading another article of yours on ‘teacher versatility’ and creativity and  how much you value the openness that teachers should cultivate so that they allow their practices in the classroom to be influenced by disciplines that could be even totally unrelated to language teaching.  How do you think that teachers can accomplish this?

Daniel : Teachers are thinking beings and they have views on a myriad of things that might not be directly related to English language teaching. By tapping their different interests and by being open to external influences, they can enrich their teaching and enhance their students’ learning experience. The important thing is to be willing to make connections between elements and disciplines that might not seem to be explicitly connected. Language teaching is not a compartmentalized activity. It is something that can draw energy from other fields of activity. Being willing to enrich language lessons by means of one’s different interests is the first step to being more versatile as a teacher.

Vicky : Knowledge of the language or knowledge about the language? Which of these two is more important for a language teacher?

Daniel : I think they’re equally important and it would be mistaken to ignore either one. A fairly good level of language proficiency is necessary in order for a teacher to teach the target language but so is well-developed teacher language awareness. In fact, some argue that language awareness contributes to more effective teaching. Teachers – and by extension learners – benefit immensely from initiatives aimed at developing language proficiency, language awareness, together with knowledge of teaching methodology and other competences.

Vicky : There has been an increasing interest of English language teachers in research. What are the challenges of training teachers to do classroom research?

Daniel : One of the biggest challenges consists of the way research is conceptualized. Even though research can be a powerful form of professional development, the way some teachers think about research can act as an obstacle to them engaging with and in research. If teachers limit themselves to the conceptions of research foisted upon them by academia, then they are unlikely to see research as something that they could do in their own context.

Vicky : Can you talk to us about your plenary speech at our ELTA Serbia Conference?

Daniel : In my plenary, I plan to challenge traditional conceptions of research and demonstrate how teacher research is a democratic activity that belongs to all classroom practitioners. My talk is based on a project that investigates the views of academics, teacher trainers and teacher association leaders from around the world. The people who have contributed to this project share the view that research can be an empowering activity for teachers if they are enabled to see it as an integral part of their professional identity.

Vicky : Daniel, with already over 100 publications, a very active professional life, what are your plans for the future?

Daniel : My immediate plans are to complete two books that are being published later this year, and strive to meet the deadlines for different articles and chapters that I’m currently working on. All that is on top of refurbishing the 300-year-old house that I’ve just moved into!

Vicky : Thank you!

*****

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Hacking digital learning strategies

Reviewed by Vicky Papageorgiou

This review first appeared on the March-April issue of the Serbia ELTA newsletter

Keywords : technology, learning strategies, digital learning, mobile apps, mission-based learning

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Shelly Sanchez’s books are always highly anticipated because they are useful, practical, well written and fun to read! This new one, under the title ‘Hacking digital learning strategies ‘,  is no exception to the rule, therefore. A completely student centered book which focusses on learning strategies.

The book is divided in 10 missions. Each chapter comprises a set of steps, which the teacher can follow to complete the mission with their students, as well as, a section about the anticipated problems and a mission prep section. An additional section is the Mission Toolkit in the last pages of the book which offers storyboards, question sets, templates, maps, tables, handouts, mission task cards, badges,  etc. and anything useful for the teacher when planning these missions in their class.

In the first mission, entitled DESIGN A GAME WALKTHROUGH : Create a Tutorial and Teach Others How to Play, Sanchez describes how an  experience she had in a classroom taught her a valuable lesson : she didn’t have to do all the teaching or know all the answers, which led her to realize that students could design instructional content and, thus,  gain, as well as, share knowledge, a process which motivates them immensely in the end. Therefore, in this first chapter she explains how students teach others how to play a game with a video walkthrough that they create.

In the second mission, called GO ON A SELFIE ADVENTURE : Define Yourself Through Images, Sanchez makes use of the so popular selfies among students which also offer the opportunity for reflection. It is a fact that young learners are not necessarily fully aware of this process, however, posting these selfies after manipulating them is because they are opting for the best shot as they know their peers will rate them! This specific mission’s purpose is to teach learners how to make responsible decisions about their own digital identities.

The third chapter is about CREATING A FICTIONAL SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILE : Manage your digital footprint more purposefully. Believing that to teach the learners how to navigate the digital world with all the necessary skills, confidence and support is of pivotal importance, the next mission has exactly this as its sole purpose : to deepen the students’ reflective means and understand what building  confident digital identity entails. All this, through historical figures!

Mission 4 is REMIX LEARNING INTO A DIGITAL TEXTBOOK : Produce and publish an engaging online book. It’s aim is to encourage students to be responsible and choose the learning materials they need and not just accept them as given by teachers. The right expression would be ‘expect them to personalize their own learning even though they are young’! Following this pathway, they have to create their own digital textbook ‘helping others learn the topic in an engaging way’, as Sanchez claims.

Next come the debates and the 5th Mission’s title is DEBATE ISSUES, DON’T DISS PEOPLE :Argue differences of opinion respectfully. Disagreements on social media are a frequent occurrence and while they result in all parties feeling offended, most of them miss the opportunity for a constructive discussion. While these public arguments are part of our daily social media life, the author believes (quite correctly!) that our curriculums still teach our learners long written argumentative essays, considering, therefore, the need for teaching them shorter arguments in combination with teaching them how to respond intelligently to people with different opinions. Adapting to the new conditions of our life, thus, is a necessity and also has a practical side which teachers are called upon to equip their students with. Our students learn to be respectful and intelligent digital citizens.

In chapter 6, ‘Seek and preserve the truth’, Shelly focusses on the quest for truth when everyone is exposed to ‘fake news’, she tries to show how we can motivate our students to care and preserve the truth.

In chapter 7, ASSEMBLE A GLOBAL CLASS MEETUP : Join the World Community and Discuss a Pressing Issue, she tackles on the problem of helping students to understand the role as global citizens and find interest in global issues. For this reason, she suggests that teachers and students organise video conferences with classes from different countries whew students participate in a cultural exchange activity.

In the next chapter, students are required to conduct Real-World Field Research and suggests we shoulod see students as problem solvers and innovators. So, this new mission is all about publishing field research to enlighten the public.

In chapter 9, APPRECIATE OTHERS  WITH A DIGITAL BADGE, Shelly points out that , more than grades, we need to recognise values. Digital badges are used to recognise achievements, claiming that ‘When students issue their badges, they

send a message to their peers that they recognize their achievements and skills’. In this mission, students design  digital badges to issue to their peers.

In the final chapter, CROWDFUND INNOVATION TO FIND SOLUTIONS, suggest ways we, educators, can help students innovate solutions to make a difference by , for example, crowdfunding to help improve their communities.

Mission-based learning is , in fact, a powerful and meaningful way of empowering our students , not by just teaching them a language but by teaching them at the same time of being global citizens , responsible  contributors and and caring human beings.

Overall, this is an excellent read and a very resourceful book which can be an invaluable tool for teachers of young learners as well as teachers of teenagers, if only with a few modifications in the mission procedures. It belongs in every school’s and every teacher’s library!