This is a short quiz on Tate Modern which you can use in your class. You can find it here
but also here.
(This article was first published in the May – June 2017 issue of the ELTA Serbia newsletter ELTA-Newsletter-May-June-2017)
In summer courses, and not only, museum and gallery visits are part of the outdoor activities planned for the students. This article presents activities that teachers can prepare before, during and after museum and gallery visits with their students (these visits could be part of a summer course but not necessarily). The idea is that you motivate your students to learn more about the art resources in museums and galleries while teaching them English at the same time, as well as activating their imagination. Hopefully, the activities described here will succeed in encouraging your students to experience these places as ‘living organisms’, full of possibilities for fun and not just as ‘sacred places’ that are unapproachable.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MUSEUM VISIT
The success of your visit depends on how it is integrated into the learner’s classroom work.
Materials you can create
Photos with museum objects
Find Someone/Something Who/Which….
So, let us have a closer look at some specific activities we are suggesting you could use in your class.
Target level/audience : all
Materials : a list of items/objects the students have to search for
Yayoi Kusama By Garry Knight – https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/8317472647, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38789907
In a scavenger hunt, participants look for a series of items on a list, usually provided by the teacher.
Before the visit :
During the visit :
Below you can find some sample lists of things that students could look for. Adapt the list according to the place/venue they are going to.
You can also try to find ready-made treasure hunt lists online which you can use or it can be set as an example for you to create your own (Home to Home, n/d).
Also, if they cannot find the artworks they have to look for, some suggestions are :
After the visit : have students report back what they have found. Note also that Ss can bring their cameras to the scavenger hunt. They can use them to take photos and provide proof of their findings.
Draw your favourite artwork
Target audience/learners : 11-18+
Materials : PCs, internet connection, smart phones, A4 white papers with or without the simple template shown below
Before the outing: Ss can research any information they can about the museum/gallery they are going to visit on the internet. For example, let us consider Tate Modern as their next destination. Ask them to google search some practical information about the gallery (location, year it was established, etc.). Show them the gallery’s website and ask them to browse through the collection. Then, divide them in two teams and show them the quiz in the ppt. (Papageorgiou, 2017) .The team that gives the most correct answers , receives a small prize!
During the visit: tell them you would like them to imagine that they can take one piece of art home with them. They have to draw the piece they will choose and explain why they chose this piece of art (they can also take a photo of their chosen object and draw it later at home).
After the visit : class feedback- put Ss drawings on the walls around the class, Ss go around read the descriptions and vote for the most interesting description.
Modern Art Gallery
Target level : 12+
Materials : cards to be completed (on one side the photo of the artwork is printed and on the other side there are some sections to be completed)
Before their visit : give your Ss the titles of specific artworks and ask them to find them in the Gallery and complete the cards that accompany the photos. Pre-teach them some expressions that they might need to use, e.g. “This makes me feel…”, “This piece is beautiful / ugly/ unusual/ extraordinary / different ”, “What the artist is trying to say is….”, etc.
During the visit : the Ss have to locate the specific artworks. The details on the cards have to be completed with the thoughts that the specific artworks create to them. How can the Ss write their opinion on the artworks?
After the visit : the Ss have to present their cards to the rest of the group and talk about their experience, if it was positive or negative and why.
Some examples :
Target level : 12+
Materials : an object/mascot of their choice, a camera
Before the visit :
During the visit : Ss are going to take pictures with the object/mascot in different rooms/floors during their museum/gallery visit. Give them examples of pictures they need to take.
After the visit : When Ss are back in class, ask them to create a picture story using the photographs they have taken and explain more about the different sections of the museum they visited and the exhibits. Explain to them this is not going to be a simple ‘diary’ but they actually have to create a short story about their visit with them being the protagonists. You can upload their photo stories on an app like pinterest or padlet.
Target level : 12+
Materials : a camera or tablet, a PC, a projector, internet connection
Before the visit : Students are told that they will be conducting video diaries. Discuss with them what specific section/room they would be interested in presenting. They are going to be placed in pairs/groups, they can record a commentary of what they are doing/seeing. Help them to research this area more and learn more about the exhibits. For this reason, they can visit the museum/gallery’s website and online collection. Give them some time for their preparation
During the visit: Pupils record commentaries on their phones.
After the visit: Using a computer and a projector, different groups take it in turns to show their video footage.
All in all, there are a lot of resources out there already so, if you are interested in preparing visits to art places and create activities to complement these, you can definitely find plenty. While some of them are ready-made and can fit the needs of an ESL class, most of them are not. There is no reason you cannot use the latter ones either though because what you need to do is set your objectives, try to find related material and adapt it to your particular needs each time. All museum and galleries worldwide have their own website and most of them have already started, for some years now, to share educational resources. The only thing you have to do is browse through and find what you are looking for. Here are some useful links for you to use :
Maria-Araxi Sachpazian [BA education & RSA dip/tefl (hons)] is the owner of Input on Education (www.input.edu.gr), an e-consultancy firm that provides academic, business support and IT solutions to Foreign Language Schools. Maria has wide experience as a teacher, teacher trainer, educational management specialist and materials’ developer. She is also the current chairperson of TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece.
(This interview first appeared in the ELTA Serbia newsletter March – April 2017 issue ELTA Serbia March – April 2017 )
Vicky: Dear Maria, thank you for your time and for agreeing to give this interview!
Maria: Thank you so much, Vicky. I am so honoured to be talking to the members of ELTA Serbia and to you.
Vicky: Maria, you are an extremely busy and successful teacher, businesswoman, presenter, manager. I can go on and on with the variety of your roles… Do you miss quiet days at all?
Maria: I am blushing now. Thank you. I am indeed busy and I do miss changes in the pace of my work but I feel that quiet days are a thing of the past. I don’t know if it’s simply me and my many priorities or if it’s Greece and its financial situation but I find it very hard to reject projects or to decline invitations to present, therefore I always end up with more that I had initially bargained for. I must say, though, that I believe this is the greatest gain for us, the generation that had to suffer from the Greek financial crisis during our most productive years. This crisis has shown us what we can accomplish and how much we can do. Personally, I wouldn’t have ventured to teach abroad nor would I have invested in my own company, though keeping it is far from easy.
Vicky: Can you then describe a typical day in your life?
Maria: My days vary depending on what I have to do. I am an early riser so I am up round 6:30-7:00 and it’s usually my priority to walk Brandy, my seven-year old beagle dog. I make a point of setting out my work programme and the things I need to work on before I go to bed the previous evening so after breakfast (or rather while I have breakfast) I hit the books. Planning and in general my pedagogic deliberation is my first priority, no matter what else I have planned for the day. If I have Input projects or meetings with clients I either plan ahead or wake up earlier. My days are full of phone calls, skype meetings and also a lot of writing but I like that a lot. After lunch time (which in Greece is round two) I start my teaching day which usually finishes round 10:30 in the evening. Then I either see friends or go home and plan my next day. Fortunately, I can concentrate everywhere so I feel blessed that I can work equally well in my office, in my classroom, in the living room or at an airport.
Vicky: You are also Chair of TESOL Macedonia-Thrace and this year you organized your first TESOL Conference. Can you tell us what you consider the biggest challenge of organizing big conferences?
Maria: This is an easy answer. Money. As I told the TESOL MTH members in the AGM this year, the resources of TESOL are changing. Publishers and exam boards are still eager to help but they cannot help in the way they used to some years ago. Nowadays, TAs have to prove their worth both to the members and to the stakeholders and the money that comes from membership is equally important as the money that comes from sponsorship. A second challenge, which is still closely related to the first one mentioned, is the fact that TESOL MTH does not employ any staff or have a physical office. This means that we have to do everything ourselves and sometimes this is difficult as we are all volunteers with jobs, families.
Vicky: You are also the owner of INPUT on Education, a company that provides consultancy to language schools. How can small language schools take advantage of consultancy in such tight economic times?
Maria: Small schools were the very reason I was inspired to start Input on Education. While private schools and large Chains of Foreign Language Schools can afford to employ their own specialists, smaller schools cannot do so. The upshot of that is that owners end up playing all the roles and this means that sometimes they either get too isolated, and therefore easily scared and demotivated, or they cannot deal with certain aspects of their extremely complicated role. That’s why we have many FLS which do great work on an academic level but they have nobody to promote this and publicise it to the target audience. We also have the other example, of the school that produces a great flyer but has little substance below to support this. In this case, clients come and register but leave as soon as they realise that there is little connection between the flyer and the reality of the school. This is where IoE (Input on Education) comes in, with affordable, value-for-money, customized services we study the school and its people and suggest practical solutions.
Vicky: Recently, you gave a seminar on ‘Lesson Planning for Creative Teaching’ at City College in Thessaloniki. Can you tell us more about it? Also, allow me a second question, why does creativity in the classroom matter now more than ever?
Maria: First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Paschalia Patsala for suggesting me as a speaker and her colleagues for their help, support and warm welcome. I was very happy when this particular topic was chosen as I feel strongly about it. Lesson planning is one of my favourite topics and I believe that it has been both misrepresented and misunderstood. As a student and an RSA candidate, I remember pouring over one single lesson plan for hours and thinking what that would be like if I had to plan for 3 or 4 lessons. This is the most common problem. The process of lesson planning and the pedagogical deliberation that goes with it, is first presented to students of TEFL as very meticulous and time-consuming one. I don’t mean that it is not or that experience does not make things a bit easier. What I have seen is that most novice teachers go from the ultra-detailed lesson plan to nothing at all. Some teachers go as far as to suggest that lesson planning is a luxury. For me, it is far from a luxury. It is a necessity and an absolutely essential part of teaching which is based on the teacher’s knowledge of the material, the students and their needs and the aims that need to be accomplished. The message I tried to put forward at City College was that it makes little difference if the lesson plan is written or not, if it’s typed or handwritten, if it’s on a post-it or a special notebook what makes the greatest difference is the teacher taking some quiet time to sit down and see how to arrange the steps and stages of the choreography so that the lesson can have fluidity, cohesion and the learners are engaged. Getting learners to understand the connection between what they do in class and its usage when using the language is part of this and it cannot be accomplished when teachers go mechanically from exercise to exercise without doing much to put their own finishing touch to the material. Having said that, I don’t want to think of teachers as over-dependent on their lesson plans to the point that they cannot replace a colleague or make the necessary changes if the existing lesson plan does not seem to work.
Vicky: What are your plans for the future?
Maria: I plan to go on teaching because I feel that no matter what other things we do in our field (training, blogging, material writing, consulting) once we stop teaching we gradually become irrelevant. I am also planning to work a bit more on webinars for Input on Education so as to make sessions more affordable for teachers everywhere and finally, it is part of my plans to write a short volume on consulting based on my articles in ELT NEWS.
Vicky: I wish you all the best and a lot of success in all your ventures.
Kieran Donaghy is an award-winning writer, teacher
and trainer with a special interest in the use of film in
education. His website on the use of film in language
teaching Film English http://film-english.com/ has
won a British Council ELTons Award for Innovation in
Teacher Resources, the most prestigious European
media in education prize the MEDEA Award for User Generated
Media, and an English Speaking Union Award. He is the author of the methodology book on the use of film in language teaching Film in Action (DELTA Publishing). You can find out more about Kieran and his work at his website http://kierandonaghy.com/
(This interview was first published on the ELTA Serbia newsletter July-August 2016 issue )
Vicky: First of all, Kieran, I would like to say that it is a pleasure to have you with us.
Kieran Donaghy: Thank you very much for inviting me.
Vicky: Your last book, ‘Film in Action’ has been out for some time now and has truly
made an impact. This is the first one actually you are not co-authoring. What are the
challenges of writing a book on your own, without sharing the ‘load’ with someone
Kieran Donaghy: ‘Film in Action’ has been out for just over a year now, and it has a
lot of very positive reviews. My publisher, Delta Publishing, are very happy as sales
are very high for a methodology book. Writing a methodology book on my own was a
real challenge; I’d previously co-authored books and this has lots of advantages –
you share the workload, you can bounce ideas off each other, and you can help to
motivate each other when things get tough. When you write a book on your own it
can be a very solitary experience. However, I had the great fortune of having a truly
wonderful editor, Mike Burghal, who put his heart and soul into the project, and in
many ways it was as if I had a co-author in Mike as he helped guide me and motivate
me throughout the writing process. If the book is any good, at least half of the credit
has to go to Mike for the fantastic work he did on it.
Vicky: You are a fervent believer that films can play an important role in education.
What will this role be?
Kieran Donaghy: This is an excellent question which requires quite a detailed
answer. Firstly, we need to examine the role of film in society. Today, we acquire the
majority of our information through moving image media: the cinema, the television,
the internet, and the screens that surround us where we work, shop, travel, socialise,
and learn. Film is very much at the heart of these moving image media which are an
important and valuable part of our culture. Technological developments, such as the
advent of the internet and the digital revolution, the proliferation of mobile devices
which allow us to capture moving images easily, the introduction of cheap and
accessible video editing tools and the emergence of video-sharing sites such as
YouTube and Vimeo, have changed for ever the way moving images relate to
society. In his excellent book The Age of the Image, which I think is required reading
for any educator, Stephen Apkon argues: ‘What we are now seeing is the gradual
ascendance of the moving image as the primary mode of communication around the
world: one that transcends languages, cultures and borders. And what makes this
new era different from the dawn of television is that the means of production – once
in the hands of big-time broadcasting companies with their large budgets – is now
available to anyone with a camera, a computer and the will.’
The fact that children and young people now have access to technology which allows
them to become media producers in their own right has important consequences for
our society and educational system.
It would seem, therefore, to make sense for schools to focus on the moving image
and capitalise on students’ knowledge and enthusiasm. However, many teachers
believe that a focus on core issues in the curriculum does not allow time for films and
television. Furthermore, there is a tendency in society to assume that moving image
media are bad for children and could detract from ‘real’ education. On the whole, our
educational systems have been very slow to respond to the new visual technologies
and the ascendance of the moving image in our society.
In English Teaching and the Moving Image, Andrew Goodwyn comments on the
failure of our educational systems to embrace the moving image effectively: ‘Given
the prominence of the moving image in twentieth century culture, and the current
evidence that it seems to be even more dominant in the twenty-first, it may seem
more peculiar that its study is not at the heart of a postmodern education.’
To better understand this slow reaction of our educational systems to the new visual
technology and the dominance of the moving image, it is necessary to explore the
concept of literacy which is currently undergoing a radical change and its impact on
our educational systems.
Literacy has been traditionally linked to an alphabet or a language code – that is,
through reading and writing – and linked with print media. There has been a strong
dependence on linguistic theories to define literacy. Consequently, education has
been dominated for centuries by written language and by print in particular. For a
long period, the book was the dominant medium of communication. However, with
the challenge of a technologically evolving landscape and the ascendance of the
image, particularly the moving image, the screen has taken that place. The fact that
the book has now been superseded by the screen in the role of dominant medium of
communication means the definition of literacy as decoding print is now outdated and
deficient, we must combine language-based theory with semiotics (the study of signs
and symbols and how they are used) and other visual theories, to provide an
appropriate meaning to the term ‘literacy’ in the twenty-first century.
As literacy, in its broadest sense, now reflects a wider cultural competence, the
hugely important role of film in our culture and society should be sufficient
justification for ensuring their integration in our educational systems. The importance
of visual literacy in education is widely acknowledged. It is generally agreed that
education needs to develop students’ skills and ability to interpret image and to
communicate visually, and in schools there is a very gradual move away from a
reliance on print as the primary medium of dissemination and instruction towards
visual media and the screen. However, visual literacy and, more particularly, film
literacy are still absent from, or on the margins of, national and international policy
agendas. While the ‘traditional’ arts such as music, art and literature have long been
established as core elements of national curricula in many countries, film education
has typically been ignored. There is a lack of understanding by policy makers about
the importance of film in children’s lives and, as a consequence, in our educational
systems. There is also a lack of a structured, systematic opportunity for students to
watch, analyse, interpret and understand films, and even less opportunity for
students to make their own films as part of their overall preparation for adult life.
If students are to successfully meet the social, cultural, political and economic
demands of their futures, they need to be able to read and write in all forms of
communication. The film director George Lucas asks the pertinent question: ‘If
learners aren’t taught this new language of sound and images shouldn’t they be
considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read and write?’
Educating children and young people to be film literate is about democratic
entitlement and civic participation. The skills needed for the modern day workplace
are quite different from what they were even twenty years ago, yet our educational
systems seem to be caught in a time trap. In our schools, we urgently need the
introduction of structured, systematic opportunities for students to watch, analyse,
interpret and understand films, and opportunities for students to make their own films
as part of their overall preparation for life.
Educational programmes should make use of visual and digital media, and show
students how to make their own visual texts, which better prepare students for their
futures in a rapidly-changing world because, film-making develops many of the life
skills – such as communication, creativity, collaboration, innovation, conflict
management and decision making – that are increasingly valued in the modern-day
I’m sorry that my response has been so lengthy, but I hope it answers your question.
Vicky: Is there a visual language analogous to written language? How easy is it for
us teachers to teach our learners how to critically think about it?
Kieran Donaghy: Yes, there is undoubtedly a visual language which is analogous to
written language, but to comprehend this visual language we need to explore the
terms ‘text’, ‘to read’, and ‘to write’. Text has traditionally referred to a book or other
written or printed work. However, we can also use the terms ‘visual text’ to refer to
photos and paintings, and ‘moving image text’ to refer to feature films, clips, short
films and videos, as well as learner-generated content. They are texts, in the same
way that books are texts – in the sense that they can be read (analysed and
interpreted) and written (created). To read has been used for centuries to refer to the
action of decoding and understanding written or printed texts, and to write has
conventionally referred to the ability to communicate in writing or print.However, we
can also use the term ‘read the screen’ to mean to analyse and interpret moving
image texts, and the term ‘write the screen’ to mean to make moving image texts.
So it’s necessary not just to think of texts as only books, reports, books etc, but also
photos, paintings, videos, films, etc. When we understand that photos, painting,
videos and films are visual texts we see that we can analyse and interpret them.
Indeed print and moving image texts share many common textual strategies. Both
print and moving image texts:
• tell stories;
• differentiate between fact and fiction;
• present characters;
• convey a sense of place and context;
• include generic features that help us to recognise certain types of stories.
Research also shows there are many connections between the processes involved in
reading print texts and moving image texts. Children who are able to draw on these
connections and parallels between moving image texts and print texts are more likely
to become confident and critical readers across different media, including print.
The concept of narrative is fundamental in linking print and moving image media. By
exploring how a moving image text ‘tells a story’, children use the concrete examples
of the visual to develop their comprehension of the more abstract nature of written
Children’s understanding of narrative structure, and their ability to develop
understanding of characterisation and plot, are similar for both print and moving
image texts. Thus, print literacy and moving image literacy are not mutually
exclusive, but can be developed alongside each other to mutual benefit to enhance
learners’ understanding of all texts.
To answer the question about how easy is it for us teachers to teach our learners
how to critically think about it, I would say it can be very difficult as the vast majority
of teachers have received no specific training in visual literacy or media production. I
feel strongly that training in visual literacy and media production should become a
standard requirement for all teacher teaching training programmes so that teachers
can learn to teach communication in all its forms and build systematic opportunities
for their students to watch, analyse, interpret and understand moving images texts.
Sooner or later ELT has to deal with the issue of visual literacy, but seems very
reluctant to do so.
Vicky: Your very successful blog site, Film English, is now known and used by the
majority of ESL teachers worldwide. Updating such a blog regularly, like you have
been doing for years, with new lesson plans may, at some point, become a routine.
How do you keep your enthusiasm and motivation high with this project?
Kieran Donaghy: I’ve been writing lesson plans designed around short films for Film
English for the last 6 years. The site has been more successful than I ever imagined
even in my wildest dreams; there are about 35,000 subscribers and it gets about
10,000 page views a day. However, it’s very difficult to find the time to maintain it
regularly as I have full-time teaching schedule, do teacher training, speak at
conferences, write books and articles, as well as having a family. I used to add a new
lesson plan every week but that’s impossible now; I try to add new materials every 2
or 3 weeks now, but as I don’t charge anything for the materials and as I get more
requests to do writing projects which pay, and I need to pay my rent, it’s more difficult
to update the site regularly. Having said that, the positive feedback I get from
teachers around the world does help to maintain my enthusiasm and motivation. In
addition, Film English has always been a labour of love for me and I put a lot of
myself into the materials, so that also keeps me motivated.
Vicky: Where/how do you find the films you use in your lesson plans? How time consuming a process is it?
Kieran Donaghy: I find nearly all the short films I use on Film English on Vimeo
which is a video sharing site. What makes Vimeo different from YouTube is that it is
a relatively small community of film-makers who share their short films on the site;
you don’t get the overwhelming quantity of videos you get on YouTube, and the
quality of the short films is much higher; so it’s much easier to find high-quality,
artistic short films on Vimeo than it is on YouTube. On Vimeo I only watch films which
are on the Staff picks channel, which, as its name suggest, is a channel where the
people who work at Vimeo select what they think are the best short films. When I first
started writing materials for Film English it took me an incredible amount of time to
find the sort of short films which are effective in the language classroom. However,
now after having watched literally thousands of short films, I’ve got almost a sixth
sense for the type of film which will work well with language students, and it doesn’t
take me so long. Nonetheless, it’s still a very time-consuming process to find just the
Vicky: Kieran, thank you for your time!
Kieran Donaghy: An absolute pleasure, Vicky!
Olja Milosevic has been involved in second and foreign language teaching at all levels in primary, secondary and tertiary education. She holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics and is primarily interested in second language acquisition and maintaining mother tongue. Olja is also interested in teacher training.
(This interview appeared first on the ELTA newsletter May – June 2017)
Today I am interviewing a wonderful lady from the ELT world who also happens to be president of ELTA Serbia. I think we all deserve to know her better.
Vicky : Dear Olja, I am so happy you have agreed to do this interview with me! You are the President of ELTA Serbia and a lot of people know you. But I am also sure that you are quite a private person and do not share a lot of details about yourself. Can you tell us a few things about you so that everybody gets to know you a bit more?
Olja : I live in Belgrade and I teach English as an additional language in the International School of Belgrade. I teach grade 6, 7, 11 and 12 students. They come from many different countries and teaching them is a privilege. In my spare time, I love to hike and to spend time in nature.
Vicky : Would you like to share with us something that most people do not know about your life (an achievement, a quality of your character that is not easily discerned , etc.) ?
Olja : Most people do not know that I taught English to the elderly. That was 65+ club, but many of them were well over 80. Teaching them was a great experience.
Vicky : You are a member of the C Group, among other things. In your bio for the C Group (Creativity Group) website, I read about you: She believes that only creative teachers could stay sane. Can you explain more about what you mean with this statement?
Olja : Teaching is a wonderful profession, but also a very stressful one. Including creative elements in my lessons helps me to ‘destress’ students and when they feel well, I feel well. Also, for me, being creative means doing things differently so you are not bored, and when I enjoy the class, there are better chances that my students will, too.
Vicky : What is your motto? What is the main belief that you follow in your life and guides you?
Olja : One of my teachers told us once that you may compare your life to a piece of writing. One of his rules was that each essay we write should have a margin. The margin makes writing easy to read and pleasing to the eye. To have a successful life you need to draw a margin (a line) and have a life outside of work / school / university. I love my job, but there are so many other things that are important and not related to it.
Vicky: We were only introduced last year for the first time but I was pleasantly surprised by you because, most of the times, women in leadership positions, have frequently be described as unapproachable, dominant and/or aggressive. You, on the other hand, are a very warm and kind person. Theorists argue that this has been the case with women because in trying to attain these power positions they have to assume a more male role in order for them to be identified as ‘leaders’ themselves. Do you think that strong women today can balance between power embracing their femininity more successfully, when they are in leadership positions?
Olja : I am not sure if I could act any other way. Part of it is my Balkan background. When we have guests, our sole aim is to make them feel happy and you were our dear guest, Vicky.
As for leadership, there are different leadership styles and I just happen to be comfortable with being approachable.
Vicky: What makes you such a successful President in ELTA Serbia? What are the main difficulties that you have to overcome every day?
Olja : Thank you so much for your words of praise. However, the words of praise should go to the whole team. And I guess that the success comes because we all work hard on different aspects to promote and develop our association. My biggest difficulty would be the lack of time.
Vicky : What are your plans for the future?
Olja : We are trying to develop a self sustained project for teachers. That will be my big project for the next academic year.
Vicky : Thank you so much for your time and for answering my questions. It has been an honour!
JJ Amaworo Wilson is a German-born, British-educated debut novelist. Based in the U.S., he has lived in 9 countries and visited 60. He is a prize winning author of over 20 books about language and language learning. Damnificados is his first major fiction work. His short fiction has been published by Penguin, Johns Hopkins University Press, and myriad literary magazines in England and the U.S.
(This interview appeared first on the ELTA January – February 2017 issue ELTA Serbia January – February 2017)
Vicky : J.J., thank you so much for agreeing to give this interview!
J.J. Wilson : My pleasure, Vicky!
Vicky : I know that you have traveled to a lot of countries in your life. Which one is the most memorable?
J.J. Wilson : Every country I’ve been to has at least two things that I love about it. The first is always the people.
Vicky : I personally would like to know more about the time you spent in Lesotho and your school theatre.
J.J. Wilson : I got there the year before Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, and it was already clear that big changes were about to happen in that part of the world. I was lucky enough to get work teaching and running a school theatre, so I produced and directed plays about what was going on there. We did a lot of Athol Fugard (the great anti-apartheid playwright), but also Beckett and Shakespeare. No one has more to say about tyranny than Shakespeare.
Vicky : You are a very productive writer, not just in the ELT industry though. I know you have written short stories, for example. And about a year and a half ago, if I am not mistaken, your novel ‘Damnificados’ came out (which I really loved reading, by the way!). Tell us about the Tower and how you came up with the idea of your novel.
J.J. Wilson : Firstly, thank you! I’m glad you liked Damnificados! I was on a book tour in Venezuela some years ago, and I couldn’t sleep. I took a long, late-night walk and saw the Torre David (Tower of David). The tower was unfinished, but hundreds of homeless people had moved in and built a community. I’d known nothing about the tower, but when I got back to the States I researched it. I discovered that the community living there was incredibly creative and resilient, like many poor communities. For example, the lift was broken so they built wooden ramps up the side of the tower and motorcycle boys gave people rides. They built an outdoor gym on the helicopter pad at the top of the tower, using leftover building materials – pulleys and iron bars. Their resourcefulness inspired me to write about them, but I turned to fiction because that’s how my mind works.
Vicky : ‘A modern day David & Goliath of epic proportions’, ‘Moses meets the desperados’, ‘Mad Max meets the favelas’. Which of these metaphors better represents your first novel?
J.J. Wilson : All of them! There are a lot of Biblical references in the novel. The hero is a Moses figure, discovered beside a river when he was a baby. He later leads his people to the Promised Land – the tower. I included a terrible flood in the novel. That’s taken from the Bible, although there are floods in the literature of all the major religions. The tower is also the Tower of Babel, with everyone speaking different languages. The Bible is full of great stories that writers can steal.
Vicky : One of the central messages that your novel conveys is that of social justice. Do you feel that social justice is a utopia in the world we live in?
J.J. Wilson : Utopia is like the horizon – beautiful and always out of reach. We walk ten paces towards it and it’s still out of reach. We walk a thousand paces and it’s still out of reach. We walk a thousand miles and it’s still out of reach. And that’s the point of Utopia. It keeps us moving. The struggle for social justice will never end. Humans are too flawed. Moving towards Utopia is all we can do.
Vicky : When narrating a story like the one in the Damnificados, does it actually sound ‘inevitable’ to resort to magical realism because…how else can you portray the absurdity of our times?
J.J. Wilson : I don’t think it’s inevitable. That story, like all stories, can be told in a straight, factual way or in a satirical way, as Orwell would have told it. Magical realism was a style I adopted because of what I like to read and because it’s the great Latin American style, practiced by some of my favourite writers: Marquez, Allende, Borges, and Asturias.
Vicky : While you tackle on many different issues (homelessness, urban social politics of power), you also make an interesting point about polyglotism. Introducing languages means we are forced to recognize diversity. One thing you were not afraid to use in your novel was languages! Do your damnificados respect each other’s diversity more than people in the rest of the society? And why?
J.J. Wilson : I’m not sure they respect one another’s diversity more than anyone else. They’re just used to the fluidity of languages. It’s like this in many parts of the world. There are parts of Nigeria where you’ll go out to get your morning coffee and newspaper and you’ll speak four different languages before breakfast. Australian aborigines might switch languages when they arrive at a certain river or rock, because that river or rock belongs to a different linguistic culture. The damnificados in my novel simply have to work together to survive, regardless of race or nationality or language. It’s not a choice they make out of respect. It’s out of necessity.
Vicky : I know writing takes up a lot of time but I also know you love it. Are there any plans for a new novel or an ELT book?
J.J. Wilson : I’m working on books in both fields – ELT and fiction. It’s good to switch between the two. They use different parts of the brain!
Vicky : Thank you so much for your time!
*I hereby certify that I have the right to publish these photos
The eLearning Papers provide an opportunity for researchers, people in projects developing innovative applications, and policy makers to share their material quickly and easily on a pan-European portal with international reach.
Authors are invited to submit papers in any of the 24 official EU languages on a number of key themes related to innovative learning. We are particularly interested in receiving contributions from people in international projects and early-stage researchers.
Papers may be submitted on any relevant topic, but we are particularly interested in those covering the following areas:
Authors can submit long papers of a maximum of 6,000 words and shorter entries between 500-1,000 words, excluding references. Bibliographic referencing should follow the Harvard style. Online citation generators can help to simplify this process. Long papers are also required to submit a short abstract in English (even if the paper is submitted in another language).
All articles will be reviewed by a specially-appointed, independent Editorial and Advisory Board comprising experienced academics working in the field of education from across Europe. If accepted, papers will be published online immediately on the portal where they will enjoy high levels of visibility.
Deadline: Papers will be accepted on a rolling basis with first online publications expected in October 2017.
P.S. The call was initially published here
I had a wonderful childhood. I come from a middle class family, in some ways typical, in some other ways quite unconventional. My brother and I grew up surrounded with love. We lived in a small pack. Our grandma raised us since she lived with us. My parents worked hard. Every summer, and after schools closed, we would spend our holidays somewhere near the sea. Every August though, we did something different. Totally different for two city children.
In Western Greece, there is a small village up on the mountains very close to the borders with Albania. It is called Oinoi. Pontic Greeks live there, immigrants who moved back to Greece from Asia Minor in the beginning of the century. Ionians. Very tough and rough people. But generous.
I have family there, not related to them by blood but still family. From the age of 8 and until I was 15, my parents would send me, my brother and my grandma there for about a month. Or less. Every year! Why? To help them out with farming. They needed hands. Working hands. And they could not afford to pay for them.
The mother and the father of that family would wake up every day at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to the fields. Did I tell you what they cultivated? Tobacco! A lot of acres. They would return home at around midday, with their baskets filled with tobacco leaves and all of us the children (5 in total) would follow them and go under a poorly set up shed, would sit on the ground, cross our legs, and would start work. We had to lay the tobacco leaves in a certain position and ‘sew’ them together. Afterwards, hung on tiers we would let them wilt in the large barn . Until the merchants would come to buy them. And that would mean that then the family could make it through the winter.
We used large needles to ‘sew’ the leaves. For years that family could not even afford machines which would do that. We had to do it by hand. Also, for years they did not even have electricity out in the shed. Only in the house. We normally had to stay up until 8-9 p.m. in the shed to finish working on the day’s harvest and hang everything in the barn. And we used gas lamps for light late in the evening.
My grandma would spend the day cleaning up their two-storey house, kitchen, yard, etc. And she would also cook for all of us. Every day a different dish. Because the family that hosted us normally fed on freshly baked bread, feta cheese, tomato and olives. They rarely cooked. They did not have time to cook. Nor had they ever had the luxury to learn how to. They were rough mountain people. The women did not know how to cook the complex dishes that my grandma prepared (I come from a family of cooks and restaurant owners – but that’s another story in itself).
So, anyway, in this way the rest of us could concentrate on working hard with the tobacco harvest. Have you ever touched tobacco leaves, by the way? They stick on your hands! So much so that your hands get seriously rough in the end that no hand cream can soften.
I could talk for hours or could write whole pages about these summers I spent there. Working hard daily (weekends included) but having fun, incredible fun every day. We worked for hours, never complained and learned how to live in the countryside and appreciate it as well.
Did I mention we were never paid? There was never a matter of payment . Because they were family. Though no blood related. And because our parents wanted to teach us a few valuable lessons. Volunteering being the biggest one. Giving without necessarily asking to receive back.
Why am I telling you this story? I am a strong advocate of volunteerism. I have been working pro bono since I started working, after the age of 18. In multiple ways. And I did it consciously, it did not just happen because I needed to acquire certain skills, I needed to train. Ever since I remember myself, I felt the need to give back to the community and so I contributed in various ways. I made sure I worked and earned enough money to pay my bills and survive and then I did pro bono work, too. The people who know me also know I am a hard worker. And a dedicated one. I also like to believe I have a strong work ethic and so I do not differentiate between pro bono and paid work. Both of them are done with the same diligence.
I believe that volunteering can help people develop skills, but it also promotes goodness and it can also improve human quality of life. Volunteering may have positive benefits for the volunteer as well as for the person or community served. It is an altruistic activity and there is nothing superior to being able to give to others without the expectation of gaining anything back (UN volunteers, 2006). Not because it makes you ‘feel’ superior! But because it makes you feel humble. Because a true volunteer is someone who put themselves in someone’s shoes. Not someone who looks at them from above!
Now, what triggered all this? I work in education. You already know that. What I am sure you also must know is how much I value open education, open access, open data. ‘A lack of access to information hinders learning, stifles innovation and slows scientific progress’, says Erin McKiernan (McKiernan, 2014). Today more than ever we need open educational resources. They are important for developing countries, for students who may not be able to afford textbooks, where access to classrooms may be limited, and where teacher-training programs may be lacking. They are also important for young or older researchers who cannot afford the publications which are under a pay wall. Also, OERs are to their greatest degree digitized and so they represent an opportunity to have one’s own materials enhanced (Anyangwe, 2011).. The material can be modified, transformed by other faculty around the world, so the modifications and additions can be countless and can lead to a work stronger than the original. The possibilities are utterly immense.
Besides their increasing importance for developing countries, they are also important in wealthy industrialized countries, where they can offer significant cost savings. Cost savings are directly linked to open data and OER generally (Salomon, 2008). For these resources to keep the cost low though, they largely depend on volunteers (Eve, 2004). Volunteers who will write, select, edit materials, curate the websites, etc. And this is exactly the point I am trying to make.
I am one only of a great number of people who work tirelessly (dedicating their non-existent free time a lot of times!) and without payment trying to provide free education and open educational resources within the ESL world. In hard times like the ones we are living in, keeping education and educational resources open benefits teachers, research and students worldwide. By doing so, we serve a not elitist and cost free education and training for thousands of citizens. Besides the downsides of such a venture (quality of materials, quality of peer review, etc.), the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and this is why OER should remain open.
However, what is free tends to be considered of lower quality as well. While in some cases it is true that quality is not optimal yet at all instances, we need to keep in mind that the movement of keeping educational resources open is still in its beginning, relatively anyway, and has a long way ahead of it. Yet, one more thing to consider is that we should shift the focus on the openness of the resources and services and not on the fact that they are offered for free. The fact that they are available to everybody so that education is not limited to the few. We are building a more democratic society in this way as well as a more inclusive one. Even with all the downsides this might entail, I would still stand up for it and I am!
This text serves as my response to people who recently seem to not have respected or appreciated our work as volunteers in this sector.
The book series is led by emerging eminent and senior scientists, researchers, and educators in the fields of creativity, psychology, the cultural sciences and education studies. They create networks of sharing and spread innovative publishing opportunities within the communities of practice. They invest considerable time and effort in deepening creativity expertise, structuring creativity programs, and organizing creativity activities for the communities of interest. The book series aims not only to «glue together» like-minded scientists (community of practice) to share benefits of creativity theorizing, research and practice, but also to encourage non-experts (community of interest) in all societies to become supporters and spokespersons of positive engagement in creative learning, teaching and dialogues.
For over a year now, I have started interviewing several people of the ELT world for the ELTA Serbia newsletter and I am now going to share these interviews on my blog. I hope you find them interesting. My first interview was with the lovely Shelly Terrell. Here it goes.
Interview with Shelly Sanchez Terrell
by Vicky Papageorgiou
(This interview appeared first on the ELTA March-April 2016 issue )
Shelly Sanchez Terrell is an international speaker, teacher trainer, elearning specialist, and the author of The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert and has been recognized by the ELTon Awards, The New York Times, NPR, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year by Star Jone’s National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the Big 10: Most Influential People Transforming EdTech by Tech & Learning (2015). In 2015, she founded Edspeakers to help spread diverse voices at education conferences worldwide.
Twitter handle- @ShellTerrell
Vicky : Hi! First of all, I would like to say that it is a pleasure to have you as a guest.
Shelly : It’s my pleasure. Whenever I can meet up with friends, even virtually, I try to make the time.
Vicky : I know that you are extremely busy every day trying to juggle an amazing number of tasks successfully so I‘d like to ask you to describe a typical day of yours.
Shelly : I have two types of typical days. If I’m not traveling, my day consists of at 1 to 3 virtual trainings with teachers either via a webinar or learning management system (LMS), grading, updating websites, phone call meetings for consultations or projects, conducting interviews, and hours on social media (Twitter, FB, Instagram, Voxer, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, my blog, etc.) for my various passion projects and as one of the social media managers for American TESOL. Most of my day is spent creating and designing content. Typically, I write at least one blog post or article a day, create a lesson plan, and do some graphic design. I also help at least one or more teachers find resources.
I travel at least 100 days a year and usually more. When I travel, I do most of the rest above in addition to giving keynotes and workshops in countries worldwide.
Vicky : Can you tell us where you are teaching/working currently?
Shelly : Currently, I work for American TESOL as an instructional designer, social media specialist, and instructor for the course I designed, ESLTEC.com. I also work as an ESL Specialist for the U.S. Embassy and Georgetown University. I also manage the various projects I’ve founded, which include The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers (30Goals.com) and Edspeakers.com.
Vicky : You initiated the movement called ‘30EduGoals’ and hundreds of teachers followed you and started writing, reflecting on their practice and blogging because of you. How does it feel really to be able to have an impact on so many people from different cultural backgrounds and different countries?
Shelly : I feel really blessed to be able to inspire and help teachers worldwide. Teachers are what help shape the world. I still pinch myself and am in awe that teachers complete the goals and share their passion with me daily.
Vicky : Your book is already a big hit. Do you have any future plans for a new book?
Shelly : I also published Learning to Go with The Round. I’m working on a few projects including a digital citizenship book, Byte-Sized Potential in a Digital World of Possibilities. This one involves lessons to help students learn science, math, and English, but also impact their world through social media. I’ve already tested out some activities with teachers worldwide and give some free templates on my blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, such as the student epic selfie adventure and creating hashtag movements. I am working on a lesson book based on the use of emoticons and emojis for writing and literacy. I also do creative writing and am working on finishing my second novel.
Vicky : I also know you are a visiting lecturer in Venezuela (or is this a permanent position? – You have to enlighten me here). How easy is it to teach in another country? What can be the possible problems?
Shelly : I love the teachers in Venezuela. I have many close friendships there now. VENTESOL has adopted me into their family and I’m thankful especially to VENTESOL President, Mary Allegra, who has created the many projects to have me visit and work with such a dedicated group. I am fortunate the U.S. Embassy and VENTESOL have continued to bring me back to help them develop and design online courses at the universities, train teachers on how to integrate technology and mobile learning, and help institutions develop their own textbooks.
Vicky : When DO you find some free time for your private life with such a busy schedule?
Shelly : I have to make time and will often send myself Google calendar reminders to take time off. I’ve learned to let go of perfection in my work and be satisfied with great work but having a life. When I travel to other countries, I take time to visit with friends and go on adventures. When I’m with friends, family, or loved ones, I put down my phone and other digital devices so I can give the moments the attention they deserve. Of course, this is a learning process and in the beginning I wasn’t so great at taking time for myself. I’ve realized it is really important so I keep up with my health, spirit, and passion.
Vicky : Thank you so much for your time!