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Sunday, 11 December 2011

What we bring to the interview

One thing that has really interested me in the DRC process is how individual interviewers could potentially conduct the same interview with the same person and collect different data on different days by just deciding to follow one tangent rather than another or focusing on one aspect over another. The more I think about this the more it overwhelms me (butterfly effect, chaos theory etc...) The prep we do beforehand, the day we are having, what we have just learned / read can all influence our questions and elements of the interview. I am kind of sensing a catch 22 with this micro level preparation / conduction... What the interviewer brings to the interview is going to be an interesting area for me to focus on during the assignment.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The downward, outward and upward spiral

Two posts in a week -wow, I do have more time now! This is just a brief musing in relation to my Developing Researcher Competence. As we work through our Pilot Study we are required to make decisions about the actual design of the study - ultimately giving our opinions- why we did what we did, why we think what we think. Something hit me when I was thinking through this process.

For me, I can liken this design of a pilot study to a movable spiral. Continuously moving over the bigger picture of the design process and then moving the focus in or out, as the design question dictates. Two things came up that I need to reflect further on:

It is quite easy to be lost in the detail, but for a research project you may have to be...
One small decision can, and will change the whole scope of the final project

This links back to my ideas about making rash decisions and having to question everything - I believe that this is called researcher transparency and this is what we are looking at in the next step.

I quite like this movable spiral metaphor and I would be interested to see if anyone else had a metaphor for when they are conducting research.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Goodbyes and hellos

So. Last Friday was my final day at the Castle School of English, Brighton... I was at the school for 4 years, 3 of them as DoS. I learned a lot about myself and what I want from a profession, and also what is important to me. This, I am sure, will be invaluable in the future. The owner of the school asked me if I thought I had changed over the four years. I don't know if I have changed, but I have learned how I react to certain situations

It is starting to get real now- this moving lark. This morning I was watching UK border force on TV and just started panicking about being turned away at the airport. My naturally tendency to worry, again:)I will not really relax until I am on the other side of the barrier!
I spent the morning reading other people's accounts of the visa process and experience of Newark as a Port of Entry. Fascinatingly scary, but didn't read about anyone who got completely turned away, so that must be a good thing.

Was a wee bit sad to leave Castle, they are a great bunch of talented individuals, but this profession does seem to go hand in hand with quite a transient lifestyle. The fantastic upshot of this is that I now have a lot more time to spend on my new role and my final year at Manchester.
I am REALLY excited about my new position. Teaching in Second Life is just amazing, I love it! I can liken it to when I passed the CELTA and everything is new; it has certainly given me a new lease of life on the teaching front. My new employers seem an absolute dream bunch of people. Everything I want really - talented, dedicated, supportive. I am excited to see how this new position develops... one for future reflection I fancy.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sacroiliac Joint

For those non-medical folk, here is a quick run down on the Sacroiliac Joint...and its accompanying pain.

The sacroiliac joint or SI joint is the joint in the bony pelvis between the sacrum and the ilium of the pelvis, which are joined together by strong ligaments. In humans, the sacrum supports the spine and is supported in turn by an ilium on each side. The joint is a strong, weight bearing synovial joint with irregular elevations and depressions that produce interlocking of the two bones. The human body has two sacroiliac joints, one on the left and one on the right, that often match each other but are highly variable from person to person.

Pain is thought to be caused by sacroiliitis, an inflammation of one of the sacroiliac joint(s), which is a common cause of unilateral low back pain. With sacroiliitis, the individual may experience pain in the low back, buttock or thigh, depending on the amount of inflammation. Common problems of the sacroiliac joint are often called sacroiliac joint dysfunction (also termed SI joint dysfunction; SIJD). The cause of sacroiliac joint dysfunction is likely a disruption of the correlative movements between the left and right sacroiliac joints (from either too much or too little movement creating an antagonistic position of the left and right innominate bones creating a pelvic obliquity, when they normally should appear symmetrical).
Info from wikipedia

Quite a strange title and opening for a post in this blog, but all will become clear!
I will start with a quick catch up. I final got my visa for the USA after a few twists and turns. We have a put a deposit on a place to rent, I have a new job and am on final countdown until the move. I have two more weeks at work. I have also been diagnosed with SIJD, a common running injury; Yesterday was the first time I had ran for more than 5 weeks... More on that later.

All very exciting / traumatic and I think a legitimate reason for not having posted for a while. I must say though that this blog had often been on my mind.

Plus, and perhaps most importantly, Uni started again. This has been great!
It has been wonderful catching up with people after the really short summer, and seeing how all the hard work we have done over the last two years is culminating on our Developing Researcher Competence module. Manchester really has attracted a high level of candidates and it will be great to see what the future holds for everyone and where this course will take people.

This module relies heavily on an iterative process of self reflection and exploration of the process of researching an area.

Anyhoo, as part of this module, I have gone for the following area to explore.

I want to explore how teachers in Second Life use the environment. I had various ideas prior to this, a few false starts and a few revisions but I feel that this is the most suitable for me, right now and for my future. I don't want to get down that road right now, as I am still working through the process. So the point of this post (thank you if you are still here:)) Is that I realised that I am really rubbish at making big decisions! And there is a link here with my Sacroiliac Joint injury. During the process I had a tendency to choose the first option that seemed like a best fit, rather than thinking it through. It seemed as though I couldn't or didn't want to have a decision hanging over me. When I had my injury, and this was pre-diagnosis, I just decided that I would knock running on the head- I didn't want to have the idea of an injury hanging over me. I just wanted to remove myself from that arena! Not very rationale - especially for a 32 year old. This realization. that I can do such rash actions, is massive for me. Taking a step back before charging into something is reckless and something I need to work on. I don't know if running helped me with this realization, but it has made me think. I feel as though it was a watershed moment- hence this long, long post. So here is to my rather fine, but not too well, Sacroiliac joint. Long may you keep me grounded, in every sense of the word.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Transactional distance a changing perspective

a psychological and communication space to be crossed, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner (Moore, 1980)

In preparation for my imminent return to studies at Manchester, I have been re-reading some of the course materials. I love this time of year as it is a great opportunity to revisit ideas and comments made half a year ago and see how similar they are now. It is fascinating to see how ideas have been altered or strengthened based on the praxis of real world application. One such idea hit home with me last week and ties together a number of themes that are running through the DNA of this blog.

I was taking part in an SL session with colleagues from Europe (including UK ) and USA. As the session progressed I was aware more and more of a distance between the participants and myself. Nothing extraordinary there as this space is generally apparent in many online sessions, what I found interesting however, was the fact that my sense of transactional distance was shifting…

I had never felt this in a session before. Initially, the space between the UK participants was there but small. The distance between Brighton and Wyoming was noticeable and apparent to the extent you could almost touch it. Knowing the location and nationality of a person influenced me greatly and I am not sure why! This never happened with the online sessions organised with the University of Manchester.

There is a lot to unpack here and includes ideas about formal / informal learning; a walled garden of education; sense of self online… I am going to reflect on these issues further as the weeks progress and I am really interested to see how my move of
3899.7 miles (6275.9 Km / 3386.5 Nautical miles) will change how I interact with colleagues, friends, in the same arenas as now. Will there be a difference…. Probably…why…. I am not sure…yet:)

Moore, M. G. (1980). Independent study. In R. Boyd & J. Apps (Eds.), Redefining the Discipline of Adult Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 16–31.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

learning in, from and about Second Life (the blurring of boundaries)

Well as promised, here is another post about my newly re-found love of second life.

It is very similar to a request I made in Avalon I would recommend you have a look at this great ning. A really supportive and friendly bunch of educators:)

I am fortunate enough now to be in the position where I can observe a lot of experienced teachers in SL. For my own development, as a fledgling English teacher in Second Life, I was wondering how I could capitalise on each observation that I do.

To this end, I have created a work in progress of an adapted RL lesson observation sheet, trying to make it more SL user-friendly. I would greatly welcome feedback on this rough doc (please see below) and comments suggestions on if I have overlooked or missed something. I am also wondering about my approach to this observation sheet as it based on RL pedagogical approaches and these may not be as relevant in the SL arena... Any comments greatly received:)

SL observations

Throughout the observation think about how the affordances of SL are capitalised upon.

How does the teacher get the students’ attention at the beginning of the lesson?
What does she/he say? What mimes or gestures does he/she use?

1 What are the learners doing when the teacher arrives?
How do the learners (re)act?
How does the teacher open the lesson?
Does the teacher explain his/her plan and objective(s) to the learners?

2 Are the learners aware of the objective of the lesson?
What are they doing at this stage?
Are there any organizational tasks that are done by the teacher? (notecards)

3 Are there any organizational tasks that individual pupils do?
Which stages of the lesson can you identify?
How many stages are there? How are they segmented?

4 Which organizational forms are used by the teacher?
Front of class
groupwork /pairwork
presentations (with what media)
individual work

5 Does the teacher give the students any choice concerning the order of tasks/ partners/ places/
activities/ topics/ reading…?

6 How do the learners decide what to do next?
Do they need any help?

How does the teacher lead from one activity to the next?
Is the lesson organized step by step or as a workshop?

7 How do the students move from one activity to the next?
How much time is lost for transitions?

How does the teacher react to learners’ mistakes?

8 Are the learners worried about making mistakes?
(How) does the teacher announce homework? (if any is set- is iit dine in SL/ RL combination?)
How is the homework related to the activities in class?

9 Do the students have a clear understanding of the homework tasks and any materials they will need?
How does the teacher close the lesson?

10 How do the learners and teacher deal with and react to technical problems in SL?

11 Lesson Observation Tasks Students’ experience Class atmosphere and learners’ Behaviour

How does the teacher create a positive learning atmosphere?
How does the teacher encourage learners to use the target language?
How does the teacher manage to get everybody involved?

Does the teacher use any special words, symbols, gestures to help the learners understand or to get their attention?

What else did you notice?
Do the learners seem to be interested?
Do they seem at ease and taken seriously?
Are the learners using the target language?
Are all the learners actively involved?
Are there any noticeable individual groups?

What I want to remember / take away from this observation.

The photo is an attempt to highlight the blurring of boundaries between real life and second life. I was lucky enough to go on a tour of Brighton and Hove Albion's new ground. I couldn't resist pretending that I was the manger for this snap:)


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Second Life

I have watched this video 8 times in a row now. A colleague came over to see what I was laughing at and they walked away in disgust. I guess some people just don't see the affordances of SL!

Expect more SL related musings and postings in this arena.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The school's wookie

This post is about wikis or wookies (I was asked the question what is a wookie on Friday by a member of staff, it was only after my explanation that I realised they were referring to the school's wiki)

As an off-shoot of implementing google docs, I created school wikis about 6 months ago. The affordances of wikis are apparent for me:I have used them extensively at Manchester and for me they just make sense as a learning tool.

I set them up as both a repository for learning materials but also as a space for sharing advice and tips- creating a pool of shared experience and knowledge.

No-one is using them! No-one is looking at them!

I have reminded people weekly about the wikis, I have talked individually with teachers about how to upload materials and edit and add comments. I have given workshops on how to incorporate them into self-development but nothing has changed. It is only yours truly who is adding materials. I am not sure why! I am going to reflect more and post on this. In the meantime, I would be interested to know if anyone has had similar experiences, or if anyone would like to comment on the use of wikis in teacher development.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

I support meaningless jingoistic cliches - two world wars and...

I had a lovely reflective post planned about the reluctance of using technology by some of the teachers where I work and what I had learned from this about myself as a manager and how this would affect my future tech implementations at future places of work but that all changed on 20th July when the BBC posted an article on Americanisms.

Wow- talk about opening up a whole world of hate. Now I must say that I have biased interest in this topic.I am married to an American, and I have witnessed open mocking of her accent and choice of words by British teachers when we were teaching in Poland. This went beyond the banter of gosh don't you sound funny to quite blatant derisory attacks. We have lived in the UK now for close to 5 years, and she has experienced this with colleagues at work who see now problems with repeating what she says back to her in the most obnoxious mocking imitation of her accent. Like some sort of Jim Davidson or Stan Boardman 1980s entertainer. Just for parity they also have mocked my Northern Accent, but well you know you are all right you are one of us- don't take it personally

The question I always ask (and unfortunately do still need to ask) is would you do that to a colleague from India (Jade Goody anyone?)

People are shocked that I would even ask the question...

If you replaced America with another country it soon becomes puerile and racist-

so what is your favourite Indianism? The way they pronounce Manchester is just funny- What about those Turkishisms? It drives me crazy when they can't pronounce kebab properly Ad nauseam...

So after careful thought I waded into twitter and got stuck into the debate. What an eye opener. I do recommend looking at the hash tag Americanisms and you will see that the English (not British really) are quite happy to chant along to all this hatred.

An example here:

What kind of word is "gotten"? It makes me shudder. Julie Marrs, Warrington

To "medal" instead of to win a medal. Sets my teeth on edge with a vengeance. Helen, Martock, Somerset

Helen if you are reading this (I am sure you won't be!)please don't watch the Olympics next year and thank you for that wonderful turn of phrase to set your teeth on edge with a vengeance. Must remember that one.

Never mind all the other problems in the world happening at the moment -

Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London I am sure the Daily Express have already started an inquiry into that one.

I am not surprised by these feelings but I am surprised by the BBC - especially with their close connection to the British Council and what they stand for.

The best post in response to this was at Language Log

Sadly it is telling that there is a disclaimer on comments stating that:

Comments are closed because the British would start posting more of their hate speech here, and Language Log doesn't allow that.

Bit of a long rant but I feel better now. Hope to post that reflection on technology soon.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Feedback in the field

I was reading a rather interesting comment in response to Scott Thornbury's post on P is for Practicum

The idea was of using twitter in the class to provide an instant assessment / advice for the trainee teacher while they are teaching. This would give real-time feedback (learning as a process) and would not break the flow of the lesson. I think this is an amazing idea with a lot of potential.

Scott's video shows how he provides real time (just in time) assessment and evaluation for his trainees, and it is a wonderful example of deep learning taking place for the whole cohort.

This is certainly something that I would like to experiment with for my next round of observations: an I pad could be placed on the teacher's desk, set up a Tweetdeck hash tag and welcome tweets from your peers. I think there could be value here as well for students to post during the session.

Since we started using google docs for our admin system, I have noted that I receive a lot of emails and texts during class regarding teaching points. To be honest this is great. I like the idea of me sitting in at my desk providing explanations of language points to classes around the school in real-time. Very powerful stuff.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Communicative language for who

I have been re-reading the rather excellent Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (Richards & Rodgers)and I was struck again by Howatt's (1984) distinction between strong and weak CLT.

I had to cover teach an IELTS class today and in this class, as it progressed, I was consciously trying to notice when I was closer to the weak or the strong version. For me I see the weak and the strong versions of CLT, not as on a scale from one extreme to another, but more like a spiral where as the lessons ticks along it is closer to each aspect. I am not always happy with this approach. It seems that may students arrive in Brighton in good faith wanting the best English lessons in the best English style.

This translates as I am going to naturally learn English quicker as I am in the UK. The school I work at promotes this as part of its marketing and this is not an isolated incident. Ben Goldstein and Julian Edge

are two people who have wrote extensively on this, and I suppose that this post is a natural continuation of my quest to find myself in this profession. I feel privileged that people are willing to spend a lot of money and spend a lot of time to learn the language I speak. The problem is, well, I do not feel proud about this, though.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Both David and Edward have written about this idea of the sense of the self and I have been so inspired to the extent that it even spawned this blog. I have had blogs in the past but these have
a) always been for personal use only;
b) abandoned after a few weeks.

I am not sure why. Time was and is a factor, but even from these few brief posts I have felt a sense of cleansing, so once again I am going to persevere.

I know Ed and David only from sharing an online presence via Manchester and our shared MA route. We have connected to a certain degree and that has shaped our interactions. I can tell you a fair bit about their online presence and the persona that is presented in that form.

Ed’s point about labels and connections rang so true.

What is brand Warters? Is teacher Martin different to colleague Martin – what about Director of Studies Martin or online Martin compared to Twitter Martin. Breaking this down more, how do the established teachers at the school see me compared to the new teachers?

What about the newly qualified CELTA graduate I interviewed this morning? What ideas about the DoS of the school did they have - did I match her expectations? Are these personas all different and in boxes like Action figures? What message am I presenting about what I want to be and who I want to be in this profession? So many self-reflection questions

After my IATEFL workshop, I was stopped in the coffee hall by a delegate who said that she had really enjoyed the session - I didn’t know what to say. I was silent and a bit aloof- nothing like presenter Martin. I think we both left that conversation feeling a bit cheated.

Ed’s point of Evolving as a professional is important to me, but I wonder at what cost this will come at.

Stopped me on the page. I have felt the cost of professional evolution in the past financially and emotionally. Thankfully I have a very understanding wife who supports me, but having to postpone holidays and spending a lot of money not to mention the time spent on reading, well, I feel lucky and ashamed all at the same time.

I feel Edward and David are asking vital questions and I encourage you to see their full blogs.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Welcome along.

Thank you for taking the time to look at this blog. The fire hydrant metaphor of information overload is certainly one that I subscribe to, and it seems that daily I am playing catch up with posts and memes that I should really know about, but haven't had time to engage with. Basically, I know this feeling of drowning in information and this attempt to cleanse siphon the input is my make sense of my feelings about about education, and my relationship with(in) it and the world. I feel like I have something to say and I hope that it speaks to you.