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Blog Repost: #ELTChat: the loss of eltchat.com – Plan B

August 10, 2012 6 comments

If you haven’t been involved in #ELTChat discussions on twitter for the past couple of years, you should know you’ve missed the chance to connect with fantastic like-minded educators who pursue PD and always strive to do best for their students. #ELTChat is a discussion held every Wednesday on Twitter, and even though I wasn’t able to participate in the last discussions, we could always refer to the website that had been created as a repository for the discussions. This was only possible due to the hard work of all those who are involved in getting things up and running. If anyone here has been involved in any kind of endeavour, be it online or offline, you’ll know how hard it is when things seem to fall apart – but they only seem. As someone who has benefitted a lot from #ELTChat, and someone who appreciates the work that’s been put up by the team of moderators in ELTChat, I’ve decided to share what Marisa Constantinides has written on her blog here. This is not meant as a manifesto, but I believe those who keep looking for opportunities to keep growing professionally should know where they’ll be able to find the new website for #ELTChat, and a couple of words by the moderators on the reasons for the change. I’m posting the post in its entirety, as it’s been written on the original blog post, without adding nor deleting any word from it. Without further ado, here goes the repost from Marisa’s blog:

 

#ELTchat: the loss of eltchat.com – Plan B

Blog post August 10, 2012

 For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important part of our continuous professional development.

Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.

And that is how #ELTchat was created.    

The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.

Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy eltchat.com and announced the good news to us after the fact.

A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011,  he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.

We never found out for sure.

We never received a single word of response to our emails.

eltchat.com was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it

On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.

The news is really upsetting.

The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment

We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.

But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased – eltchat.org

It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet

And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations

We will be back with a vengeance

We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!

See you all in September!!!

Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden

Henrick Oprea

P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers,  teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers,  reposted this on your blog

If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Teaching writing

February 10, 2011 16 comments

If you haven’t had the chance to participate in this Wednesday’s #ELTChat, you may not know that we discussed writing and how to teach writing in our classes. One of the best things about these discussions is all the ideas it generates afterwards and the discussions that arise from it. In one of my tweets, I suggested that students are likely to need writing skills more than speaking skills. Fortunately, this didn’t go unnoticed and @ma_luv2teach sent me another tweet soon after the chat was over:

If you haven’t had the chance to participate in this Wednesday’s #ELTChat, you may not know that we discussed writing and how to teach writing in our classes. One of the best things about these discussions is all the ideas it generates afterwards and the discussions that arise from it. In one of my tweets, I suggested that students are likely to need writing skills more than speaking skills. Fortunately, this didn’t go unnoticed and @ma_luv2teach sent me another tweet soon after the chat was over:

The reason why I’m posting the conversation here is that we did exchange a couple of other tweets on the matter, but I believe neither could go on much further due to everything we have to do in our daily lives. Now, I really like it when there is some sort of healthy disagreement about a certain point of view and we can discuss it nicely. This was the case, and even though we finished (for now) our conversation by disagreeing on the writing vs. speaking focus issue, I’ve been thinking about it all day long and decided I could write it here and let others join the discussion and perhaps help me look at things from a different perspective. So this is what I have so far:
1. EFL learners need writing more than they need speaking:

My point here is that despite the use of technology such as skype, FaceTime, or any other voice communication software, most communication at work still have to be written. For one reason, most of the times, instrutions, memos, proposals, requests, or any other kind of document needs to be available at a later time. I won’t argue the importance of a nice chat in a business meeting, but I believe you will agree with me when I say that most learners will not be the ones in charge of upfront negotiations. Sure, some will, and these need to develop such skills, but most will be following instructions and trying to comply. They will probably be emailing foreign clients or suppliers asking for something, not calling them. It is much easier to sort out a mistake if you have written proof of what has been agreed on. Again, unless you record all of your phone calls, emails are likely to work much better.
In addition to this, we can also think of teenagers. No matter how easier it gets for them to speak to their friends, they do seem to prefer texting. For one reason, it’s much more private to text than to speak on the phone. Only those who are looking at your screen are able to read what you’re typing whereas anyone around you will have an idea of what you’re saying. Most people will only have a chance to practise their speaking skills when traveling for pleasure to Disney or going shopping in NY. I’d love this to change; I just don’t see it happening so soon, though.
2. Learning how to write is not an easy task

I’ll start this by quoting Harmer in his How to Teach Writing:

However long ago writing really started, it has remained for most of its history a minority occupation. This is part because although almost all human beings grow up speaking their first language (and sometimes their second or third) as a matter of course, writing has to be taught. Spoken language, for a child, is acquired naturally as a result of being exposed to it, whereas the ability to write has to be consciously learned.

Most students, especially these days, look for language classes that promise an emphasis on conversation. This means a lot of speaking practice and very little grammar – especially to the learner. If you allow me, I don’t think they are actually looking for conversation alone. I do believe what they mean is communication, and the reason why they dread sitting through grammar lessons is mainly because of the bad experience they had been through while studying in school. “Grammar lessons were not communicative nor engaging. Therefore, if a course teaches grammar, it will never teach me how to hold conversations” may be one of the things crossing a learner’s mind. When we ask our learners to write, we are going to correct them on their grammar sooner or later. It’s actually a good thing for the teacher as it might show him or her a couple of things that students need further practice in.

Learning how to write is time consuming, and based on the L1 teachers I talk to, it is something that students have difficulties with even in their L1. I have to be honest and say that it is exactly because of the fact that learning how to write is usually frowned upon by students that most language schools and teachers fail to emphasize it. This sometimes doesn’t even have anything to do with beliefs or lack of will, but it may just be a matter of how students see it. Language schools are, let’s not forget that, a business. In order to be able to exist, hire and pay teachers, they need students. If there is another school across the street that says students will be able to learn the language in less time and studying much less, many students will eventually go there, and now the other schools have two options – follow suit, the easy way out, or try to stick to its beliefs and hope that students will see they are right and come back. Whenever I think of this I remember the recurrent articles published every year about language courses that should be avoided. However, as long as people believe in magic solutions and are afraid of working harder than others to reach their goals, they are likely to buy it and go with the flow – if they turn out to have been fooled afterwards, at least they were not fooled alone.

3. Learning how to write will boost your speaking skills more than the other way around

OK, I could actually spend sometime talking about the difference between learned and acquired language, but as the difference is kind of blurry, I’ll just make use of another point. We need exposure in order to be able to reflect upon our sentences and utterances. This happens very fast when we are speaking and we hardly ever have the time to analyse what we are saying so that we can rephrase what we are trying to convey. However, when it comes to written language, it’s a lot easier for us to go through what we thought we were trying to say and be aware of different ways to say it. It’s much easier for us to be consciously aware of our production and remember it when using it in different occasions. Here I’d make use of Bialistok’s model for language learning:

I believe it’s much easier and faster for learners to refer to their explicit linguistic knowledge in order to progress than for them to base their learning experience on speaking practice alone. “Eh?! What happened to language being conversation driven, you dogmeist you???” Fret not, I’m a firm believer in the fact that language is conversation driven (at least until today). Written production may be an excellent source of input for learners and also an excellent source for them to learn about their own mistakes and be more conscious of them while holding a conversation. Let’s not forget that there are still many illiterate people out there who can even speak in public very well, but are incapable of reading and writing. Yet, I’ve never seen anyone – please, let’s not go into disabilities – who’s able to read and write but can’t speak. Much on the contrary, even in L1, it’s quite common for us to witness people becoming more proficient speakers once they start writing more. I really don’t think you’ll become a better writer by speaking more.

To sum it up, writing and speaking are both important skills that should be well attended to in class. My point, however, is that we tend to go from one extreme to another quite too fast. It is much more pleasant to talk to others in class than to write messages. You don’t walk around writing things on a piece of paper and showing others, but, IMHO, when it comes to foreign language interaction, writing is still a lot more common than speaking. A good example of it? How many voices do you know from the people in your PLN?

** A big thank you to @ma_luv2teach for helping me think more about this topic. I’m far from having this as my final word on it, and I do hope others (if they could put themselves to read this till the end) can also help me on this one.

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