A Brisbane ELICOS response to Ken Robinson

I’ve just watched this and found it inspiring:

I first came across it here – thanks Scott Newcomb.

My main response has been to wonder how such an educational paradigm shift might manifest itself in the Australian ELICOS industry. I think that there are some practices and beliefs common throughout our industry that we need to start shedding. For example:

  • Mobile phones in class are often considered a nuisance. One of the most basic, practical things that ELICOS teachers/DoSes can do to begin to adapt to a new paradigm is to wake up to the fact that most of our learners have smartphones and they are in fact a very useful tool (I have to thank my colleague and friend Michael Griffiths for waking me up to this and not that long ago either!). Teachers/DoSes might dream of having a computer/language lab at their college or a bunch of iPads to take into class; they don’t need to waste time worrying about this anymore – their classroom is most likely, in effect, a computer lab already. In a sense such an acknowledgement might seem superficial, but, on a deeper level, it is an acknowledgement that the learners in our colleges now are not quite the same as those we had 2/5/10 years ago (when I started teaching, in 2001, the ‘democratisation’ of the internet was still a fairly recent phenomenon!).
  • Syllabi are more often than not determined by coursebooks. This is a cheap, easy way to design syllabi; I think Sir Ken touched on some of the reasons it might be failing our learners. If we let the coursebooks design the syllabi, should we be surprised if our teachers then let the coursebook do the teaching? Pre-service teacher training is – in my experience at least – very much geared around course books (this is probably because the industry is geared that way, but which came first?). A paradigm shift is perhaps required in teacher training too.
  • We expect our learners to postpone their lives until the end of a 16/24/48-week course. A common assumption behind ELICOS curricula seems to be that students need to wait until the end of their courses before engaging with the English-speaking world around them – we ask them come to class, do their homework and not much more than that. If they need to acquire certain knowledge/skills specific to a particular job/industry, we tend to leave that to other providers to deal with after their ELICOS course, rather than during. We need to adopt a model closer to the CLIL model so that we build engagement with the ‘real world’ into our courses.
What struck me most about the RSA animation was Sir Ken’s attitude to the ‘ADHD epidemic’; it’s a powerful example of how we need to understand how our learners/clients have changed over the last couple of years and change what we do to better meet those needs. Individual teachers have done/have been doing/will do this, but it’s probably time for those of us responsible for ELICOS curricula/syllabi to lift our game.

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