TBLT Course: The Book Part 2

I’ve already written about the choice of the book and its place in the course, but wanted to say a few more things. Most of these reflect what I do in my graduate classes, and how I will modify those for this course.

When I pick a book for a course, I want one that I can discuss on different levels. Not just theory and practice. What struck me in this book was that we were talking (yes, I talk with my books) about teaching and learning, linguistics, and SLA. But there is another element. It is wide-ranging and historical enough that we can see the science of SLA. I love science, even though I am not very good at it. When people ask me, “What is the greatest human invention?” some may answer the wheel, or fire, or even currency. I think the height of human evolution is in a process. The most important human invention is the scientific method. Humanity would be so much poorer without it. Indeed, we may have shuffled off or been subsumed without it. Handling the breakneck progress is another skill we are working on.

I studied Psychology undergrad, and in those days it was trying to shake off the mantel of armchair science (ethnography, introspection) to become a real, “hard” science. When I studied Linguistics in grad school, we were at a similar point, moving away from anthropology to hard science. I am happy see here how far linguistics and SLA have come, and where exactly the bare areas are that need filling in. This is a very fulfilling feeling.

The second reason I chose this book was because of my personal journey. A fresh graduate with my psych degree I returned to Barcelona, where I had made many friends on Junior year abroad. I was there from Franco to Felipe, during the development of democracy. I studied at the International House for a certificate of teaching and began my career at the IEN (North American Institute) with 70 other faculty and 3,000 students. I think a left just about when Scott Thornbury got there.

I got a scholarship from IEN in Barcelona for a TESOL Summer Institute at Northwestern. I picked a lawyer turned linguist because he was said to be the toughest. Michael Long had us reading hundreds of pages of research every day, pounding it in every morning. He needed a tennis partner, so I got to be humiliated every afternoon for two weeks. It changed my life. He was getting ready to move to Hawaii and worried about it.

Living in Tokyo has its advantages, but when I landed here in 1984 I never realized it was also so central to SLA and linx. My boss, Kaneko-sensei, and my colleague, Robson sensei were in the first TESOL cohort at Temple Japan. Rod Ellis was a key faculty member. Kaneko-sensei got him to fly in from New Zealand twice a year for intensive courses at our university graduate school, so he was often available for questions. I like questions.

Peter Robinson is (was?) at Aoyama, I’ve lost track. But I will always remember the night we missed the last train and had to drink Hobgoblin until the first train. He went over the research implications of moving to the University of Maryland versus some other university in the UK. Our talk never really touched on his research, but I did get to see a very sharp mind, even after quite a few brews.

Living in Tokyo meant that I got to regularly see the leaders in area like vocabulary acquisition, statistics, testing, and too many others to mention. I’d have to say that the common denominator among those is a great and bustling energy. I wish I could hold a candle to them, but have contented myself to a measured slog with a long horizon to prepare things like this class.

Tomorrow, Reading 1 (of 3), the second step in the process.

Today Reading (0:27 Ch. 9) and Blogging (0:39)

Previously: Announcement. Book.

TBLT Course: The Book

While I am the first to decry the use of the textbook as the syllabus, we are going to stick pretty close to this book so we will be able to “cover” (another loaded word) the concepts in this course. Let me give my reasons here. But also note that the class plans will morph depending on the participants. I count it as my job to prepare for as many eventualities as possible. More on that tomorrow.

The book is a part of the Cambridge Applied Linguistics series. Read their blurb, and the iTDi (my) take on it in the course description.

For me, the elephant-and-3-blind-men approach to the theory made the book head and shoulders above others in the field. I am one of the blind men, feeling the elephant as either a wall, a rope, or a trunk. They look at TBLT from five different perspectives (Cognitive, Psycholinguistic, Sociocultural, Psychological, and Educational). I enjoy how each builds upon the others while introducing new aspects. That is what I meant by being inclusive.

Conflicting and controversial viewpoints come up and are hammered out. This is probably the result of having five authors. The richness they bring to the text is astounding. If they could have added Peter Robinson, it would have been a perfect book.

I get the Kindle version for these kind of projects. That makes it easier to “mark up” with highlights, quotes, notes, and even flash cards, then share those with others in the class. It’s also cheaper (US$25).

Today’s time: Reading (Ch.9) 0:52. Blog 0:20.

Previously: Announcement.

TBLT Course Prep Announcement

Last December, Steven Herder at iTDi asked me to lead (coordinate? teach?) a course as part of the new Great Minds series. I am honored to be considered along with my new colleagues Steven, Dorothy Zemach, and Scott Thornbury.

We discussed the shape of the series, and we came to focus on books that contained a diverse look at one specific part of language teaching. Scott chose to look at the work of Earl Stevick, calling the book a festschrift. Steven was fascinated by the work of John Hattie and Visible Learning. Dorothy is looking ahead with a new book on 21st Century Skills. I wish I could take them all.

The closest thing on my bookshelf was a recent (2019) look at Task-Based Langauge Teaching by leaders in the field. It is kind of a festschrift to a body of research that I was heavily involved with, but had wandered away from (to CALL). I wanted to take a deep dive, and thought this the perfect opportunity.

I have been preparing the TBLT course for iTDi since then. Like one of my favorite authors, and many bloggers, I find that posting about my preparation helps me think about the book, the course, and to let the potential participants know a little about what they are getting into.

So the plan is to document my preparation from this point. As I read more, and research more, the excitement builds. I hope it will be evident over the next 70 days, until Day 1 of the course. Maybe I will see you there, but if not enjoy the musings on TBLT.

Stay tuned. (Suggestion, use RSS or find me on Facebook and Twitter, and I will announce new posts there.

(Time Track: 0:58 Blog)

Weakly Post #22

A collection of things I have read this week, and some tools for tech and/or learning new stuff, especially languages. Your first comment is checked, after that you are free to comment.

Over the semester hump, all materials set and ready to go, coasting into finals at the end of the month. Then 2 weeks of limbo (bike trip? conference? Writing?) and then on to Alaska, Seattle, Denver and Des Moines for the summer. I should try to live in the moment so will mention it has been gloriously rainy and cool here in Tokyo.

Very much excited about taking a self-publishing course from Dorothy Zemack at itdi. Still not too late if you are interested. Will keep you updated. Looks like we have a great group of very highly qualified people ready to create some ebooks for the ELT market. Big motivation.

Tech: Use a smart phone and link it to some neural network (machine learning) to see what the coaches are telling the players with their “secret” language of signs. (via flowingdata).

As and antidote, build yourself a robot to skip rocks, and learn about the scientific method in a fun way.

Tech: You’ve heard of facial recognition, and finger-print ID, and maybe even cameras that can tell who you are by how you walk. But what about your heartbeat? (via Technology Review)

Tech: Line, the social network, is big in Japan. Bigger than Facebook. I use it for coordinating with students. They are wokring on expanding into a lot of different areas. One is Social Credit Scores, where you get a personal rating on your actions online (and sometimes offline). Line takes pains to note that this is opt-in, unlike China, who is experimenting with a required system, and which reminds me of the episode of Black Mirror I show my Digital Literacy students most often, Nosedive, season 3 opener). (via The Verge)

Tech: Cory Doctorow on How to fight The Man. Not the government (well, yes, them too, they are colluding), but with online corporate power. Technical, but good for communications studies. Adversarial Interoperability. Use open standards, not proprietary ones. (EFF)

Tech: Quantum Computing figures large in my current sci-fi read, Neal Stephenson’s Fall; or, Dodge in Hell. A brain can only be uploaded to the cloud because of this superfast, super-efficient computing. IRL (In Real Life) it is looking very similar, and Elon Musk is turning his attention away from rockets and cars and tube-borers to fund QC, and use it to give him and some partners an edge in global trading.

History: Police really weren’t needed very much until the new tech of cars became prevalent. Now I understand Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. (via Boston Review)

Japan: Interactive Fiction is a cross between a book and a game. You get to make choices which determine your outcome. This 240,000 word (huge) IF is probably written by a digruntled Eikaiwa (conversation school) teacher. You can have a free look if you are interested. Cheap if you want to carry it around on your device. A Sensei’s Story. (via Choice of Games)

Writing: Speaking of Interactive Fiction (IF) you can find the standard patterns in Choice-based games. Reminds me of a complicated version of Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories.

EdTech: Tony Bates writes a chapter for this book and gives it a surprisingly tenuous review. He is retired, so has nothing to lose. I believe him. Edited by a prof at International Christian University (ICU) here in Tokyo. Open and Distance Education Theory Revisited.

Tech: A peek into a very dark corner of the internet, and how it got that way. We really need a way to create a healthier environment, and that starts with the real world, as you will see. The internet is a reflection. Destroyer of Worlds. About 8chan.

Culture: Will Harris writes a new book about biracial people. Mixed-race Superman. Includes Keanu Reeves. On my reading list.

Learning: Read Dave Courmier’s book about Rhizomatic Learning. He carves out a space between Connected Learning and Constructionist Learning.

EdTech: Both China and India are really moving ahead in the EdTech market. Lots of development. Reminds me of 3rd world countries leapfrogging landlines for cellular networks. Watch out.

Tech: Proof that DRM does not work. Microsoft closes down its unsuccessful ebook store and everyone who bought a book there loses it. This month. Sorry, Charlie. Back up your ebooks (and everything) after you crack the DRM (digital rights management, a software lock on the file.)

Media: Watching the news on TV (not cable) may be good for your neutrality. (Mother Jones)

Consciousness: A new way to think about thinking. Geometry. Barbara Taversky.

Politics: As a boomer myself, I can agree with this. Don’t Blame Boomers, Blame their Parents. (Mother Jones)

Do your students (or you) watch YouTube videos on a Chrome browser? You can get an extension that helps you take notes.

Too difficult for my students (linguistically and culturally) this is a good critical thinking exercise that has been proven to work. Get Bad news.

The Best Books to Read at every Age, from 1 to 100. How many have you read?

Songs to use in class, already prepared. You just need Spotify or similar. From ELTBuzz

Excellent set of Jigsaw listening videos, with slides, to present in class. About smartphone use.

Weakly Post #21

A collection of things I have read this week, and some tools for tech and/or learning new stuff, especially languages. Your first comment is checked, after that you are free to comment.

Back from almost a flawless trip with the students to the beach, where the other teachers decided the only time students could escape the compound was to clean the beach for 2 hours one morning. No sunsets, no sunrises, no runs or walks along the water. Damn shame. Otherwise, things went well. This was my 36th trip like this, and a total of around 150 days over the last 28 years. Can you imagine almost 6 months like that? Exhausting.

A collection of 50 drawings that demonstrate differences between Japan and the US (and Singapore or other countries). (BoredPanda)

Canada outlaws captive dolphins and killer whales. I struggle each year to avoid our local SeaWorld on the way to our study trip. This year we replaced it with “German Village”.

Police. We didn’t really need them until cars were in common use. An unintended consequence.

An update on using AR (Augmented Reality) in schools.

Here is one for chuckles. American news media complaining about the “tyranny of the metric system.” People really are that stupid.

Umair Haque on Why the US is the first poor rich country in the world.

You can’t get any more standardized than this. Genre fiction. Novels written to be simply representative of the genre. (BoingBoing)

Why regulating Big Tech will not work. Competition is the solution.

Painting with light. Making a movie, the Gaffer is the person who sets up the lights, and it has to fit the story. Great 9-minute video.

This one is for Ted. He is a member, and maybe even a priest in the Church of the SubGenius. Now they have a Salvation Pack. (BoingBoing)

Spotify is now gauging what moods people are in and selling the data. What gets sold to depressed people?

ESL Video is a good tool for self study, but teachers can monitor use too. A selection of videos with quizzes. Teachers can ask students to send a code for proof. (Larry Ferlzzo)

Storytelling is more important than grammar. I couldn’t agree more. (The Guardian)