In a talk entitled ‘Transforming Trends – a journey into the work of BYOT’, Shelly starts talking about the importance of allowing teachers and students to bring in their own tools so as to overcome the economic obstacles that might be faced by the school and the students.
Taking an audience poll, it was clear to everyone that the majority of us type, take and edit pictures, take videos, download apps, post things on the web, all using either their mobile devices or their computers/laptops and are familiar with using our own tools and devices.
Through a video, she exemplifies how she uses technology and mobile devices (smart phones, ipads, etc) to create stories, conduct a show and tell, make app commercials, and publish the students’ work.
‘Mobile Monday’ signifies a special day of the week that the students can bring in their own devices and use them in class. But beforehand, it is important to teach the students digital citizenship and learn about how they should act online. If students do not pass their digital citizenship, they do not get ‘Mobile Monday’.
At this point, Shelly gets the audience to take out their own devices and choose a picture to show and talk about in pairs/groups. With such activities, students get to know each other better and all this can lower the possibility of cyber bullying.
As an example of an individual activity, Shelly gets the students to start a Flickr account on which they would post a picture under themes like ‘In a Restaurant’ or ‘This is Art’. Students then add tags or a paragraph of a comment to their pictures.
In a version of ‘I Spy’ ,we then took super-closeup photos of objects around us and in a mingle activity, we walked around the room asking people to guess what shapes our objects were and what the photos were were of. Bruno Andrade showed me his photo of a glowing blue cylindrical shaped object, which turned out to be a close-up picture of his pen. In class, we could use the app ‘I Know Quiz’ to put up the photos students have taken.
In another group activity, Shelly uses Twiddla.com to pull up an online whiteboard to brainstorm to lists problems and solutions that teenagers face. In groups, students then picked one of the problems and create an imaginary app to solve the problem. They then go on to create a video advertisement for the app they have created.
You can also get students to download a particular app at home ahead of time and bring it to class with them. Ideas Sketch for mind mapping, Google drive and Evernote for sharing information amongst the class, and Twiddla for recordable whiteboard.
Shelly ends the talk with an inspirational quote by Jean Piaget saying,
‘The principal goal of education in schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.’
Isil Boy’s session starts with her asking the basic question – what is Mobile Learning? We can learn anywhere anytime…even in the toilet!
Showing us a slide of early men using slates to carve on, Isil asks us what the difference is between a slate and an iPad. Aside from the price (laughter from audience), connectivism is what makes a difference.
She goes on to highlight the illusion of mobile learning: e.g. Using tablets only in the classroom. Are schools using tablets because other schools are using it, or is it to truly enable mobile learning? Are iPads merely a substitute for a paper dictionary? Are we using tablets for the sake of using them?
The apps as classified by the SAMR model (substitution, augmentation, modification, redefinition) could transform education. But remember that the tablets are not transforming education, you are.
Does this mean that we teachers become the performers and the magicians with the help of technology? Or should we be handing over to students and letting them perform the magic instead?
How then can we integrate mLearning into teaching?
Dropping hardware into a classroom and dipping teachers into training does not work.
So, if you have a principal who says to you ‘I’ve bought the tablets! What should we do now?’, what would you do?
5 Tips for integrating tablets into your classroom
1. Define our objectives
2. Provide on-going training
3. Teach kids how to stay safe online
4. Establish a protocol for parents
5. Set some rules to switch tablets off
Isil then moves on to asking the audience what their dream app might be.
Do we know how to search for apps?
There are search engines for apps e.g. Quixey and App Crawl which we can use.
As a framework for teaching with apps, one can categorise apps into Searching, Bookmarking, Organising, Creating, and Sharing.
An example of an app that helps with Organising is U-Pad lite that helps the user to complete and sign forms.
Educreations help turn your iPad into a recordable whiteboard with voice recording.
Isil also recommends Edmodo for Organising information and sharing them with students.
Storykit is another free app that allows us to add text, voice and create digital stories with our students.
But why are we using these apps? According to the affective context model, if we can learn things whenever we need it, it becomes more effective. With the help of mLearning, we can learn anytime and anywhere we want. We don’t need to convince students to use the iPads and push the information on them. We are instead pulling the information that they have found out from them.
The conclusion Isil the draws is that schools should develop a technology plan, create a policy for tablet use, and have primary control over the downloading and syncing of apps. Teachers should be involved in the decision-making process and students should be allowed to keep the tablets and take them home, otherwise it defeats the purpose of having tablets in the classroom.
Isil ends the presentation to the packed room with a useful link to her blog isilboy.com.
It was raining this morning as I went to school and it was miserable.
I commented on the weather as I entered the classroom, and the students agreed in unison, expressing their dislike for the wet weather. One student started voicing his worries about the weather for the rest of the week, saying that he was booked to do a Jack the Ripper walk in a couple of days. I took out my iPhone and checked my London Met Office app while eliciting the lexis ‘weather forecast’, and to his disappointment, it stated that there would be heavy rain showers every day till Saturday, with a tiny reprieve of a light rain shower on Thursday (shouldn’t we all be thankful for that!).
At this point, I asked students to move their chairs in the usual horseshoe, joking that I felt like they were judges on Xfactor judging me if they all sat in a straight line. A student asked what that was, and I said it was a singing competition on TV. Another student asked it that was like ‘The Voice’, a new TV show I know very little about, and I threw the question to the rest of the class. Another student asked if it was like ‘American Idol’. In the meantime, the Japanese students seemed rather clueless about all these TV programmes, and so I got the Brazilians to explain the concept of audience participation to their fellow classmates. While I fed in lexis such as ‘the one with the least votes’, ‘to get kicked out of the show’ and ‘the ratings are high’, the students told each other about the talent shows that also existed in their countries.
A Korean student then said that they get the British programmes XFactor and Britain’s Got Talent in Korea, and a lot of young people download the programmes because everyone talks about them and the newspapers talk about them too. I fed in the phrasal verb ‘to hype something up’, and highlighted that ‘hype’ could also be used as a noun. Here’s the example scenario I gave to clarify:
When the film Titanic first came out, everyone was talking about it and the media kept covering it.
There was a lot of hype about the film.
Some people watched the film and felt disappointed.
They felt that the film was less than what everyone had said.
They felt that the film did not live up to the hype.
I then asked students for other films that the media really hyped up and did not live up to the hype.
We ended up with ‘Inception’ and ‘Sex and the City’ (both part 1 and 2, I’m afraid).
I then elicited other object nouns they felt would collocate with the phrasal verb ‘live up to’, and they cleverly volunteered ‘expectation’.
I then prompted them further with this example:
I went to this language school because everyone said it was really good.
It had a good name.
But when I was there, I was disappointed.
I did not think the school was as good as its name.
I think the school did not live up to its r_______________.
After some more prompting, a student shouted out ‘reputation’, giving us a total of three object nouns that collocate with ‘live up to’.
I then asked students whether they were more likely to use ‘live up to’ with in a negative or positive sentence and we agreed that we are more likely to comment on something if it did not live up to our expectations.
Someone mentioned the 3D version of Titanic at this point, and I said that I had heard it was really good and worth watching. A student looked at me puzzled and said that he had heard quite the opposite about the 3D release, saying that there was not much 3D effect in it, except the moment when the ship crashed into the iceberg and the ice comes shattering into the audience. Another student grimaced at the mentioned of Titanic and didn’t seem impressed.
I was reminded at this point of a bar I was in recently that was commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic sinking by having their guests all turn up in 1920s outfits, and students seemed amused by that. I tried to elicit ‘fancy dress party’ and got ‘costume party’ instead.
Funnily enough, when I proceeded to write ‘fancy dress party’ on the board, a student asked, ‘But “fancy” also means expensive, right?’ The rest nodded.
Rather than brushing it aside by saying ‘There are many meanings of “fancy” but we are only dealing with one now,’ I decided to address the students’ confusion.
I first clarified that ‘fancy dress party’ was a fixed expression and cautioned students not to try and dissect the meaning of ‘fancy’ in the above phrase.
I said, ‘If I go to a fancy restaurant, what kind of restaurant is it?’
The students said, ‘Expensive?’, ‘Elegant?’
I said, ‘Yes. What’s a word we use for “upper class”?’
A student contributed ‘posh’.
I elicited, ‘What part of speech is “fancy” here?’
Students volunteered, ‘Adjective’.
I drew a mindmap on the white board with ‘fancy’ in the middle circle.
I then asked, ‘Can “fancy” be a verb?’ and the students looked at me, puzzled.
‘What if I said to you, “Do you fancy a pizza?” What am I asking you?’
(I figured it was a common enough question and since the students didn’t know it, it was time they did.)
After hazarding a few wrong guesses, I decided to put them out of their misery.
Equating it to ‘Would you like a pizza?’, the students then said, ‘Oh, it’s the same as “Do you want a pizza?”
Pushing this mid-int class further, I said, ‘It’s the same as “Do you feel like a pizza?”’
The students laughed. I realized the double meaning embedded in that statement.
So I explained, ‘Do you think I am asking you if you have the same feelings as a pizza?’
The students continued laughing as they said, ‘no’.
I then said, ‘Is it the same as “Are you in the mood for a pizza?”’
The students agreed.
I asked, ‘Does this all mean “Do you want to have a pizza now?”’
And the students got it.
A quick controlled practice was called for, so I asked, ‘How do you ask your friend if she wants to go out?’
The students replied, ‘Do you fancy going out?’ and ‘Do you feel like going out?’
I said, ‘The weather is awful. You want to say no. How do you say it?’
The students replied, ‘I don’t fancy going out,’ and ‘I don’t feel like going out.’
I decided to leave more controlled practice for tomorrow and moved on to another meaning of ‘fancy’.
I included ‘I really fancy Angelina Jolie’ on the mindmap and asked students to deduce what it meant. After a few goes, they finally settled on ‘like’ and I added that I not only ‘like’ her but would like to maybe kiss her or more… (I was appealing to overwhelming majority of men in the class here and was definitely not alluding to my sexuality in any way!)
We were now ready to go back to the topic that we had left to explore ‘fancy’ as students were clearly still interested in it.
I asked students, ‘What reality TV shows or talent shows are there in your country?’ and ‘What do you think of them?’
In groups of 3 or 4, students shared with each other, explaining the concepts of programmes like Big Brother, Survivor, and the Apprentice as they went along.
A Japanese student said that reality shows were not as popular in Japan, despite the one weird example of one where girls were put into a house and competed to see who could cry the most by collecting their tears in test tubes (I am not lying! Honestly!)
So I prompted her to talk about TV shows that were popular, or shows that colleagues would talk about at work. The conversation soon led on to popular soap operas and quiz shows. We talked about the origin of the expression ‘soap opera’ (They used to be day-time programmes targeting housewives and therefore featured many soap ads), before taking our 15-minute break.
When we came back, I told my two Korean students about the ad I had seen of a Korean cultural festival on the door near reception. I asked if they were going and the other students were curious as to what might be featured in such a festival. The two Koreans speculated that there might be some karaoke or some Korean food and drink, but I noticed that some of the students looking quite perplexed and so I asked, ‘Have you ever tried Korean food?’
Only the Japanese students replied in the positive.
I realized at this point that many of my students hardly knew much about their fellow classmate’s countries or cultures.
So I wrote on the board – Brazil, Japan, Korea, Iran, and said, ‘These are the four countries in our class. Apart from your own, write a sentence about something you know about each country. You have 3 minutes.’
As I monitored, my suspicions were confirmed. The students didn’t know much beyond the fact that Japan was famous for sushi and was where samurais originated, that Brazil had carnivals and Iran had oil.
After they had written their sentences, I put them in groups with students from countries other than their own, and they shared the sentences they had written.
Students were instantly keen to inform their classmates about their countries and tell them more than the superficial sentences that had been written.
As the levels of conversation and the decibels in that class increased, I heard the quietest student in that class passionately telling his fellow classmates about how sad he was about the missile that was launched by North Korea last week, and then explaining the reason for the North and South Korea divide. This student arrived in London not too long ago and was clearly having teething problems with dealing with a communicative approach to language learning for the past week. Like many students from the Far East, he tended to think carefully before forming a sentence, and preferred keep quiet unless he had something important to say. He now clearly did…
Using complex sentences and impressive lexical items like ‘Capitalism was led by the USA and Socialism was led by USSR’, he certainly surprised a few of his classmates with his level of English. I couldn’t stop smiling. This was the trigger I had been waiting for.
Open class feedback about the different countries brought the topic on to football, and we spoke about the rivalry between neighbouring countries. I told students about how the Scottish wore T-shirts that said ‘ABE’ (Anyone But England) in jest when England would play in the World Cup, and how the Irish would rather support Aliens if they played England. A student at this point asked, ‘Sorry, but the Irish people don’t speak English, right? They have their own language?’
This brought us on to a whole new discussion. I explained the attempts of the UK government to keep Welsh and Gaelic (Scottish and Irish) in the education system with varying degrees of success, and how many of the Highlanders, after the Highland clearances, no longer see Scottish Gaelic as their language, while although the Irish continue to see Irish Gaelic as their language, do not speak it as much as the Welsh speak Welsh. (see here for my post of Gaelic)
Seeing the interest the topic has generated, I asked the students to prepare something about their country as homework so as to share with the others the next day. Finally, a task. The task I have been waiting to set.
In the last 30 minutes of the lesson, I had students bring out the photos of adverts that they had previously taken on their mobile phones as homework, and had one in each pair describing it to their partners while their partners drew the advert on a mini-whiteboard.
Students then discussed the following questions:
What is the advertisement about?
Where did you see it?
Who is it targeting?
Why did you choose it?
In open class feedback, the partners showed the class their drawing and reported what they had been told about the ad while the mobile phones were passed around so that students could compare the original photos to the drawings and compliment fellow students on how well they have done.
With the huge amount of lexis to be revised, the task to be worked on, and only half the class having shared their photos of adverts, it certainly looks like tomorrow’s lesson has already been cut out for me.
Tuesday, 20th March 2012, Glasgow Conference Centre.
IATEFL Day 1
Lunch on this day was quite an experience.
First, we had to round up the Twitteratti after Anthony Gaughan’s talk, including those that didn’t manage to get past the surly female ‘bouncer’.
Then, we had to decided what our lunch options were. It turned out that we only had a café Costa that served sandwiches, a bistro/restaurant that was already full, and a jacket potato stand to choose from.
Next, we had to painfully recognize the fact that there was no way 50 members of the Twitteratti would fit in any where and that we had to split into smaller groups.
A group of us decided to go with the jacket potato option and after braving the long queues, we ended up sitting on the floor with our lunches. (not realizing that there was a hall full of tables that we could have sat at!) In any case, we certainly enjoyed bonding in front of the vending machine and feeling like the hippies that we were. Carol Goodey and I even attempted to go to the exhibition area to ‘score’ some desserts (in the form of boiled sweets) from some of the stands, before heading off early to all the respective rooms our talks were being held in for fear of being confronted by scary Scottish bouncers again (Fiona Mauchline, are you sure that was Genghis McCann’s mother?)
Most of my afternoon was an exploration into technologies for learning, an area I must admit I know very little about (hence, the curiosity).
The first was the Learning Technologies (LT) SIG’s presentation by Maria do Carmo Ferreira Xavier of Cultura Inglesa – Ideas to implement mobile phones in the English classroom. In a very practical session where Maria talked of the project she has been working on over the last 18 months, where she used different types of mobiles, including smart phones, to motivate and engage her learners, allowing them to interpret the materials in the coursebooks in a personalized way.
Here are some of the ideas she put forward:
Get students to…
…use their mobiles to take photos of objects in odd positions and get to work in pairs guessing what each other’s photos are of.
…send a text message to their classmates inviting them to a party.
…actually have that party, take photos of it with their mobiles, and describe the party the following day to those who couldn’t make it.
…take photos of someone with piercings, with tattoo or body art, and bring it to class to talk about.
…bring photos of their holidays or places they have travelled to and talk about it.
…take photos of what they think represents the world’s biggest problems and or problems with their local area, and use the photos as discussion prompts.
…use iPods, smartphones, and iPads for vocabulary lists, and for Twitter/Facebook contact with native speakers.
Following in the theme of technology and learning, I then headed to Przemyslaw Stencel’s Which is better? F2F or ELearning? Apples or Oranges?
International House London, partnered by Cambridge, launched the Celta Online about a year ago, and more and more teacher trainers are making that move into online distance learning and teaching. I myself did the Distance Delta many years ago and had a great experience on it despite having initial reservations of there not being a Face-to-Face (F2F) element. I was thus curious what Przemyslaw had to say on the topic.
At the start of his talk, Przemyslaw introduces the audience a website called nosignificantdifference.org (no this is not one of those comedy hashtags, James…it is an actual real website with real statistics and stuff…) and it showed that there was in fact no statistical difference between distance learning and F2F.
Learning is after all the result of motivation and of opportunities, and learning happens best as an active process where there is interaction with others.
In ELearning, we can invite all kinds of people, including those outside the group, to join in and this allows for more interaction with a wider variety of people, hence increasing motivation. An example of this is MOOT (Massive Open Online Course) where the platform is opened to the public and anyone can join in.
Przemyslaw goes on to assert that unlike in F2F where we prefer to have a small number of learners/trainees, in ELearning, the more the participants, the more interesting the experience. We use Moodle or Blackboard because it allows us to retain control and assign tasks, but in fact we should get rid of the limitations and use ELearning to let students guide their own learning.
Often, a criticism of using online forums is the lack of immediacy and the delayed responses, but this could be seen as a good things as this means allowing for thinking and pondering time for the learner. Recommending the use of online tools such as Edublogs, Glogster, Youtube, etc, ELearning can be made an active process, and online projects can be bigger and involve more people than any F2F project can.
We tend to peg F2F as more ‘real’ and ELearning as ‘artificial’, when in fact we often create artificial environments in the classroom to teach students what to do in real life. Such classroom tasks are often artificial. On the contrary, we can give authentic real life tasks online, such as using google maps to teach directions, getting students to plan their holidays by using websites, etc.
A convincing talk by the end of which it is clear which of the two Przemyslaw is biased towards…and it’s certainly not Oranges.
Next up was another very exciting and popular event, especially amongst the Twitteratti. LT SIG Scholarship winner Bruno Andrade (Cultura Inglesa), also known as ‘That amazing guy who is running the Brazil #ELTChat?’, presents ‘Technology speaks volumes: Enhancing Integration, Participation, and Speaking Activities’.
Bruno’s digital immersion project started off with him offering his students a range of tools to choose from, allowing them to select what they felt comfortable working with. When Skype was chosen, he gave the students further responsibility by asking them when in their lessons they would like to use Skype. In a presentation-style that was inspiring enough to make us go forth and try and move mountains, Bruno says, ‘When students are given responsibility, it becomes a driving force for them, and amazing things happen.’
In their 1st Skype session, students simply exchanged trivial conversations, but by the 2nd session, they started to talk about the geographical and cultural aspects of their area.
In their 3rd Skype session, students started to play drama games, e.g. where they were only allowed to carry on a conversation with only 1 word at a time, or by only making questions.
By their 5th session, there was evidence of the encouraging of critical thinking through the discussion of violence in schools.
Here are my top picks of Bruno’s wise words:
Skype could make the class less teacher- and coursebook- centred.
Do not forcefully stick to the plan but take advantage of teachable moments and go with the flow (or what Dogmeticians would probably call ‘Dogme moments’?)
Encourage critical thinking in the classroom.
Play back the conversations for the students as this can help them with self-awareness, self-correction and increased self-confidence with talking to others.
Remember that when working with YLs, ensure you ask for authorization from parents when embarking on such digital immersion projects.
However, my favourite part of Bruno’s passionate presentation must have been when he played us videos of his learners, some of whom were too shy to even make a sentence in English prior to his project, talking about their learning experience with Skype in perfectly intelligible communicative English on camera.
But the best part wasn’t just what the learners were saying…
…but that big smile on Bruno’s face when that video was playing.
It was a smile that could have lit up a thousand Skype screens!
We know that look Bruno…and that is why we teach!
Thank you, Bruno, for reminding us of that!
(I feel all warm and fuzzy inside just recalling that moment…but Day 1 is not quite over yet…watch this space…)
Thanks for all your interests in my previous post! Today was Day 2 of my Advanced class and boy, are they amazing! Conversations flowed, topics took surprising turns and interests were piqued in a way that only a Dogme class could afford!
The day started with a recall of the previous day’s discussions and language, and this led to them reminding me about how I clearly had a pet peeve with the London Underground and RMT. I fed in the lexis ‘pet hate’ and ‘to rant about something’ and that led to the binomial ‘to rant and rave about something’. This then led to the discussion of what a binomial was.
I decided to put them in pairs to brainstorm in pairs and write on their mini-whiteboards as many binomials as they could think of. What emerged in the eventual mind-map I had on the board were gems like ‘out and about’, ‘down and out’, ‘rhythm and blues’, ‘trick or treat’, ‘back and forth’, ‘hit and run’ and ‘pros and cons’.
But what was more interesting was the emergence of ‘high and low’, which we figured only really existed in the expression ‘to search for something high and low’; ‘black and blue’, which often occurred with the phrase ‘He was black and blue all over’; and ‘odds and ends’ which frequently collocated with the verbs ‘to tie up’.
Once the geeks in us were pacified by this nice chunk of a language lesson, we went on to discuss their homework from the day before – finding out why some countries drove on the right and others drove on the left. Putting students in groups, I had those who did do their homework to relate to those who hadn’t a summary of what they had found out, and then moved those who had not done the necessary reading to the next group in the style of a carousel so that they could relate back what they were told to their new group members.
In open class feedback, we were fed with all kinds of information – from the mounting of the horse from the right to the avoidance of samurai swords from banging against other samurai passer-bys, but one thing was clear: We all used to drive on the left, UK-style. The righteousness of being right-handed dictated that driving on the left was a necessity. Somehow, along the way, some countries deflected…then others followed. Now, those that drive on the left are a minority…
After their break, the students were meant to come back with the adverts they had brought with them. Their homework had been to spot an advert they liked…but coincidentally and interestingly, one of the students was eating straight from a Nutella jar during the break and the conversation became about how Nutella was a lot cheaper in London than it is in Peru…
We started talking about spreads and I asked if they had tried Marmite. We looked briefly at the bell curve compared to the Marmite curve and then I showed them an advertisement of Marmite. In pairs, they then discussed the following questions: Considering the slogan, font, layout and pictures used, what do you think is the target market? What image are they trying to portray. We then went to the Marmite website and saw the memorabilia they sold and how they even had an area for haters of Marmite.
This was the perfect lead-in to the adverts they had brought to class. Using the same questions they had been asked about the Marmite advert, the students discussed the adverts they brought with them.
But in true Dogme fashion, not everything is predictable. In open class, a student was sharing a dentistry ad laid out in the style of Facebook.
The conversation moved on to social networking sites and we started talking about digital natives and how they learnt differently from digital immigrants. The students started on their views about Facebook and social networking online and it only seemed natural to put them in pairs to talk about the disadvantages of such social networking and the stories they had heard.
The buzz in the classroom reached a significant peak at this point. Students were clearly enthused by the topic and had a lot to say about it. They started talking about stories of cyber bullying and celebrity slagging matches. It seemed pointless at this point to pursue the adverts they had brought with them. This was clearly a much more interesting area that sparked reasonable debate.
I immediately searched for ‘Tom Scott’ and ‘Flash Mob Gone Wrong’ on Youtube and set the following questions ‘What happened in this story?’, ‘What happened in the end?’, ‘Is this a true story?’ and ‘What is the presenter’s message?’ and played the clip as a listening text. The discussion of what a flashmob was and how the phenomenon of the internet took us to the end of another very fruitful and exhilarating lesson.
As homework yesterday, my Advanced learners were told to take a photo of something that they might see between yesterday afternoon and this morning which they found interesting. The conversations and language that emerged was so unpredictable and so magical that I couldn’t help but blog about it.
This morning, I offered each pair a mini-white board and told students to sit with their backs to each other. Student A was then to describe the photo they had taken to their partners (Student B), who would then proceed to draw it on the mini-whiteboard.
When the pictures were described and drawn, the students would compare the drawings to the photo and then Student A would explain to Student B why they had picked that photo. This was a good chance for me to monitor and fill students in with words they needed to express themselves.
In open class, each Student A then took turns explaining their chosen photos to the rest of the class while holding up the drawing on the mini-white board.
What then took place was fascinating.
The first student had chosen to take a picture of the way people on the London underground kept to the right on the escalators. He started talking about how he was on one hand impressed by the orderliness of the British passengers, while on the other perplexed and uncomfortable with the clinical soullessness of such organized behaviour. This got the other students talking about the London underground and comparing it to the public transport in their countries. While the Japanese student remained not too impressed by the British tube system, the majority of the class being from Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay took the opportunity to start a rant about their countries’ public transport. Somehow, this led to a discussion about crime on public transport, and soon, several students were sharing personal stories of being pickpocketed, robbed, asked for bribes under different circumstances. Lexis like ‘Crime is rife’, ‘to deter sb from –ing’, and ‘to conduct an inquiry into the matter’ emerged.
Another student had taken a photo of the electrical plugs and sockets in London, and the engineers of the class started to share their knowledge about the preferred safety that three-pronged English plugs provided. The non-engineers started to protest, claiming that the UK was the only country where plugs were ‘upside down’ and different from everyone else, while the Japanese student pulled out his Japanese plug and extolled the virtues of how much more convenient the smaller-sized plug was.
On the topic of electrical household appliances, another student showed us her picture of her shower head in her host family’s bathroom, and complained about how she had to either hold the shower with one hand and wash her hair with the other, or crouch down really low to get the water over her head. We started talking about baths and showers and my South American students were shocked to hear that I had a bath every morning and that the Japanese student had a bath every night.
The Japanese student then showed us his picture of what he called the ‘crime-preventing bus stop’ in London and explained the structure of the bus stop and how it served to prevent anti-social behaviour. The conversation went back to crime at this point, and more crime lexis emerged: to press charges, breath(an)alyser, to have a hidden agenda, to congregate, etc. as we discussed how the governments in our countries tried to prevent crime, the advantages and disadvantages to arming our police officers, and the ways to deal with corruption and officers asking for bribes in the students’ countries.
The conversation then moved to the pros and cons of self-checkout counters when a student showed his photo of the supermarket checkout machines and we ended up discussing the evils of big corporations and how their bottom-line prerogatives could lead to staff redundancies and a worsening of the unemployment rate.
After two and a half hours of student-led conversation-driven discussions, the final student showed us a photo of the roads in London and professed to be confused by everyone driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. She had thought that only the UK practised such strange driving habits and was surprised to hear that there were other countries like, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, etc. that drove on the left too. I stoked the fire by telling students that everyone used to drive on the same side of the road as the UK and that we were the original ‘right’ way of driving. Then as homework, I told students to google this and find out why certain countries drove on one side and some on the other.