Your students are going to love the activities in this eBook!
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Your students are going to love the activities in this eBook!
Please click on the image below to go to AMAZON.COM
For more info about the series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: Click on the link below to go to AMAZON.COM and get your ebooks: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS
Au revoir Jorge Sette
“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” Pablo Picasso
Matisse and Picasso, two of the greatest masters of the 20th century visual arts, were introduced to each other by Gertrude Stein, an American intellectual and writer whose family moved to Paris. Her family became also one of the main patrons of both artists, although, as time went by, Gertrude seemed to favor Picasso’s work over Matisse’s.
From the beginning, both men always had a competitive relationship with each other. This competitiveness, however, proved very productive, as their work, at each stage, was often a response to the other’s more recent painting or change in style. The exposure to the competitor’s latest work usually goaded each of them not only to incorporate some new and intriguing element just discovered by his opponent but to surpass it or give it a more personal angle.
In a grossly simplified way, we can say that Matisse’s paintings were more cerebral, carefully planned, based on a representation of living models, despite all the distortions and changes to which this model may be subjected on the canvas, whereas Picasso’s work was more visceral, entirely produced from his imagination alone, without the need of a reference in the real world. Matisse painted in daytime, he had a family and was a quiet and sensible man. Picasso, on the other hand, was the stereotypical passionate bohemian artist, living in poor and disheveled quarters with his mistress of the moment. He painted at night. Matisse was French; Picasso, Spanish.
Matisse was the master of vibrant colors, ornament and light. His lifeline was the arabesque. His art style was part of Fauvism (from the word fauve, which means wild beast in French), a movement considered the natural continuation of Impressionism, with a direct influence from the painter Cezanne. Picasso was the master of fragmentation, radical abstraction and the use of varied and intersecting geometric planes slicing the image on the canvas. His paintings were a lot darker and more aggressive than his colleague’s. These features were the essence of Cubism, a movement that consisted of deconstructing the human form in the painting by replacing it with geometric ones, mainly cubes, assembled together in a way that barely resembled the original idea when finalized. Cubism also had no problem incorporating in the same painting the vocabulary and technique of other styles, composing a complex and mesmerizing whole. This was probably a reflex of Picasso’s personal life, a foreign in France, who could never express himself fluently in the language of his adopted country, therefore becoming very aware of the arbitrariness of the different codes of representation, language and painting included.
Neither Matisse or Picasso thought that the aim of art was to represent a naturalistic view of the external world. Photograph could do that. The important thing was to apply the “Instagram” filter of emotion and personal experience to it. Hence the progressive abstraction of their works.
Matisse was 12 years older than Picasso, but, as their parallel artistic lives developed, they became the closest friends. Each understood the richness and breakthrough quality of the other’s new paintings and variations in style long before anyone else. Their respect and influence was mutual: their conversation lasted a lifetime.
After Matisse’s death, Picasso missed his friend’s feedback and, sometimes provocative reaction to his own paintings, so deeply that he incorporated obvious references to Matisse’s art into his own work, so the dialogue could carry on intrinsically, within the painting itself.
For me the works of these two artists can only be described as breathtaking. Matisse’s paintings have a soothing and relaxing effect on my life. I revert to Picasso’s whenever I feel the need to nurture my darker side and infuse my days with a boost of passion.
NOTE: You might want to check out our eBooks series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, available from AMAZON.COM. Clique here for more info: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS
Having just watched the wonderful documentary Africa on Netflix, I realized it’s both worrying and marvelous to find out how little I know about my own planet. The advantage is this means I will be learning until I die. No chance of running out of subjects. Besides, I don’t even need to be concerned about getting to quantum physics or the theory of relativity, which I’m sure would exert a brutal amount of effort on my limited brain: there’s much more basic stuff for me to absorb and immerse myself into before crossing the great divide.
How wonderful learning is. Especially with the tools we have today: millions of video clips on YouTube, Khan Academy lessons , all the info available on Google, MOOCs, all the ebooks you can instantly download from the Internet for next to nothing, blogs on all kinds of topics, apps, podcasts, to say nothing of the huge amounts of info shared by your friends on social media sites (including the cute cat videos!).
It saddens me that today’s kids will take all this wealth of knowledge and its tools for granted, and many times will prefer to settle for the silliest and most irrelevant games on the Internet. I consider myself lucky to live in this exciting era where we have all this info at our fingertips. All this change has been happening in the last 25 years and it’s hard to believe how different life was in the 1980s. It’s a blessing that those who want to self-educate and choose their own paths through the intricate jungle of information are able to do so. Of course, guides (teachers, tutors, mentors, collaborators) will always be helpful, but it’s liberating to know you can discard them and plan your own journey of discovery if you wish to.
Considering all these tools available, I started thinking what it is that language learning materials are lacking and how these new tools could help us, publishers and teachers, improve them. I have been in this field for more than 20 years now and it’s undeniable that books and other didactic materials evolved a lot throughout these years. However, they are progressively going in the same direction, looking more and more like one another, to the extent of becoming almost a commodity. You can’t tell significant differences between them on the shelves of a bookstore.
One of the main things that print course books cannot do is personalize the lesson to the extent it should be done to meet the different students’ needs, forms of intelligence, learning styles, and paces of language learning. A simple example is a student should be given the right to pick the genre of text he wants to read for the contextualization of the language point he’s been studying. A course book cannot do that. It would make it clunky and extremely expensive to offer in print alternative choices for all the texts they should comprise. An ebook, on the other hand, could offer this variety of choices in a much simpler and affordable way.
A student, now and then, should also be able to choose how to practice the language of the lesson: does he want to follow up doing a writing exercise, a listening comprehension or a reading activity? Does he want to translate a piece of work? Is he allowed to speak to someone from another country through Skype to practice? We can’t offer that range of choices yet in a coordinated and organized way.
Therefore personalization – or lack thereof – is the main problem of print course books or other more traditional materials for language learning. Some digital platforms are already dealing with this. A lot of personalization can be done as homework and be monitored by the teacher through a number of LMSs (learning managing systems) already available. But a lot more is needed. It would be necessary, for instance, to flip the classroom in a radical way, using the time in class for more relevant and interpersonal activities that would be done better involving a real teacher and a group of learners, while the students would deal with the information acquisition on their own time online, outside the classroom.
Moreover, despite the fact that we all agree that language is more effectively learned embedded in content (CLIL – content and language integrated learning), books for children and teenagers do not normally cover the important areas of personal finance, politics, or economy – a growing need in the diverse and complex society they’re entering. I haven’t seen any language books focusing on Emotional Intelligence as part of the curriculum either. If we all agree that teaching through content is the best way for the students to internalize a language, why not offer them this kind of very useful training: recognition of feelings, how to deal with anger, how to negotiate conflict with their classmates, strategies for incorporating diversity, how to delay or postpone gratification? We already teach social values, which is a great step forward, but we don’t focus on interpersonal relationships as content, an area that could be beautifully and effectively covered through language teaching materials.
Another ideal way of adapting course books would be to cater more intensely for the students’ different learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic. It would be amazing if the presentation of a language point and the activities following it could be personalized according to the strongest style of each student: do they wish to see a video explaining the point, do they want to read about it, would they rather engage in a hands-on discovery activity and find out the solution for themselves? The new tools of technology all make these options possible. All they need is to be presented in a more coordinated way by teachers and publishers so the students are guided through their personal journey towards learning. In summary, language learning materials need to provide a much more flexible structure and remain the backbone of a process that requires individualization.
You are more than welcome to share your ideas on how to improve language learning materials in the comments section of this blog.
NOTE: You might want to check out our eBooks available from AMAZON.COM . Click here to know more about our series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS
If you are a regular reader of this blog you probably love the TED talks as much as I do. I make a point of watching at least one a day. There is always something to learn from them. Even if you don’t find the content that interesting, you can always profit from the speakers’s way of getting her points across, and copy some of the techniques to hone your own presentation skills.
This weekend I needed a break from binge watching Netflix’s THE KILLING – which I did last weekend – and, as consequence, must have put on a couple of kilos, having raised my consumption level of popcorn and ice-cream considerably, while following detective Linden (Mireille Enos) drive relentlessly in the rain along the streets of Seattle. So I chose, instead, to raise my usual share of TEDs’ intake, which was very sensible of me, since they feed the mind and soul rather than the body: I usually take notes while watching them, which stops me from grabbing the popcorn or digging into the ice-cream.
This is a list of 5 interesting takeaways I collected from some talks I’ve recently watched. They are all on education. The summaries are not quotes but my own interpretation and wording of the ideas. I strongly recommend you watch the clips as a way to contextualize my comments better.
Here is the list:
1. From “A 30-year History of the Future” (by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negromonte).
In 30 year’s time you will be learning English by taking a pill. It will travel though your blood stream and reach you brain, formatting your neural connections accordingly. Well, based on Negromonte’s strong track record of predictions that were eventually realized, I would not discard the possibility.
2. From “Let’s Teach Kids to Code” (by Mitch Resnick, Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab).
There’s not much difference between the so-called digital natives and the rest of us. They are very fluent in gaming and using apps, but not in creating them. Their attitude to technology is overall very passive. They need to learn how to code to really be able to fully express themselves through technology and make use of all that is available. He compares technology to a natural foreign language: kids at this point are fluent at reading it but not at writing. He proposes we start teaching kids to code immediately to make a difference. Besides, coding will teach them not only this new “language” but a whole lot of content that can be expressed through it: just like the Content and Language Integrate Learning (CLIL) approach some of us use to teach English.
3. From: ‘Want to Innovate? Become a ‘now-ist’ “ (by Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab)
According to the speaker, learning is not education. The former is discovering things for yourself actively, the latter is about passing on knowledge to someone else who’s passively at the receiving end of the channel. Learning is what really matters today, if you want to become an innovator. To engage in learning you have to be connected, pro-active and very rooted in the moment (a now-ist). You must be alert and strive to be aware of everything that is going on around you. It’s necessary to seek collaboration from peers online, developing skills on how to get useful people together on your network to make your ideas happen as soon as possible. Not much planning is required to put out your innovative ideas. Don’t waste time overthinking what the outcome will be like. Adjust and learn as you move along. “Demo or die” (quote from Nicholas Negroponte he uses in his talk): ship your concept as fast as you can.
4. From “How the worst moments of our lives make us who we are” (by writer Andrew Solomon).
This is about education in its broader sense. The speaker, in a beautiful and moving talk, much in the vein of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis and Philip Roth’s Nemesis, claims that the key to happiness is to “forge meaning and build an identity” for yoursef out of the worst adversities that may have struck you in life: be it imprisonment and ostracism in the case of Wilde at the end of the 19th century; contamination by polio in the early 1940s for the characters of Nemesis; or, as in Solomon’s personal account, exposure to cruel bullying at school and prejudice at large in today’s American society for being a homosexual. Meaning is not out there to be found, it’s a narrative you have to build from within and then invite others into. Just like Wilde and Roth, Solomon proposes you take full ownership and responsibility for your failures and falls and, maybe through love and art, re-create yourself to grow and be complete. Don’t miss this one!
I guess this is it for now. Enjoy you TED talks and please suggest some as you rate and comment on this post.
NOTE: You might want to check out our my series of eBooks TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, available from AMAZON.COM
Click here for more info: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS
They were right after all. We are seeing a comeback (were they ever really gone anywhere?) of some of the old theories about learning and how teachers should conduct their lessons. Edtech is making possible the practical application of the Socratic method, of Paulo Freire’s pedagogy, of Vygostky’s studies and experiments. All the other pedagogues who have advocated more direct involvement and participation from the students in their own learning are being vindicated and having their theories confirmed and validated.
Some of the methodologies we see in use today are becoming possible because of the realization of individualized learning. It boils down to a student facing her app alone in her bedroom to start with. And from there we can exploit the use of questions (Socrates) to lead that student further and further on the path to the right answer, or, even better, to her own answer in the case of a more abstract problem (such as moral, ethical or political issues); we can personalize teaching to make the context more relevant for each of the students, and therefore resonate with them (Paulo Freire); and we can flip our lessons, having students reconvene in class afterwards to cooperate in solving problems (Vygotsky), after having spent time alone in their homes doing research, reading, watching TEDs or other relevant videos on YouTube.
We have always known that personalization, cooperation and inductive approaches worked fine. They have the power of grabbing the students’ interest and attention, keeping the findings longer in their memory. We’re clever teachers after all, we do our homework as well, we went to college and were fascinated by Plato and his dialogues, we felt invigorated by the potential and possibilities of the pedagogy of Freire; and we could easily see that pairing off weaker students with strong ones who would pull them along zones of proximal development made total sense.
But we lacked the means to make it happen. How to apply these exciting methods to classes of more than 30 students (or even more sometimes)? How can a single teacher dedicate enough time to the needs of individual students in these conditions? How much time is there outside the class for teachers to mark essays and homework, to create interesting lessons, to prepare the long – and possibly very boring (for the students) – lecture to present on the following day?
The good news is things are changing. More and more, the new technology being created will allow us to go back to the masters and make the most of their wise insights and theories. Few teachers doubt that learning is up to the student. It’s their direct responsibility. Teachers are important channels and organizers of the different methods students will have to use actively themselves on their way to discoveries.
Let’s not be afraid of using apps, audience response systems, flipped classrooms and LMSs in our schools to recreate the necessary conditions to hand learning back to where it belongs: the students! Socrates was sentenced to death for doing exactly that. They called it “corrupting the youth” back then. Well, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas any more”. Let’s corrupt them!
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This is going to be an unusual post. We won’t be giving you any solutions, only problems and issues to consider. All of us who work in the field of education, either as teachers, school owners, publishers or booksellers are worried about the future of our business, or should I say, our mission. From the get-go, I would like to state my position regarding education, so it’s clear and can inform the vocabulary I might use throughout this post. I think of education as a business. Not just like any other business, but a very special and interesting one, as it is the source of human development and betterment. However, in a capitalist society, education is regulated by the same principles of supply and demand of all other businesses.
My objective in this post is simply to raise five of the questions I’m sure most of you share with me. I propose we start searching possible answers, reading up on the topics, and begin a debate on each of these issues. You are more than welcome to use this space (my blog LINGUAGEM) to share your views and ideas on the points listed below. My questions concern these following points:
1. Teachers. My first question is, of course, will we have a job in the future? As teachers, and other professionals of the education business – publishers, school owners and booksellers – I anticipate the answer will be yes (fortunately), but our jobs will change a lot. More and more the ball will be on our clients’ court (students and parents) and, as a consequence, we will have to adapt and try to reach them directly and on their own terms if we want to survive as professionals. They will have a strong say on everything regarding education: the kind of teacher they prefer, the methodology, the learning materials they will use, and how they wish to purchase them.
2. Methodology. What will be the most popular and preferred way of learning? We have always known learners have different leaning styles and are stronger and weaker at different forms of intelligence. One solution fits all will not do. Therefore, I suspect, we will see a lot of blended learning, with great variation on the percentage of online learning versus classroom lessons. Also, how much of this online learning will be self-learning or involve a tutor or teacher helping them out outside the classroom? In what situations will inductive/deductive approaches work best? The importance of learning pace is also another point to be considered: will these students require more individual lessons or profit more from a group learning environment? How much of the class will need to be flipped, when students deal with the theoretical points at home on their own and then come to class to solve practical problems, discuss doubts or simply apply what they learned in a more controlled environment.
3. Learning Materials. I’m pretty sure print materials are on the way out, as ebooks can offer all the advantages of print ones, and a lot more. If we already prefer to read novels on the Kindle, what to say of the possibilities inbuilt in a multimedia biology or history educational kit, which will allow them to watch a living cell divide itself or a dramatized episode taken place during the Renaissance played out as a video clip at the click of a mouse. Gaming, in addition, will make learning a lot more active and interesting, stimulating parts of the brain a lecture could never achieve to do. However, there is plenty of room for variation within online learning. We need to consider, for example, the best length of video clips to make retention more effective; should each 5-min footage be stopped and followed by a short quiz? What works best: animations or reals actors? Could a simple replication online of an old-fashioned blackboard with a teacher writing on it and explaining the teaching point work? The latter is exactly what Khan Academy does: except that the teacher is exceptionally good and the classes work like magic! Have you ever had trouble with algebra or trig? Try the modules on Khan and you will enjoy the beauty and magic of concepts that seemed arid and boring when you were in high school.
4. Schools/Colleges. What kind of changes will brick-and-mortar schools have to go through to compete with online learning? Blending is the first thing that comes to mind. But if teachers won’t be lecturing and classes are really going to be flipped, what other kinds of special services could schools and colleges provide to attract and retain clients? It’s really exciting to think about this. The moment we understand better how our brains absorb and/or create knowledge, we may need to hire psychologists, speech therapists and neurologists as part of our regular staff to help our learners out and differentiate our schools from the competition.
5. Metrics. Adaptive learning. How are we going to measure and adapt our teaching to the specific needs of students? What international scales, tests and certifications can be created to align consistently the different approaches across different institutions and regions?
These are all very big questions and require a lot of studying and research before we can come up with the right answers. Besides, the process is really dynamic and won’t stop. It will continue evolving and throwing new lights on education and the learning process. These are really exciting times we live in if we are in the field of education.
My recommendation is start reading up and updating yourself as much as you can on what is going on in the field and start experimenting with new forms of teaching, writing, reading, producing and selling learning materials right now. We don’t want you to have to struggle to catch up.The future of education has already started.
I guess this is all for today. Don’t forget to share your views and make your comments about those topics as you leave this page. We’ll be delighted to read them.
Note: you might want to check out our new book TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MATISSE available from AMAZON.COM as an ebook. Click here for more info: