Five myths when learning an additional language

There are seven days in a week, and someday is not one of them...


Five barriers people feel they face (myths) when learning an additional language...

  1. No language gene or talent

  2. Too old to learn a second language

  3. Can't travel to the country right now

  4. Bad memory for all that vocabulary

  5. Frustrate native speakers

Getting the question right...#edchat

Starting a productive dialogue oftentimes depends on getting the question(s) right, #edchat.


All of the questions above are good questions to consider for conducting a Twitter chat, but I would propose a slightly different version of the second question in order to slightly shift the direction of conversation:
How does one integrate time to collaborate and reflect into one's daily routine?

Compare the above question to the following:
What would be the effect of building collaboration and reflection time into your work schedule?

The latter question creates two additional questions that really get us nowhere...
How accurate is one's expression of an effect, given that we are human beings (unpredictable, complex, emergent, and subjective individuals)?

What are we really asking when we presume that time to collaborative and to reflect occurs only within one's work schedule?

If we simply share how we currently (or historically) manage our time (to collaborate and to reflect), we might have a more productive discourse.

Professional learning...a community or a network?


I enjoyed today's discussion.  After participating in this productive discussion on ICTs, I wanted to ask the following question...
Thinking in terms of personal/professional learning, would you characterize how you interact with others more in terms of a community or a network, and why?


Finnish Educators Are Made Of This ... So What?

I was reading Teacher Education in Finland: What are Finnish Teachers Made Of? which was the featured post in CU Daily for November 27, 2013, and I immediately thought of Miles Davis.  Several PhDs contributed to the edutopia post (Merja PaksuniemiSatu Uusiautti, and Kaarina Määttä), which provides a brief but informative historical account of teacher training in Finland, along with current challenges that educators face.  But how does this synopsis relate to educators in the United States (or some other country)?

The authors posit that educators in Finland have a history of being well respected professionals (even though this is not necessarily reflected in their salaries compared to other countries).  Although not as strict as today, teachers still must maintain a proper code of conduct that extends to behaviors outside the school system. Training is demanding and educators are expected to obtain a Master's degree before completing their teacher preparation.  They also claim,
We ... credit the Finnish educational system for supporting the idea that K-12 students have the right to learn, regardless of location, economic or social background, gender, age or abilities.

But what's the relevance of this to the educational system in the US?  I'll assume that the educational system in the US also supports the idea that K-12 students have the right to learn, regardless of location, economic or social background, gender, age, or abilities.  And like their Finland counterparts, US educators also face challenges with multiculturalism and tolerance, do they not?

What's the takeaway from this blog post?  What should educational stakeholders learn from Finland's example?  What impact does culture have in working towards a viable solution? Is it even worth comparing educational systems between different countries, cultures, or societies?

You Can (And Do) Have A PLN Of One

I just read You Can't Have a PLN of One, an oxymoron, which concludes that a PLN is "a journey that shouldn’t be taken alone".  Well, it is impossible to cultivate a PLN alone: my thoughts on a PLN.

Some view a PLN as more ideational...


Others discuss a PLN in terms of tools and individuals...


So, a PLN is a relationship between ideas, materials (technologies), and human relationships.  To understand any one idea, material, or individual (relationship) is to understand the other two and how trace associations aggregate to each individual node.  A node is any idea, material, or individual who connects to some other network node.  There's one network, but many nodes: ideas, materials, and individual relationships. So, perhaps you can have a PLN of one ... as in one personal learning network.

Like Learning To Play An Instrument

"...teaching the core curriculum through the arts" (Nolan, 2013, para 1). Now there's a concept!  How about we apply something similar to learning additional languages?

Language learning as a means for learning something else just might provide the motivation needed to drive language learners to achieve more than they might if the objective were solely linguistic.

I remember well my early college days as a music major.  In addition to the core educational classes we all had to take, we also took music theory for two years, concert band, jazz band, choir, among others.  I would take my acoustic bass and find a tiny practice room where I barely had enough space for my instrument, music stand, and me.  I would spend hours practicing scales, changes, exercises, pieces of music, and just improvising over chord progressions.  Each semester we knew we were expected to perform various public events, so it always put practicing into perspective.

Practice wasn't always fun, but I knew there were always consequences.  If I didn't practice that jazz band piece enough, I knew I would look foolish the next day in class, or ultimately the upcoming performance.  In a sense, even group practice became a performance for my peers as well.  Putting in the hours meant that I would perform better for band mates, which in-and-of-itself was gratifying.  I also was performing for myself.  Practicing scales and exercises meant that I would perform a song better, causing me to feel good about myself having achieved something...even as minute as being able to play a difficult passage that I was not able to play before.

Imagine all of the possible (implicit) objectives that one might have taking a jazz band class.  Self expression, connecting with others (both musically and personally), networking with other musicians from other schools, relieving stress, etc.  The joy of learning an instrument (learning the notes on the instrument, learning how to read music, learning scales, learning exercise, and learning songs) comes from the public performance. It's realizing at all times that all of the mundane elements of learning an instrument was to enable the musician to connect in some way with the community.  So personal objectives might range from being very personal (learning a particular scale) to being more global (performing in front of a public audience).

The grading system in jazz band rarely was based entirely on whether musicians could only play scales with no expected public performance.  Expressive objectives might be assessed instead by evaluating the progress of the musician, willingness to take solos, etc.

Becoming a speaker of an additional language (SAL) is like becoming a musician.  The act of becoming a SAL is about always working towards a public performance.  Interacting with others based on personal interests, needs, and learning preferences is ultimately what is assessed and not the linguistic particulars (i.e., reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary).  That is, the public performance is an effect of one's capacity in reading, writing, etc.  Language becomes a means and an end simultaneously.  Content courses (e.g., learning math in the target language), English for academic purposes (e.g., taking a history course for college credit in the target language), and English for specific purposes (e.g., taking a course in the target language at work in order to do one's job more effectively) are three examples of how learning the target language is more about the means than language as an end.  But can this idea be adopted to any general English course?

Language educator challenge: How can you adopt a general English course (or any other language course) where language is viewed as a means for something else?  What would be that something else?  What challenges might you face?  What successes have you had?

"Prepositional Because" or "Prepositional Ellipsis"?

There's been a bit of buzz around because being the new prepositionSentence first addressed it as well.  I thought I might offer yet another.

There are many types of ellipses in English:

  • I like apples and [I like] oranges.

  • I went home last night and [I] called my cousin.

  • Dad will help and Mom will [help] too.

So an ellipsis can be an omission of a noun (subject), verb, or noun and a verb when restating them is not necessary.  But can we do the same with prepositions?

Because usually functions as either...

  • Subordinating conjunction that introduces a subordinating clause: I eat vegetables because I want to stay healthy.

  • Before a prepositional phrase: Because of your tardiness, you have been removed from class.

Is it possible to have a "prepositional ellipsis"?

  •  I'm late because [of] YouTube.

  • You're reading this because [of my] procrastination.

  • But Iowa still wants to sell eggs to California, because [of] money.

  • ...because [of] logic.

What do you think?  Do we have a prepositional because or a prepositional ellipsis ... or something else?

A PLN...We All Already Have One

I've spoken about PLNs before (Five points about PLNs, A PLN and Shifting Power Back to the Learner, Is it a PLN..., and PLNs aren’t built, but cultivated)  but again feel compelled to add to my current "definition"...

Whitby's (2013) How do I get a PLN? characterizes the notion of a personal learning network (PLN) as if the individual constructs one out of nothing.  I don't see it this way.

I do agree with Whitby, sort of, when he states (buzzwords emphasized):
We must remember that lifelong learning requires effort. We expect this commitment from students. We should accept no less from ourselves. Fortunately, with a little information (see the linked resources at the end of this post) and an openness to learn, anyone can begin to expand his or her knowledge by using a PLN.

Few would argue with buzzwords like lifelong learning, student commitment, openness to learn, expanding one's knowledge, and PLN, but what do these terms really mean?  I'll try to unpack what I mean by PLN by accepting the fact that how one defines the term will depend greatly on how one defines the aforementioned buzzwords (i.e., lifelong learning, etc.).
Each individual educator becomes a potential source of information.

In a PLN, ideas, materials (e.g., technologies), and social interactions collectively become a potential source of opportunity.  A PLN is not just about the individual and some potentiality of information.
PLNs develop thought leaders.

No, individuals (including leaders) impact PLNs (their own as well as others), the PLNs impact the individual(s), and the PLN itself can take on a life of its own.
Barriers to mass adoption

...mass adoption...buzzword alert.  Their are no barriers to a PLN because there is no starting point when it comes to a concept that already exists for each person.  As a result, PLNs have already reached "mass adoption".  If there are any barriers, its how a PLN currently hinders achieving one's goals, objectives, etc...; this is different than thinking of technology separate from specific ideas and human relationships, as Whitby suggests when listing a PLN as a mindset, overwhelming others with techno-babble (?), and digital literacy.
...all these articles and ballyhoo about connectedness have manifested limited adoption by educators.

Again, connectiveness is inescapable.  "Connective adoption" does little to describe the potentiality of an individual´s PLN unless described as a matter of degree, relationships between human and non-human devices, and value in achieving goals.
PLNs are collaboration.

I would say, "PLNs are cooperation."
What Can PLNs Do for You?

I get the impression that this means that once one has something (a PLN defined as being nonrelational), that it will enable one to do something else (access materials, etc.).  Having a Twitter account in and of itself does very little.  Having a Twitter account, following others, having followers, and interacting with ideas around some mutual relationship may (or may not) provide a degree of potential for impacting one's professional/personal learning.
How to Build a PLN

Let's shift metaphors ... Individuals cultivate, grow, maintain, trim, and augment a PLN based on situational goals and objectives, both intentional and incidental.  There are no x amount of steps that each person can follow for achieving a PLN based on situational goals.  There is no magic number of technologies that one should use, no set number of minutes they should adhere to, etc.
You determine your needs and goals, and then acquire the sources that you need in order to attain them.

Again, a very deterministic point of view here.  It's not difficult to image that goals and objectives might emerge as an effect of one's PLN.  In others words, situational goals and PLNs are iterative, reciprocal, and mutual as both continue to morph and transition to something new.

Let's share how PLNs help (or do not help) to achieve situational goals and objectives, both intentionally and incidentally (i.e., self-define a PLN) instead of depending on others (including me) to define the term as some abstract (and simplified) truth.

Asking School Principals The Right Question

How have you changed your communications strategy in the digital age?

Sheninger's question, if addressed to the instructional leader or administrator, is a reactionary response to a cultural movement that begins with the educator.  If the question is directed to the educator, then the question is incomplete.

I'm not sure how much utility there is to catapult leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, etc. to the educational field.  As great leaders they certainly had a message and could communicate it well to others.  And yes, school principals need to be able to do this to a degree, but I think it's more important that principals are able to promote relationships within the local context of the school.  The level of detail and locality in relationship building required in schools is hardly achievable between a country's president and its citizens.

Changing a communications strategy is a cultural change involving all educational stakeholders.  It's not enough to ask the question to one stakeholder without understanding the relationship (and implications) the answer has in terms of others.  Purposeful change comes from understanding how a change in one educator affects change in someone else.  Principals who understand their local complexity, understand how to rally relationships together in order to problem set and solve.

If I were asking school principals the question, I would ask...

How can interactive environments bring the necessary people together in order to problem set and solve around a school's mission and vision statements, cultural values, and current objectives?

What questions would you ask school principals?  Educators?  Instructional leaders?  Civic leaders?

Educator As Decision Maker

I was reading Ditch the Plan! #30GoalsEdu today and it got me thinking ... always a good thing.

If we ditch a plan, are we really planning to begin with?

Finding those teaching moments requires one to reflect-in-action.  Instead of ditching a plan before the fact (i.e., class), reflect on those times when you were reflecting in action, and during the class itself, you realized that you must ditch the plan.  Reflect on those classes when you deviated from the syllabus in order to take advantage of a teachable moment.

Hunter (1979) claims that teachers make decisions before, during, and after lessons primarily around three distinct categories: content, style of the learner, and the behavior of the teacher.

(Language) Educator Challenge: What decisions have you had to make during a class that deviated from the syllabus?  Formulate your answer in terms of forms of evidence: content, style of the learner, and/or your own behavior.  Provide a rationale as to why you had to make these decisions.

Essential Question Discourse Analysis

I was reading Alber's (2013) 5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students and I began to think about how discourse emerges behind asking essential questions in the classroom.  Alber (2013) suggests that teachers ask the following types of questions:

  1. What do you think?

  2. Why do you think that?

  3. How do you know this?

  4. Can you tell me more?

  5. What questions do you still have?

When applying the Socratic Method, pace becomes important.  The suggested question types provided above avoid the easier "yes/no" questions that allow for lower order thinking, but what happens when students 1) are not used to answering essential questions (or used to the teacher simply giving the answer), 2) lack the content knowledge to adequately address such questions, or 3) lack the language skills - in the case of English language learners - to provide an adequate response.  Alber (2013) suggests a type of think, pair, share activity to allow for deeper group discussions, but this too affects the overall pace of classroom discourse and an interruption of the Socratic Method.

(Language) Educator Challenge: Record yourself during a class and analyze the way you form questions and how your students reply.  For example, how do you lead up to any one of the five questions above?  Are there lower-thinking questions that occur first, or are you able to jump right to these questions in order to generate thought-provoking discussion?  Conduct a discourse analysis to see how you present questions in a way that maintains good pacing and thought-provoking discussions around big ideas.


Educational Philosophies of English Language Educators

Today in Applied Linguistics class, we will create an educational philosophy.  An educational philosophy is a "living credo" about who you currently are as a (language) educator.  An educational philosophy develops over time just as you develop as a teaching practitioner; thus, keeping it up-to-date is vital.  Reflecting on your educational philosophy over time also serves as a reminder of where you've been, where you are today, and where you would like to be in the future.  Maintaining an educational philosophy is an intregal part of one's ongoing professional learning trajectory.
Some suggestions when writing an educational philosophy can be viewed by reflecting on the following questions:
  • Why do you teach?
  • Whom do you teach?
  • How and what you teach?
  • Where you teach?
When applying for a teaching job, it's likely that the school or institution doing the hiring will ask about your educational philosophy in one form or another.  It's always a good idea to not only keep your educational philosophy current, but also be able to articulate it clearly and succinctly.  Try practice saying your educational philosophy in all of the languages you are able to speak, or likely have to speak when doing an interview.
Here is my example of my current educational philosophy...
His educational philosophy is to facilitate learners in becoming more apt to form valid, reliable, and unbiased arguments, provide innovative solutions to real-life problems, make decisions that resolve cognitive conflict by developing understandings through a difference of opinion or perspective, and create innovative ways of communicating with others. His role is to move learners from being dependent, to independent, to interdependent individuals who are not afraid to take chances, share their successes and failures with others, and are concerned for the well-being of not only themselves, but for others as well. Benjamin's goal is to help others become more daring, sharing, and caring individuals.
Share your educational philosophy by replying to this post!
Photo attribution

Writing Limericks for English Language Learning Writers: Registration and Sign In

English language learners wishing to learn how to improve English proficiency by learning how to write Limericks (poetry), join us this Sunday by registering below.

When the event begins, you may sign in below...

Here is an example Limerick that we will discuss during this session...