Friday, September 29, 2006

Good omen?

The day before staff from the School of Languages, Otago Polytechnic leave to attend the 2006 CLESOL Conference in Napier where we will present a paper - Daring to use English - a fire breaks out nearby on the hillside above Logan Park High School.

Hmm - students smoking in the bushes?

Fire near Otago Polytechnic

Wonder if this is a good omen or not . . .

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Good Intentions

As you might gather from the date of this post, it was written on the Thursday before the Friday that the 2006 CLESOL Conference opens. Apologies for any typos, errors, omissions and the like. It's been done in a hurry . . . but I have every intent to update it and complete it ("Art is never completed, only abandoned" - was that Oscar Wilde?) hence 'Good Intentions' (can't you just hear the strains of the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations strumming gently in the back ground?).

But to work!

You may well have arrived here by following the address on the handout sheet my colleagues and I from the Otago Polytechnic School of Languages, Susan Mackinlay, Lidsey Shields and William Lucas (yours truly) gave out after our presentation: Daring to use English.

I had planned (and do plan) to make available here our powerpoint presentation complete with script, slides, audio and various links and other information. At this late stage, when we are still refining the actual text, it has become apparent that to have everything up and running beforehand is too big an ask.

Today, therefore, I post our script and include some of the photographs that we used. I shall give you our email addresses . . .

and invite you to leave a short comment here. I would very much like to form a group of likeminded individuals involved in the sorts of activities that we do with our English language learners.

But for now, I have a placement test to run.

Time waits for no man!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Diminishing retention...

You've all seen the graphs that demonstrate how quickly memory of an even diminishes if you don't write it down and revise.

It has been a week since The Future of Learning in a Networked World opened in Dunedin, a week for my memories to fade. And at the end of this week I fly to Napier to take part in another conference. Interference patterns of the mind loom!

And yes, I know there's a Wiki where proceedings are being put and edited in true collaborative and transparently open style, but I'd like to jot down my thoughts in my own space to start with.

And so, yes, and Open Space conference, wow!

For me it was the interaction up close with real live people. Contacts and friends and future possibilities. The stuff of science fiction and of the future. Computers used to form relationships - who would have thought that a couple of decades ago. And all within my lifetime.

Down to specifics:

I met Anne from Middlemarch, and we got to talking about the Taieri Pet - a weather/cloud meterological phenomenon. We've since emailed on gmail, and I've showed her my etchings - I mean photos.

Jo I met in person from the Language centre where a group of us met later with Michael Coghlan from Australia (who takes the prize with the most impish smile), Barbara Dieu from Brazil (who takes the prize for the most infectious smile), and Konrad Glogowski from Canada (who takes the prize for the the most proficient mouth-hand coordination.

Jo also introduced me via emails and later in person with Antonie who teaches German at Otago University.


More members coming on board!

Just a short and sweet post (after at least a week's worth of relocation-enforced inactivity) to announce a colleague's entry into the wonderful world of blogging.

I told Pariya that it only takes a matter of minutes to start an online journal, so then I had to put my money where my mouth was . . .

Here's the proof of that pudding.

Or, in language other than hypertext - you'll want to know about that too, Pariya! -

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Conversation hour

Our classes benefit from community volunteers. Ordinary (but not really ordinary) New Zealanders come to our class for one or two hours every week to work in small groups with our students. This is very helpful, since the English that they speak is not 'teacher-speak'.

I have asked the class for any anecdotes they remeber from during the year(s).

Jian spoke with Lynette yesterday. The topic got around to driving, and Lynette rang up the AA on the spot to check whether Jian was legally okay as far as driving went. Very useful!

Alice remembers Audrey, and their relationship started from several years before. Audrey has a Malaysian-Chinese background but is a native English speaker. Usually our students are helped by our assistants, but it seems Audrey was also helped by our students! She told Alice that Alice was the first real friend she made in Dunedin, which moved Alice very much. On at least one occasion a pot-luck meal has been held at Audrey's home for the Chinese-speaking students. This is a wonderful example of networking in the community, and I hope that it will contuinue in the future.

When I asked Theresa, she told me about her friendship with Joan, who has been coming her for ten years, but Theresa only for two and a half. Joan is an expert at correcting pronunciation e.g. work-walk. She is good at explaining the meaning of a word and giving examples of how it is used. Once Joan had health problems and couldn't come for a while. She was short of breath and needed treatment for her heart as well as help with the housework. However, she returned and used the experience to talk about and teach from!

Fauzia recalled when Lance was talking, two weeks ago, on the topic of old and new generations. Lance used to be a policeman, and he was able to tell about incidents in New Zealand society e.g. young people getting pregnant very young. He said it didn't happen so much when he was younger. It was interesting for Fauzia, because it helped her understand NZ society better. Her culture is totally different.

Poor Richard comes along too, and he came yesterday. Richard rides a bicycle, and he left it and his helmet outside. Unfortunately when the hour was over, his helmet was missing. I think that it must have blown away in the wind. I mentioned a second-hand helmet I'd seen the day before in the Red Cross Opportunity shop. Hopefully it was still there.

The last lunch

The class organised to have lunch out last Monday, at Tokyo Garden, Jason's restaurant. Some of us have been there before, at the end of the first semester. It was a wonderful way to wrap up the term - especially in anticipation of our moving campus shortly.

About a dozen of us ordered from a range of Korean and Japanese cuisine. Mami called by to join us, and my daughter Albany happened to call in too, with her boyfriend and another flatmate. Everyone was very curious and asked all sorts of questions.

"What does Albany call your wife (who is not Albany's natural mother)?"

"Mami," I replied. It's a handy name, isn't it? It half sounds like 'Mum'.

Life is not always straightforward. Below I'll load up some photographs that were taken. If you are ever in Dunedin, remember, Tokyo Garden!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Networks of networks

Yesterday I had occasion to toddle off down to our Forth Street campus. We staff of the School of Languages were to scout out the classrooms earmarked for our students, and to decide who sits where in our open-plan office.

I arrived an hour early, having run 5km at the Caledonian running track nearby. That is the last training run I'll do prior to this weekend's Moro Marathon in which I'll participate. I aim to do the half.

Anyway, I was amazed at the number and range of associates I ran into during that time. Jane W strolled by (with Michael P?). Marc D ducked out of his classroom and shared his key with me. I popped into the Kanazawa office and spoke with Jean G and Christine R, who was moving into that office that day. An I.T. person arrived in connection with that, and she answered some of my questions about computer facilities for our rooms.

I headed out the door to wait in the staffroom and drink a latte. On the way I met Terry S, who grumbled at having had to do some cleaning "which is not a carpenter's job". I spoke with Rose S concerning her online ambitions - go for it! I said hello to Alma - an important person to know. Some may say that Robin D is eaqually important, but I chose to chat with him about 24-hour athletic events.

Leigh Blackall came by to pin up a notice about a conference: The Future of Learning in a Networked World, and I was able to get the information needed to take part. He pointed out three speakers taking part, one on whom, Barbara Dieu from Brazil, has commented on my blog and also those of my students. Michael Coghlan from Australia I also heard speak at a CLESOL conference a couple of years ago.

I sat in the sun for a few minutes, joining Imogen Coxhead, and I learned about her brother, Professor Coxhead, now in Wisconsin. We were in the same class at high school for five years. Returning to join our staff meeting, I ran into a previous student of mine, Jing C, now in her second year of nursing, and she told me about two other alumni from her year, Lisa W (third year nursing) and Xiaoyan G (moved to Christchurch).

And you know, I reflected that Otago Polytechnic main campus is really rather a buzzy place.

Look forward to starting there next term!