Myself and Osama bin Laden were the only people in the universe not at Brighton, and now that he's gone, it's just me left. So I have been doing my best to follow the conference as it echoes around the blogosphere. Just last night I read Scott Thornbury's technosceptical post and its many comments and reblogs. I too feel ambivalent about technology, but have never been quite how to put my feelings into words. But I do feel glad for my modest old laptop and internet connection. Let me offer my defence of that aspect of technology at least.
I've been in this shabby business long enough to remember when the cassette recorder was the only multimedium available, and pretty much all you could play was the cassette that came with the book. (For those of you who do not know what a cassette recorder is, here is an excellent introduction.)
All that ffwing and rewing. All that tape hiss. All that lugging the frigging stuff around on buses and tube trains. The constant risk of your tape-player turning into a plate of moaning brown spaghetti. So why did I bother?
Because it was another voice. Even a crap one. Another dimension - especially when I was doing one-to-one classes. And I think the content and quality of that third voice have improved in the days of the multi-worldwide-inter-online-blogo-tubo-sphere-net.
And does the third voice get in the way of dogme? See what you think. I've found the following kind of strategy often works - inviting the third voice to join in near the end of a conversation class.
If we've been talking about food or cooking, we might take a look at Videojug. (See the end of this blog for details about each of the sources.)
If we've been talking about just about anything from science or social science, we make a bee-line to TED.
If crime is the subject, we might try The Real Hustle on YouTube. The Real Hustle is also great for social interaction with strangers (shops, hotels, passers-by and so on).
I think there's a huge difference in emphasis between starting a class off with a video sequence (teacher-led) and allowing a third voice to chip in at the end of a student-generated conversation. Dogme? Dogmaybe.
And I notice one curious thing time after time: If the conversation has arisen from the people in the room, students tend to be able to understand the video sequence much better than if it had been brought in by me. As listeners, they seem to punch above their weight.
If you've never done this before, I would spend a little free time skimming through a few videos from each site. But in class I don't hesitate to say "Well since we're talking about what you ate on holiday in Vietnam, do you want to take a quick look at a website which has lots of recipes? Maybe we can find something Vietnamese?"
And if nothing useful turns up, so be it. We do something else with the existing voices.
So definitely a freshly-made dish, but garnished with a little multimedia. Bo proveite!
Appendix - The Sources
The Real Hustle is a TV programme which has been posted extensively on YouTube. It is a hidden-camera programme where a trio of performers demonstrate con-tricks and scams on the unsuspecting public. The English is hard - lots of untidy colloquial speech - but I usually ask my students to try to follow the dynamics, rather than the speech.
TED is a very well-known conference on various key issues featuring many leading experts. All the talks are posted on TED.com and many now feature multilingual subtitles.
Videojug features short video tutorials on how to cook, keep fit, do DIY and many other subjects. Anybody can upload to the site, but the best quality clips are those made by the Videojug people themselves. A godsend for foodies. Try this one.