The Khan Academy

Here is an interesting video about Sal Khan, of Khan Academy, who has the most popular (or one of the most popular) educational video channels on the Internet.

There were some interesting comments from the audience.

It is better to just see the blackboard and not a teacher.
The teacher is a distraction, and can even create pressure or tension.
We can go back or fast forward, as we wish.
Sal goes through the explanations simply and in an unrehearsed fashion.
He is logical and relaxing.

Check out his videos. I would like to do something similar for languages. Does anyone know what the best “blackboard” software would be? I am a messy writer and would rather type than write. Any advice?

Discrimination and diversity in the teaching profession

This was the subject of a discussion on the NIFL listserv. The body of the message referred to the following decision in Arizona.

“According to recent media reports, the Arizona Department of Education has mandated that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English.

And teacher members of the listserv were asked the following questions.

“What questions does the article below raise for you?”

“What do you think the impact of discrimination against nonnative English speakers who teach English has on adult learners in the classroom?”

“Is our own teaching profession is as diverse as the learners we teach? What benefits does a diverse teaching profession bring to the classrooms? To staff development? How important is having a diverse teaching profession?”

“I welcome your thoughts on these or related PD (professional development) issues.”

My response was as follows:

“In my view, with the wide range of learning content and resources available on the web, it is not a necessity for the teacher to be a native speaker. Native speaker audio and text content can be brought into the classroom from many sources.

Rather it is the other qualities of the teacher, in particular the ability to inspire and empathize, that should matter the most. All other things being equal, a native speaker is probably a more attractive source of inspiration for a language learner, but all other things are rarely equal. This kind of heavy handed edict is just another example of the inflexibility of much of institutionalized education.”

What I felt like saying but did not, because my message would have been censored, is the following.

“The education system already discriminates in favour of teachers who have certain teaching certificates, union membership or seniority, and ignores the wishes or interests of the learners. This particular instance of discrimination against English teachers with poor accents and grammar, is just another example of discrimination, except that the ideological background behind this case is not so popular with the teachers. Why not let the learners or their parents decide whom they want as teachers?”

What are your views?


Words, words and more words.

Staying on the subejct of listening or speaking your way to fluency, I want to reply to some of the comments I have received. The main task of language learning is to acquire words so that you can understand. This will get you to the goal of fluency fastest, since fluency means the ability to converse comfortably on a variey of subjects. To converse comfortably you need to understand what is said. For this you need words, and whether you are able to speak at an early stage is not important in the long run. This I do not like using methods like Pimsleur and Michel Thomas which use a lot of English to get you to say things. To me it slows me down on my path of acquiring enough words to become fluent.