I believe in lifelong learning, and I have always thought that learning is more an adventure than a journey. An adventure is more exciting, it implies that you love to try something new and challenging, and that you enjoy exploring and discovering about the world on your own.
My blogging and Twitter adventure started about three years ago when I created this blog as an assignment for an online seminar. Blogging helps me to improve my writing, and to reflect and develop my own thoughts about EFL teaching and learning, and education in general. While diving into many topics, I can get insights and learn by viewing from different angles and discerning the differences about the topic. I am sometimes confused because of many contradictory ideas, but, through blogging I can clarify my thoughts as when I write something down and explain it in such detail in a blog post I end up understanding it myself.
In one of my first blog posts I compared learning a language to playing the piano, and teaching to conducting an orchestra. This image sprang to my mind while thinking about my classes which sometimes were as enjoyable as the piano concerto in the post, usually they were quite good, but I can remember some disharmonious lesson failures. Creating a good classroom dynamics and atmosphere conducive to learning can be difficult even for an experienced teacher.
I enjoyed musing and composing a poem Teacher cocktail, about what makes a good teacher (the post was inspired by an activity from Teaching Grammar Creatively by Scott Thornbury, Gunter Gerngross and Herbert Puchta).
However, nothing in ELT is as simple as it often seems to so many people, and it is really impossible to make a recipe for a good teaching. The way we teach depends on the context, purpose of learning a language, our students and their abilities and preferences; it also depends on our beliefs, knowledge and skill.
I described my struggle and Challenges of introducing and using communicative language teaching in my school. In My dream job and reality I wrote how an exploitative educational system and teaching against our beliefs and opinions about what is right and professional can considerably dampen our enthusiasm. We must advocate better professional development, and press for improved conditions and for change (as it is obvious that ELT has become an industry focused much more on making a profit than making a genuine quality).
One of the prevailing Misconceptions regarding learning & teaching is that course books are useful for students because they provide them with controlled grammar / vocabulary practice and give them a sense of improvement. Course books give students the feeling that they can control what is going on, they know the main grammar rules and vocabulary (that is used in the course book), they can pass tests and may have the illusion that they know language well. However, learning a language is much more complex than learning grammar: students can recite grammar rules, but cannot sustain a conversation as they lack vocabulary and fluency.
In the post About truth, knowledge and Russell’s teapot I explained that not to be absolutely certain is one of the essential things in rationality. I pointed out the importance of distinguishing between pseudoscience and scientifically valid ideas mentioning some well-known neuromyths in ELT.
The beauty of the unknown is about the importance of valuing intellectual curiosity and sceptical reasoning. We should appreciate “unknowledge” and the likelihood of surprises much more than “our incomplete, imperfect, infinitesimal-in absolute-terms knowledge”.
Knowledge isn’t a matter of owning a truth by making it familiar and then asserting its ideal presentation, but quite the opposite – an eternal tango with the unfamiliar (Hegel).
The greatest pleasure of browsing books at a library or a second-hand bookshop is serendipity of finding something that you did not know existed, and that is deeply interesting or connected with your intellectual interests of the moment.
On Twitter I follow some great English language teachers, linguists, some art, science, philosophy teachers, writers, astronauts…. I particularly like people who are open to new ideas, and who are not afraid to express their opinions freely. Also, I think that ideas should be open to robust debate. We live in a culture where people often form their “opinions” based on superficial impressions or passively accept some ideas without investing the time and critical thought into it. Thus controversy is good as it makes us reflect and change such opinions.
What I especially like about Twitter is the short length of tweets (140 characters) which forces the writer to be succinct, and the random character of tweets which makes Twitter lively and dynamic.
I mostly tweet about English language learning/teaching, books, music, science… I am pretty selfish on Twitter as I tweet what I find interesting and fun/funny. I occasionally check some ELT hashtags: #ELT, #KELTchat, #ELTchat, #ELTpics, #makeamovieTESL etc. [Hashtag is an easy way to group all tweets related to a topic that interests us. The symbol is used in music, too >> # is called “sharp” in music]
One of the negative sides of Twitter is that it can be addictive (like any other social media). I read (I can’t remember where exactly) that it is because with every small burst of information the brain receives, it releases dopamine, the same pleasure chemical released when we eat chocolate, fall in love, or take drugs. If you have any (good) suggestion(s)/advice regarding the information overload and distraction, please write in the comments. 🙂
I am enjoying reading Erich Fromm’s “Man for himself” at the moment. Fromm writes: “Living itself is an art – in fact the most important and at the same time the most difficult and complex art to be practised by man.” I fully agree and I would only add: Try to have time for yourselves, for your pleasures, for daydreaming, even for boredom. Go for long walks, ride your bike or do some sport, and sleep well… And do not be afraid to be idealists and dreamers.