Virtual Reality in Use

ELTchat Virtual-Reality header

On 22 Nov 2017 the #ELTchat was on the topic of ‘Virtual Reality In Use’.  This is a written summary of the chat, while an enhanced video showing some of the sites mentioned and a chat between the joint summary writers is at the end.

The question to kick start was about the VR headsets available in the market. One of the participants mentioned Google Cardboard Box, the affordable Google VR set for schools. As there were doubts because some participants were not familiar with this VR possibility, this site was suggested for quick research. Google Cardboard is a VR headset that you put your phone into. There are various VR apps which can be used on the phone and seen through the Cardboard headset, noted @carolrainbow. She pointed out that some other apps or sites related to school subjects as geography and biology could be found, but not specifically for ELT as far as she knows.  @fionaljp shared a link to some educational resources from Class Tech tips for using VR, as well as some tips for getting started with 360 photos. 

ELTchat newcomer, @paulinobrener said he hadn’t used VR in the classroom but would love to use VR in his online classes. He would meet students in virtual spaces such as this. Like we used to do in Second Life suggested @angelos_bollas, who added that it was better for online classes but maybe VR is better in face-to-face ones. @carolrainbow still meets people in Second Life.  You can’t get anything more immersive than a virtual world in her opinion.  Marisa_C agreed and felt @carolrainbow was a virtual worlds guru and mentor, with thousands of great SL photos of virtual trips, holodecks and more! @paulinobrener felt Facebook Spaces is arguably more immersive. It’s like SL but not in front of a monitor but with VR goggles in an immersive environment.

Carol Rainbow Tweet

Marisa Tweet

The chat moved on to what was actually the main purpose of the exchange, which was how to integrate the VR possibility to meaningful ELT classroom usage. @Marisa_C contributed with a blog on the theme of VR integration with elt syllabus from the LTSIG blog archive – here, written by @Rach_Ribeiro who was also taking part. @Angelos_bollas mentioned the possibility of ‘virtual trips’, while @fionaljp shared a link with some suggestions and asked about the 360° camera and VR headset. @Paulinobrener contributed with this link on VR integration and later on made his point that VR as entertaining as it is, doesn’t replace the teacher. @fionaljp brought up @Paul_Driver‘s idea of using VR for CELTA observation, as described in this link. She also shared Paul’s excellent presentation for Cambridge University Press – ‘A new perspective: Virtual Reality and Transmedia Spherical Video in Teacher Training.’ Paul later joined the chat. @Rach_Ribeiro shared more ideas from a blog post she wrote for Teaching English British Council.

Fiona Tweet

Another doubt had to do with what kind of video to use and where to find some options. @Marisa_C shared some YouTube samples which were recorded with a 360° camera. @fionaljp said she was interested in 360 filming for observation. @Rach_Ribeiro suggested that a ‘gopro camera ‘ or a mobile enabled to film 360° is necessary to create this – such as this one with elephants. You can use Google Street view to do 360° on a mobile device, offered @carolrainbow. The discussion later came back to the more technical aspect of using VR in relation to the equipment: smart phone, videos recorded in 360° or VR ready apps.  The need of some specialised training, as well as the fact it is just another tool, came up in the interaction between @paulinobrener and @angelos_bollas. The former shared a publication on the uses of mobile learning by @Shaunwilden, who was also present. Shaun mentioned one of his favourite 360° sites – Google Spotlight Stories

@Angelos_bollas asked whether a new teacher would need some specialised training to use VR?  @paulinobrener replied that all teachers have (or should have) a strong foundation for teaching languages. VR is just another tool.  @angelos_bollas was talking more about VR training. @paulinobrener added that like any new tool you want to you, you need to know the teacher very well before implementing.  Or an old teacher, suggested @sueannan or any teacher added @seburnt.  @sergiolm21 said from his point of view no, but I would recommend you to try some Apps, experience it and see for yourself.

Sergio Lorca Tweet

@sergiolm21 stated that students love to use Google Expeditions when they have to do a writing activities describing places.  But what do they do whilst exploring? asked @carolrainbow. After the tour every group describes the place and finally present their tour orally to rest of the class, replied @sergiolm21. It depends on the students’ levels, suggested @Rach_Ribeiro – you can ask students what they see. @Shaunwilden argued that this could be done just as well using video on a phone, the immersive element doesn’t add to the language activity. Marisa_C agreed, adding that immersion tends to generate descriptive language while Second Life interactions can generate more genuine social ones.  @sergiolm21 stated that with AR or VR you can get more info than with a video, students can walk around the class and ‘explore’ what they are watching. Another positive aspect is that AR & VR could increase motivation.  Experienced educational technologist, @Paul_Driver, pointed out that the current limitations in the use of VR in ELT are mostly down to a lack of imagination more than anything technological.  

Paul Driver Tweet

@Shaunwilden says there is a little on 360 videos in his book on mobile learning, which was mentioned in the chat, but he remains unconvinced of VR in language teaching.  @angelos_bollas asked why he was not sold on the idea.  Shaun stated that, at the moment, it is no more than a glorified video player for language classes.

Shaun tweet

@Marisa_C highlighted a key factor, that the teacher needs to scaffold and promote language use while the ‘trip’ is happening, which was strongly supported by many participants. Furthermore, in her wrap up note, @Marisa_C also reminded everyone of the LTSIG Pre conference event on 9 April 2018, which will be on the field of VR and AR researches applied to teaching EFL or ESL where both @Paul_Driver and @Rach_Ribeiro, along with other speakers will be sharing their experience and clarifying doubts the audience may have.


About the summary writers:

Raquel Ribeiro is already a keen advocate and experienced user of virtual reality in the classroom. She will be presenting at the Learning Technologies Special Interest Group PCE at the IATEFL Conference in Brighton.  She recently received a donation of 30 Google Cardboard boxes from Google London and will be bringing some along to the event.

Phil Longwell has just purchased his first VR headset, ahead of the LTSIG PCE. He hasn’t got much experience of virtual reality, but did attend Kevin Spiteri’s session on this at ELT Malta. A clip of that session is here.

Here is an enhanced video showing some of the sites mentioned above and a chat about the topic between the summary writers:


An extended version of the chat between the summary writers, which has a further discussion of the topic and the possible uses of VR in education, is here.


Header image:

The Ideal Staffroom

Staffroom (The Big Idea Group)

This is a summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 8 November 2017 on Twitter. It is my 12th such summary – the rest can be found via a link at the top of this page.

@angelos_bollas set up the topic and moderated the hour long discussion, assisted by @Hada_ELT, who took over towards the end.   Although the topic was ‘the ideal staffroom’ many chatters reflected and shared the kinds of staffrooms they currently use or have recently experienced.    Some suggestions were made as to what makes a conducive environment to work in but given that there is often little choice for teachers the chat tended towards discussing things that they have to tolerate and how they create their own personal working space.  It was also the first #ELTchat to take place after the introduction of the new 280 character ‘limit’.

@angelos_bollas pointed out that not every school, or workplace for that matter, has a staffroom.  @MoreMsJackson suggested resources was a good place to start and @angelos_bollas asked what kind of resources are needed. Books were suggested.  For @teacherphili, the books required depends on whether you are teaching a fairly prescribed syllabus or you have to find your own materials. For @11thhourspecial (Marc Jones) an ELT library with some Applied Linguistics books was ideal. Rotate stock, too – otherwise people will just read the same stuff over and over, he added. @fionaljp said that ideally there would be a regular supply of freebie new course books from publishers. @angelos_bollas liked the idea of having photocopiable materials in the staffroom.

Fiona - booksAngelos - books

The whole library is in @Hada_ELT’s current staffroom –  teachers’ shelves as well as resources like a guillotine, paper.  @GlenysHanson had hanging files of worksheets, exercises, etc. Things lots of her colleagues used. These were either copied out of books or made by ourselves and were very useful when rushing into class. @Hada_ELT used to have these also but they were removed because of reasons of space.  @MoreMsJackson thought it depends how many different courses your centre or school has. The only places she has worked with physical files was a manageable centre with only young learners, maybe 15 different levels total and a summer school for teens so only 9 or 10 levels.

Glenys Marisa

@GlenysHanson wondered if we were talking about the interior decoration or people.   Garish colour schemes or anything that could give you a headache were off limits according to @teacherphili.   @fionaljp stated she would like the walls painted with IdeaPaint.  It’s a special paint that makes walls just like whiteboards so you can write all over them and erase!

Fiona Price  Angelos Fiona

Good wifi and reliable IT support was suggested by @fionaljp, and others agreed, although @eltplanning said there was no wifi in his staffroom.  Access to coffee, biscuits and bottles of water also seemed important for many.   @GlenysHanson, for example, stated that they have access to a real coffee machine as well as a microwave. She added that talking to colleagues was the most useful resource she found in the teachers’ room!  @MoreMsJackson agreed, saying that discussing problems with other teachers is an important part of an ideal staffroom, something which chatters returned to later.

HadaAngelos Hada

@Hada_ELT ideally wants a place to unwind, but her current staffroom is packed with desks and shelves and there is no room to stretch your legs.   She also asked how chatters felt about loud conversations between colleagues – who sometimes just need to unwind – while you’re trying to meet a deadline?  @Marisa_C stated that they have a library which is our quiet space when things get too noisy – thinking of a nice comfy couch for that room actually!!  Headphones are an essential staffroom item for @MoreMsJackson and @ITLegge, who works in a ‘crazy noisy open-plan’ office@seburnt added he just puts in earphones or goes somewhere quiet.  @GlenysHanson stated that when she needed a quiet place, she went to the ‘mediacentre’.  This feature is found in universities rather than language schools.  It was generally agreed that in universities there more options and quieter places to work.


Jackson HadaKate

One aspect of @teacherphili‘s summer university job was the amount of space… if the staffroom got too noisy he could go off to a quieter room or the library and still access all the material by signing in to whatever PC was there. But he admitted being guilty of having loud conversations, as has @eltplanning@KateLloyd05 thought she might have to steal the ‘inner voice’ request, which was mentioned, for her situation:

Phil Peter Pun

A solid, reliable photocopier was raised by many.  @fionaljp needs one that never breaks down.  @MoreMsJackson stated that she had worked in quite a few places with (access to) more than one photocopier.  It’s handy to be able to run to another when one is jammed/broken and you’re in a rush. @KateLloyd05  said that having two in their staffroom was excellent, they even have names.  @teacherphili lamented last minute photocopying and the lack of toner, toner, toner – or reducing TTT as @Hada_ELT joked. @naomishema asked if we photocopied tests on our own. @KateLloyd05‘s tests are sent to the university printing service and prepared for teachers.

Naomi Phil Hada Phil

@naomishema also asked if chatters can freely discuss problems with students or classes in the staffroom and get support.  Discussing problems with other teachers is an important part of an ideal staffroom replied @MoreMsJackson.   Absolutely vital necessity added @fionaljp.  However @naomishema recently experienced poor support:

Naomi FionaKate Marisa

Ideally a space away from students was key for many including @Hada_ELT@teacherphili asked if a staffroom should be a place where only the teachers can go, a space that is out of bounds to students?  Ideally, answered @angelos_bollas, although in some situations the students are allowed in.   @Hada_ELT agreed with having the privacy and being able to remove oneself from the teaching area.  . When @teacherphili started out in Korea little kids would be running around his desk … no separation between class and staffroom.  @Hada_ELT said that when she was a school teacher, she used to let the kids into the staffroom, but they knew to be on their best behaviour – which was OK.

@teacherphili‘s summer pre-sessional staffroom was an important place where he could plan, mark and generally not have students around… It had a huge number of PCs (2 per teacher if needed).  It was, however, ‘room 101’.  He didn’t like the staffroom assigned to full-time employees as it involved ‘hot-desking.’  Another pre-sessional tutor @ShannonThwaites didn’t have a staff room in the summer. They took over a computer room but other staff and students still used it.

Towards the end, @Hada_ELT asked participants to describe their ideal staffroom in less than 10 words, which continued into the ‘slowburn’..

Hada - 10 words tweetElisabeth JacksonAlphabet PublishingNaomi

Fionaljp2KamilaLinkovaHelen LeggeMalachy Scullion  Hada Glenys  Marc Jones

Peter Pun 2

This was a friendly, lively chat with not many disagreements or controversies.   While many teachers have their own particular requirements of a staffroom, many seemed to make the most of what they had, even if some wished for more nespresso, space, working photocopiers and general peace away from the students.  Chatters spoke of what they had rather than what would ideally like although Hada’s final question – to summarise in less than 10 words – was a useful way to end.

Furthermore, in respect of ‘words limits’ – this was also the very first ELTchat which was able to take advantage of the new 280 character ‘limit’ on Twitter.  The general snapshot verdict was that this helped rather hindered the chat.   I had posted a poll (see below) on this issue on Twitter and also raised it on the #ELTchat Facebook group the previous month. Opinion was broadly split.  Some felt it would take too long to read participants’ comments.  In practice, however, chatters seemed to have more freedom to express themselves without having to use acronyms, abbreviations or editing a overlong draft.  It didn’t seem to slow things down. Having the option for longer tweets doesn’t mean that everyone will do so, of course, but the choice is there.  It certainly made writing the summary easier as I was able to understand what people wrote rather than trying to work out meaning from an abbreviated or short-hand tweet.  I like the change!

Phil - 280

1-2-1 Teaching Tips – an #ELTchat summary

Startup Stock Photos

This is the summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 18 January 2017.  The full topic wording was ‘1-2-1 teaching tips – advice and best practice’.  It was moderated by @Marisa_C and @SueAnnan with @tesolmatthew taking over for the 24 hour slow-burn. Lots of great links and resources were shared during the chat and these are listed at the end of the summary.  A similarly themed topic was previously discussed on 16 February 2011 – see here.  A good introduction to 1-2-1 teaching can be found here.

I was personally interested in this topic because I have taught 1-2-1 before (both paid and as language exchange) and have just started doing so again.  It is very common for English language teachers to tutor students one at a time at some point in their career. Support and resources for doing it are less so.  For many it is a fundamental aspect of their teaching.  It requires a development of strategy, approach and material creation.

Needs Analysis

@SueAnnan kicked things off by stating the importance of doing a Needs Analysis.  You might be surprised by the number of Ts who don’t do it. You also need to revisit it from time to time.  Tailoring and finding the right material is important. @thebestticher stated that she tends to ask 1-2-1 students what topics and language they want as there is more opportunity to personalise.  @fionaljp thought this was vital.  @MConca16 said she always starts with a (structured) conversation class as a diagnostic.

@Marisa_C felt that doing a pretest and/or Needs Analysis was obvious to those participating, so asked who [currently] teaches 1-2-1 and wanted to hear some ideas.

Who teaches 1-2-1?

Most of @SueAnnan’s Business English students are 1-2-1 – both oral and written. They have super interesting jobs. She thinks all levels are interesting and learns as much as her students sometimes.

@MConca16 said she did 1-2-1 as well as 2-2-1 exam preparation. @fionaljp said she wasn’t but needed to give advice to those who may. @TeresaBestwick didn’t have any either, while @teacherphili said he was about to start again soon, but had previously focused on exam preparation as well as one young Chinese learner who mostly played games and did pronunciation practice.

@David_Boughton stated that he likes the two ends of the spectrum, basic or very advanced.  He finds the classic intermediates work so much better in group classes. Most of the activities out there are for them.  @Marisa_C felt any age is suitable but activities are very different with young learners – mostly play.

@fionaljp said she asked them to bring in texts of interest for discussion, to summarise and explain interest.  Local newspapers provide material suggested @SueAnnan.

There was general consensus that you can’t switch off in 1-2-1.  It can be more tiring. You can’t set pair work. @fwalkerbcn said that you have to be on the ball, and be prepared to change the lesson plan on the spot. @thebestticher said she often tends to ask 1-2-1 students what they want – both topics and language – as there is more opportunity to personalise…@joannacre agreed, saying she often changes her lesson plan based on what her learner wants. It’s easier to do this with 1-2-1.

@SueAnan said that if students bring work with them, they can become the teacher as they explain it, which is good for presentation practice. @thebestticher found that 1-2-1 young learners like to ‘be the teacher’ otherwise interaction is intense. It is a good idea to walk away or do another task  while the student is working to make it less so.  Or give them a research or listening task, added @Marisa_C. @fwalkerbcn felt this was difficult if you were in their living room, but you can always do something else to break it up, said Marisa_C . @fwalkerbcn hadn’t really found this as her classes were not long anyway. @MConca said that time is money …  she doesn’t ‘waste’ time for quiet individual work or written feedback.


@Marisa_C said they give them lists of extra listening and reading to do as self access and asked if anyone else tried this. @MConca16 replied ‘self-access practice for general English 1-2-1. [For] exam prep, she does a few with them for exam strategy then switch[es] to self-access.’

A popular blog post on eflrecipes (Jonny Ingham) was highlighted by @fionaljp.  In this the author says that the less structured approach can benefit from is “a good amount of overt feedback and error correction. One approach is for the teacher to take notes throughout the lesson on new language and areas of difficulty.”

Teacher Talking Time


Teacher Talking Time was a concern for @David_Boughton.  He asked how it can be kept down in 1-2-1.  Did we care as much as a group class?  @teacherphili said good planning. Silence & processing time is important, too.  @David_broughton liked that. We probably are more likely to cut the processing time shorter in 1-2-1. It’s just natural, he replied. @Marisa_C said it was difficult because the teacher is the only interlocutor. It’s very easy to get carried away with TTT.  @joannacre said she makes her students do most of the reading, text and theories etc then comment on stuff.

@SueAnnan asked if  the participants do roleplays or simulations when you have to play a part? @David_Boughton replied ‘All the time. My favourite thing to do in 1-2-1. You have more control, so they often go much better.’  Role-plays are essential, according to @MConca16, especially when you’ve taught a student for years and need new stuff.


@Marisa_C asked the chatters if they blended their 1-2-1 classes at all? even f-2-f classes do u flip or assign online work? She said Russell Stannard presented on her Delta course how to use Edmodo and it’s great.  She wasn’t previously aware of all its functions. @fionaljp said she was going to use it next week. @fwalkerbcn said her students watched TED Talks before class.  She also uses Edmodo for online quizzes, etc and asked if anyone else uses it for 1-2-1?  @Marisa_C said not but they did use wikis, often dedicated to one student. @MConca16 used emails for writing tasks and marking/feedback. She added that reasons for 1-2-1 students to ask for individual courses is to have a real person to practise language orally with & get feedback. @SueAnnan felt they don’t want much tech. @David_Boughton agreed, saying that tech can take away from what they signed up for, namely access to a teacher.

off2class-tweet@thebestticher mentioned Off2Class, which offers an online placement test and games which she is planning to start investigating. @fwalkerbcn said Off2Class is fantastic. She uses it a lot with my 1-2-1 classes and is great for online use. It’s well worth exploring. They’re always updating- if you need a topic, they do their best to create a class for it, she added.


@Marisa_C asked what tools were used to engage your 1-2-1 adult vs 1-2-1 young learners. Listening are perhaps issues for Ts.  Audioboom and Vocaroo were mentioned by @fionaljp, who also offered two recording tools – Audioboom, Vocaroo – which still exist, unlike Voxopop which appears to have finished.

@SueAnnan used podcasts. There are some great podcasts available from BBC world service.  @joannacre pointed out that Harvard review org has some good free podcasts for adult learners. Later on, @rapple18 said Harvard has GREAT stuff inc. both reading, text and audio. @tesolmatthew added later that an ongoing podcast would be great.

MConca16 said that @tablets & mobiles phone for teens work as motivators. @fwalkerbcn stated that linguahouse  and OneStopEnglish have great lesson plans for adults.

@Marisa_C offered several more tools during the chat, including @educreations, Voice Thread (for connecting more than one student), Schoology, Voxi, Explain Everything and Show Me. She mentioned in-browser apps such as Google docs or Primary Pad for collaborative writing and gave a shout out for the prolific Sean Banville (who was given a mention in the previous weeks’ chat).

@SueAnnan said she liked working with English Central, which students can do at home and improve pronunciation, but the latter feature could be improved according to @Marisa_C.  @fwalkercbn said she never really got on with it.  @SueAnnan added that it works well when they do it as blended stuff. @tesolmatthew was impressed with the way the tool works.  The principle of isolating and highlighting phrases is one that appealed to @Marisa_C.

@David_Boughton said he had used English360 for a few years with a school he worked for. Although a lot of the resources are not useful. You only pay for the student – but there are LOADS of resources available, added Marisa_C. @David_Boughton added that he built out about 6 levels worth of courses. It must have been 100s of hours. @Marisa_C said it was an opportunity [for] long turn speaking activities, like storyboard karaoke and board games.

Slow burn

In the slow burn, @rapple18 added her thoughts. Her list includes must-haves: a phone (=diary, map, aud/vid recorder), A3, coloured pens, today’s newspaper, relevant article, rods.  She always try to add 3rd dimension to break the teacher-student eye-contact line, eg postits, cards, A3, ie lots hands-on activities. Student has goal e.g. a conference presentation. On a recent 12wk course: videoed a presentation at work. 1st. Input: personal’d+focused. Motivation high.  If 1-2-1 ESP (re motivating the T!) use as opportunity to learn about student’s area of speciality. Can be bizarre but rewarding and fun!  She also linked to material she wrote for OUP.

@tesolmatthew said that his most involved ‘1-2-1 teaching happened +/-8 months, 2014. Met a Thai eye doctor in residence @ Boston hospital 2ce/wk for 2rs. Something we did was we wrote into the same notebook, sat very close, both wrote in, so prez+notes = same.’ Examples here.  He also believed that it can be EASIER to keep TTT down in the 1-2-1 context, using prompt-listen-respond-prompt sequence etc.

During the slow-burn @joannacre posted her 200th blog post about ‘websites, videos & random stuff I use in class’ which has some relevance.


This was a great chat with lots of ideas and resources shared.  It is one that I will come back to, along with the previous #ELTchat on this topic, as I do more 1-2-1 teaching myself.  There were lots of tools and resources – links listed below.  I have consistently used the phrase ‘1-2-1’ to mean ‘one to one’ although for brevity some participants used ‘1-1’ in the chat.  If you have any more ideas or thoughts please add a comment below.

Participants who were present and/or tweeted during the chat, alongside the moderators:

David__Boughton@fionaljp, @thebestticher, @fwalkerbcn@teachingright, @TeresaBestwick, @MConca16, @joannacre, @teacherphili, @bar_zie, @aahk888, @amauryrez, @SerraRoseli  and @rapple18.

Links and tools shared during the chat:

Appleby, R, Bradley, J. Brennan, B, Hudson J, Leeke, N and Scrivener, J. Business one:one Intermediate Plus. Oxford University Press.

BBC Learning English

Educreations –

English 360 –

English Central –

English File (Oxford University Press) –

Explain Everything –

Harvard Review Org (podcasts for adult learners) e.g. ‘Productivity Secrets of a Very Busy Man Harvard Business Review’. 7 Apr 2011.  and

Ingham, J. 3 May 2015. Recipes for the EFL classroom: ‘My one-to-one students just wants to chat’.

Kaye, P. 18 July 2007. British Council ‘Teaching one to one’.

Linguahouse –

Off2Class – The ESL Teacher Toolkit

One Stop English –

PechaFlickr –

Primary Pad –

Sean Banville‘s many websites including Breaking News English

Show Me –

VoiceThread –

Voki (for young learners) –

cover image: ‘one to one teaching’ from – reproduced under a CCO licence.
– 22 January 2017


#ELTpics – 100 Up!

#ELTpics has just turned 100. Not years, but sets.  The current set or theme is ‘Spot The Difference’ (16 Feb-1 Mar), in which contributors are being asked to send in two similar photos which have slight differences. Previous sets include adjectives, bookshelves, contrasts and ‘Things I see every day’.  For the latest set, photos should ideally be positioned together as one image for ease of future use in the classroom, although this is not essential.  It is proving to be very popular, giving contributors the chance to be creative with their imagery.  Some are taking pictures which are seconds apart, while others are taking images from the same place on entirely different days.

Flickr Sets – 21 out of 100

#ELTpics, the Flickr-based photo sharing ready-made resource for language teachers, was launched in October 2010 when three teachers, Victoria Boobyer (at that time a teacher in Vietnam), Carol Goodey (Adult Literacies & ESOL Worker in Community Learning and Development with a local authority in Scotland) and Vicky Loras (a teacher in Switzerland and co-founder of The Loras Network) decided to start tweeting pictures to each other theme on a given theme.  In Spring 2011, two more curators, Fiona Mauchline and Sandy Millin, joined the team. As of today’s date, 20 February 2014, there are well over 16,000 collected photos, which are grouped by sets.  Any one photo might be placed in more than one set.  Every two weeks teachers and other folks in ELT are invited to take and share photos on a given theme.  This theme is publicised on Facebook and Twitter by the curators, which are now Victoria – @elt_pics, Fiona – @fionamau, @JulieRaikou and @mkofab – using the hashtag #eltpics.

The conditions placed on photos being uploaded and shared were – and continue to be – that photos must be the photographers’ own, they must be ‘live’ rather than computer graphics, and any recognisable person appearing as the subject in a photo must have given their consent.  All of the photos are free to use under a creative commons licence.  That is, you must give appropriate credit and it needs to be for non-commercial purposes, such as for use in the classroom.  If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same licence as the original.

As well as the Flickr resource, there is a blog called ‘Take a photo and…”, maintained by #ELTpics’ gatekeeper, Fiona.  This is an ideas site for how to use the uploaded images.  For example, this post is about creating #ELTpics mosaics, possibilities and modal auxiliary verbs.  It also suggests ways of using two similar, but slightly different photos, which is useful for the 100th theme/set, ‘Spot the Difference’. Another blog which focuses on a series of interviews with contributors and ran for one year is here.

Image: @HanaTicha

Image: @HanaTicha

The resource was the topic of two #ELTchat discussions on 30 May 2012, for which Shaun Wilden wrote a summary and one year later – 29 May 2013, with a summary written by Lizzie Pinard.

Fiona and Victoria take turns in doing promotional stuff for the resource, including a 30 minute session given in May 2013 at the 6th Virtual Web Conference. You can view that session here.

#ELTpics was also shortlisted for an ELTons award for innovation in teacher resources in 2013.  It was previously nominated for best group blog and best Twitter hashtag in the 2011 Edublog awards.

Wait - Spot The Difference - by @harrisonmike

‘Wait’ – Spot The Difference – by @harrisonmike, remixed by @teacherphili

To date, I have mostly used #ELTpics when I want to illustrate something I have written about for a blog post or #ELTchat summary.  For the summary on ‘How to teach Spelling’, for example, I used eight images from the ‘Things that look like letters’ set – see below.  I have, so far, only used #ELTpics once in my own teaching, on a pre-sessional course last summer, when I created a mosaic of buildings in different parts of the world, from the ‘Important Buildings’ set.  I know that the resource is a wonderful place to get interesting, copyright-free images from fellow professionals, which can be used, adapted or remixed as needed.

Spelling Montage Remixed

Spelling Montage Remixed – originals by @sandymillin @mk_elt @Senicko @gemmateaches

Interview with Victoria Boobyer

To mark the appearance of the 100th set, Fiona Mauchline suggested I write this post and that I contact Victoria Boobyer, the only original founder still actively involved, for an interview about this ongoing resource, now in its fourth year.

  • Why did you start #ELTpics along with Carol and Vicky?

Well, we were sending each other photos of everyday things from Vietnam, Scotland and Switzerland via Twitter anyway… and it soon became clear that we had the makings of a really nice resource for teachers.  The next logical step was to involve other teachers via the hashtag #eltpics

  • The project seems to be an all-girl thing – the ‘#ELTpics chicks’ I have heard it called.  Is there a deliberate policy or reason behind that?

‘Chicks’ really?  It’s just happened that way.  We put out a call for volunteers when it was becoming too much for me to manage as I was taking my Delta. It so happened women replied. Then as others have become busy for short periods (i.e. Sandy volunteering at the Olympics and doing her own Delta) further women volunteers stepped in.

  • How many photos have now been uploaded in total to the #ELTpics Flickr page?

I’ve just uploaded the 16,894th.  Which was one of yours, Phil. 🙂

  • What is your favourite set and why?

This is one of those tricky questions.  I’ll always like ‘Water’ as it was our first set, but I think in terms of a teaching resource, I love ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’. Each picture is an instant activity really because teachers have taken the pictures and have seen the potential and this potential will be seen by other teachers.  Even if you start by asking, ‘What story does this picture tell?’ it’s a great language producing activity.

  • Is there a set idea that you have had but have so far not used for practical or other logistical reasons?

We started but have had to be really careful with the PARSNIPS (things you wouldn’t usually find in ELT course books) set.

  • Are there any legal issues when publishing images of people, for example your class of students?  Is permission all that is required usually?

Yes, there are legal restrictions regarding portraits but also we want to be responsible.  This means that we ask that permission is sought for recognisable images of people and from parents of children. Also check with the school policy on this.

  • What is your favourite activity you know about that uses or can use #ELTpics in the classroom?

I really like Ceri Jones’ ‘An open door…?’ micro writing activity that she wrote for the ‘take a photo and…’ blog.  I like this activity because it takes an everyday object – a door – and results in a lot of classroom language.

  • Who do you think has contributed the most photos, other than those directly involved in running it?

I wouldn’t like to name anyone in particular as some folks send lots of photos in short periods whereas others have been steady regulars.  Also, some of the more recent contributors are quite prolific but joined later.  Every single photo is gratefully received.  🙂

  • Who is the most famous ELT person(s) that has/have so far contributed an image?

I have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Gavin Dudeney, Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury who are the big ELT names that gave us support right from the very beginning.  I still think quite a lot of the ‘Food’ set is made up of Scott’s photos.  😉  Since then, many luminaries have come on board the #ELTpics train.

  • Were you disappointed not to win an ELTon award last year?

Am I supposed to say ‘no’ here?  No but really… we were very chuffed to reach the shortlisted stage because is meant that Carol, Fiona and myself finally got to meet each other.

  • How do you see the future of #ELTpics?  Are there any changes planned or is it more of the same?

Why change something that is working so splendidly?

  • Is there anything you would like to add or make clear about #ELTpics that has not already been said?

Just that we would love to hear on twitter and the Facebook page how people use #ELTpics in their classes because then we can then share this with other teachers.

That’s it!  My thanks to Victoria for taking the time to reply.

100 Sets

#ELTpics’ 100 Sets – click to see full size

References and further sources for how to use #ELTpics:

Mauchline, F, 2011: #ELTpics – How Does It Work. Available at: Accessed 17 February 2014.

Mauchline, F. 2011-13. Take a photo and… Accessed 16 February 2014.

Millin, S. 2011. How to join in with eltpics. Accessed 16 February 2014.

Pinard, L. 2013. How to use a great resource like eltpics for your teaching-  a summary. Accessed 17 February 2014.

Wilden, S. 2012. How do/could you use a resource such as #ELTpics? Accessed 17 February 2014.

Pre-packaged, marketable language learning

#ELTchat, a weekly Twitter chat for English Language Teaching professionals, returned on 22 January 2014 after the Christmas/New Year break.  The chat is now held once per week, every Wednesday, alternating between 12 noon and 9pm GMT each week.  For the latest news on #ELTchat and the latest topics up for voting, click here.

image: @mkofab LicenseAttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by eltpics

Image: @mkofab License: Attribution Noncommercial Some rights reserved by eltpics

Proposal Topic

Proposed topic on the #ELTchat site – click to enlarge

Summary: Pre-packaged, marketable language learning

The first chat of 2014 was proposed by @cioccas (above) who, unfortunately, could not join in the actual chat due to its late timing – currently it is GMT+11 in Australia, where she lives. The topic title was distilled from @cioccas’ original lengthy proposal (above) which made reference to an abstract by Scott Thornbury for an upcoming #AusELT chat:

I would go further, though, and add that one of the unintended consequences of an uncritical commitment to educational technology might be the effective disempowering of teachers in the interests of servicing the neoliberal ‘knowledge economy’. As Lin (2013) warns: ‘Language teaching is increasingly prepackaged and delivered as if it were a standardised, marketable product […] This commodifying ideology of language teaching and learning has gradually penetrated into school practices, turning teachers into ‘service providers’. The invisible consequence is that language learning and teaching has become a transaction of teachers passing on a marketable set of standardised knowledge items and skills to students.’ This commodification process is, of course, massively expedited by digital technologies.  (emphasis added)

@cioccas was interested by the reference to Lin’s (2013) study and the notion therein of ‘prepackaged’ and ‘marketable’ language teaching.  The first thing that chat participants attempted to do was define what they understood this to mean.

For @harrisonmike it is the idea that one company provides all the material, such as all the coursebooks, learning materials and test sheets.  One body owns all the material from which lessons are planned. It is the monetisation of educational products across the board, he added later.  It has been called the ‘Pearsonization’ (or ‘Haussmannisation’ according to a post by Luke Meddings at TESOLFrance, referenced by @harrisonmike) after the largest education publisher in the world.  @Tefladventures wondered if a situation where schools provide all the materials that teachers are required to use, was an example, to which Marisa_C agreed, suggesting that ‘it could be printed or online pre-prepared lessons that teachers have to deliver in sync.’



Prefab Mats

It was generally agreed that prefabricated materials, or ‘prefab mats’, can bring benefits to newly qualified teachers.  It can ensure providers that all teachers are on the ‘same page’, even demanding it in one case. It can provide ‘a framework … but [we should] be encouraging a developing of teaching personality,’ stated @Innov8rEduc8r, who was not a fan of mandating the same textbook for every class, later suggesting that constraints might provide motivation for wickedly creative teachers and imagined many teachers disobeying. @tefladventures, who thought it easier for new teachers to have a syllabus but with freedoms, said that in her situation (Vietnam) there is a lot of ‘teaching to the test,’ instead on focusing on what students actually want to learn. This would probably mean ‘grammar’ according to @NikkiFortova.  @patrickelt wondered if learners can only express that they want to learn grammar. ‘The course program doesn’t usually leave time for what they [actually] want,” added @tefladventures.  When asked if this was an argument in favour of packaging, @nroberts said that she had found that ‘students’ parents are particularly in favour of testing and teaching to test.’  @nroberts88 suggested it sounded ‘Orwellian’. He also stated that there is so much pressure in Spain to pass exams such as the FCE before being able to graduate.  @tefladventures realised that a new law was coming in Spain before she left and found it interesting that it had been implemented. @Marisa_C believed that her experience of one big chain, in Greece, Eurognosi, elsewhere written as ‘Euro-Nosey’ was, in hindsight, somewhat Orwellian.

@Shaunwilden stated there is a difference between a syllabus and the whole package. @Shaunwilden wondered if the definition is any different from a school using a coursebook package.  In some senses, a coursebook is a pre-packaged set of materials, but the danger comes, according to @harrisonmike, when just one body owns it and everything else that is used in the classroom or the books become standardised across schools. @NikkiFortova did not think she had ever seen pre-packaged materials, unless we are talking about the rigidity of one coursebook.

Teachers could not create ‘Individualized programs for each student’ are just not possible where learning is ‘Pearsonali(s)ed,’ according to @victorhugor.    He thought the first decision by most language teachers is to select the textbook and workbook. It is a dream for publishers when [a textbook] goes global, he added, “because a dependant teacher will buy, buy, buy.”


click to enlarge

Pearsonisation 02

From @teacherphili’s own teaching beginnings, this was something he had experienced at Jungchul Hagwon, a franchise of cram schools in South Korea.  The concept is quite commonplace to those working in other Asian contexts.  Every franchise has the same material and there are set texts for each age group and level, which lay down the possible progression that can be made. The whole operation, including (not very hidden) CCTV in every classroom, as @BobK99 asked, was set up for the selling to and the ease of understanding by parents, who were performed to at scripted end-of-level presentations.  It was primarily a business first, a childminder second.  Learning authentic English came in third, at best.  

@patrickelt questioned whether the only possible ‘advantage’ in a cram school situation could be for the students’ parents. @teacherphili reiterated this so-called benefit, along with the possible benefit for the inexperienced, first time teacher who needs everything laid out for them. @NikkiFortova later rhetorically asked whether there were any large language schools in Asia that don’t force materials on teachers.

200 franchises, one syllabus

Jungchul Hagwons: 200+ franchises, one syllabus

Standardisation / Standard(ised) Environment

@Marisa_C asked why Directors of Studies and school owners do it [offer pre-packaged courses].  Is it to market better or because they don’t trust their teachers? @NikkiFortova wondered if it is done to help standardisation. ‘Of what?’, asked @Innov8rEduc8r. Not according to @Marisa_C, who claimed that “[standardisation] is a myth and a Utopian delusion. :-D”

@SueAnnan offered an example of a seemingly cost-ineffective Swedish school which sends students to a different environment [Jersey], provides all the material, employs local teachers and tells them what to teach.  @teacherphili thought this really was ‘the whole package.’ ‘It’s so soulless’, she said, before claryifying that the Swedish students, fortunately, do not come to her school, just the island.  The kids get a holiday, the company makes money.

@mitchefl thought pre-packaging to be more of a business ploy than about education. She once worked in a school which provided the whole course, although teachers could still ‘supplement’ the material, which was a word that @Innov8rEduc8r felt allowed scope for creativity.  There was still no room to ‘personalise’ the lessons … probably because of marketing, before sarcastically adding ‘that we should be wary of personalising … wouldn’t want teachers showing their own style … might engage the students!’ There seemed to be a slight confusion around this point between ‘pearsonalising’ as roughly defined above and ‘personalising’ – that is, bringing something of yourself to class.  They are, of course, distinctly different.

@harrisonmike used the phrase, ‘standard(-ised) environment’, which could mean a possible unified set of criteria, according to @NikkiFortova.  He felt that students in these settings were becoming less creative and imaginative. @Innov8rEduc8r questioned this, prompting @harrisonmike to reply that “Some students over the last few years [were] really not prepared to put the effort in.  Expecting it all on a plate.’  @patrickelt suspected students have imagination but do not express it, which was a possible factor, ‘especially when little … space for imagination [is] given in assessments,’ added @harrisonmike. @Innov8rEduc8r liked ‘finding out their passions, interests.  It’s a challenge,’ he stated.  This creative apathy was not an observation shared by @NikkiFortova.  Her students are amazingly creative, she felt, before adding that ‘as long as assessment carries on taking a bottom-up approach, it won’t get more creative.’  This creativity is more difficult in standardised environments, although maybe ‘we just have rethink our view of what testing and assessment looks like,’ she added.  ‘Rethink, re-shape, re-conceptualising,’ responded @Innov8rEduc8r. This could lead to ‘a more top-down rather than bottom-up approach to language learning,’ said @NikkiFortova.

@Marisa_C summarised one general consensus that we need a set of clear objectives but have the freedom to supplement when appropriate.   But also to get creative, added @Innov8rEduc8r, while @SueAnnan agreed in part.  She said that teachers also need freedom to meet the needs of students, which is not true in a standardised environment.

Bethany-Greg Tweet

@bethcagnol popped in with a random thought – many of her clients had requested not to provide pre-packaged training, which appealed to @Innov8rEduc8r.  In France, many DoSs say they can provide the teacher [on business English classes] with packages to make planning easier, while companies are requesting more tailored courses, @bethcagnol added.  This was recognised by @Marisa_C from her own context at CELT Athens.  This was interesting for @patrickelt as many teacher training courses do seem to provide these materials.  ‘If many schools opt out of providing packages, will this then change the responsibilities of DOSs’, said @bethcagnol, before adding that she had recently hired a teacher who refused to plan.  ‘It’s a risk but it’s working so far,’ she said.  The lack of trust in the trainer is, also for her, a major factor in pre-packaging.  Many large language companies are run by non-teachers.  It is a general critique of education provision, not just ELT.

Marisa-Greg Tweet

click to enlarge


Moving the topic on, @Marisa_C subsequently asked if all teachers are good syllabus designers or have the ability to analyse students’ needs.  If not, then can this explain pre-packaging?    Clear objectives and a healthy library full of resources helps, responded @tefladventures. Teachers should be trained in this. ‘Talk to the students, see what they can [already] do,’ suggested @harrisonmike.  But if it is a large concern, with 300+ teachers, you can’t possibly hope to monitor them all, said @tefladventures. It may not be about the materials per se, ‘if teachers have the scope to deviate,’ pointed out @Innov8rEduc8r.  @harrisonmike asked whether language schools need an appealing gimmick.   @mitchefl thought that some kind of ‘gimmick’ might be needed ‘to help them stand out from the crowd.’

@patrickelt raised the point of distance learning materials.  Pre-packaged materials are not localised, interjected @Sookjhee. Although they could be, suggested @BobK99.  Although a number of participants thought this was a good point, it was not expanded upon.

Being aware of individuals in a group is important, but getting them to collaborate is key,’ for @NikkiFortova.  ‘I think some people confuse personalisation, mentioned earlier, with heavy individualisation,’ said @Marisa_C.  But, the individual is too easily forgotten, said @Innov8rEduc8r, who claimed that you can still have awful teaching with prefab materials. They do not help teacher development much. @SueAnnan added that “in many ways these are more difficult as they don’t always take loyalty into account.”

This thread lead to prompted @bethcagnol to ask a devil’s advocate question.  Do pre-packaged programmes cause awful teaching?  ‘Not with an experienced teacher,’ according to @SueAnnan. ‘Less likely to happen,’ believed @harrisonmike.  An awful teacher will always be an awful teacher, regardless of material used, believed @tefladventures.

@Marisa_C expressed this slightly differently.  Do students suffer from pre-packaging and in what way?  Can well-designed and taught prefab lessons work well?  Pre-packaged materials can be ‘a good model of they are well written and based on sound learning and teaching beliefs,’ replied @NikkiFortova.  ‘I guess it comes down to [students’] needs, interests and passions – are they developing life skills?’ asked @Innov8rEduc8r.  ‘Packages can suck the life out of teaching,’ however, thought @bethcagnol.

Language is not packaged up in real life, so it should not be in teaching or learning,’ affirmed @harrisonmike, before adding that ‘packaged learning materials promote [an] atomistic rather than [a] holistic view of language’.  To which @NikkiFortova replied,  I think the trend towards language learning, due I’d say to testing, is analytic rather than holistic, at least in the [Czech Republic].’

So packaging does not guarantee quality of instruction or learning!  Go tell industrially oriented school owners!!! shouted @Marisa_C towards the end.

At this point, the chat was wound up, with particpants, including some first-timers, thanked for their contributions.    It was a ‘highly energetic chat’ according to @Innov8rEduc8r and a great way to kick off #ELTchat in 2014.  People were reminded that the chats are now once a week at the alternating times of 12 noon and 9pm GMT. See #ELTchat for more.

Marisa_C - Tweet

Link referred to by @cioccas:

Lin, A. 2013. Toward paradigmatic change in TESOL methodologies: Building plurilingual pedagogies from the ground up. TESOL Quarterly, 47, 3

Thornbury, S. 2014. Abstract for upcoming #AusELT Twitter chat on ‘Ed Tech: The Mouse That Roared?’ Available at:

Links referred to by @harrisonmike:

Meddings, L., 30 Nov 2013. We Teach to Reach, they Test to Invest. Available at: Accessed 22 January 2014.

Ravitch, D., 5 June 2012. The Pearsonizing of the American Mind. Available at: Accessed 22 January 2014.

Chat Attendees

This chat’s attendees* by their Twitter handles in order of appearance:

@Marisa_C (moderator) @Innov8rEduc8r @teacherphili @Shaunwilden (moderator) @victorhugor @BobK99 @tefladventures @patrickelt @harrisonmike @Mashfaqka @NikkiFortova @nroberts88 @AlexandraKouk @SueAnnan @mitchefl @elawassell @bethcagnol @sookjhee @bigke

*not including lurkers or trolls, which the author would like to point out are definitely not the same thing.

Note: As with all #ELTchat summaries that I write I am aware that ideas can become ‘decoupled’ (a lovely concept I borrowed from Keith Richards – paper see here) from the original conversation and the potential is always there for misquoting someone.  Any decoupling is, therefore, unintended.  Although it is not helped when participants forget to use the #ELTchat hashtag, as responses can become effectively decoupled in the transcript. I would welcome feedback/comments, as well as an opportunity to correct any decoupling, if this is the case.