TDSIG Unplugged Countdown: “Two…”

Third Principle of OST
The Third Principle of OST

This mini-series sketches out some of the ideas that I would like to explore at the upcoming TDSIG Unplugged Conference in Barcelona on 21 May 2011.  If any of them chime with you and you would like to explore them as well – or if you would like to work on completely different issues, the conference is there to give you the open space to do just that.  It is never too late to join in, so if you haven’t already, visit and register!

Counting down…2…

How can we spread the unplugged word? 

Harold Wilson, former British Prime Minster, once said a week is a long time in politics.  If that’s true, then a decade (and teaching unplugged was named, if not born, over a decade ago) is a much longer time.

How far have its ideas established roots in mainstream ELT, or mainstream language education?

Perhaps unplugged approaches to teaching are a bit like the UK Green Party – handy to have on the opposition benches, but not well-suited to government?

Coincidentally though, Brighton – home of the last IATEFL conference – just elected the UK’s first Green Local Council – should ELT also dare to be different?

Perhaps dogme is by its nature a minority sport – or perhaps promoting it smacks too much of missionary work and all its unappealing connotations?

Fair enough, but on the other hand, if we think it is working for us and our learners, wouldn’t the world be a better place if there was a bit more dogme-ness around?

And you don’t enter the mainstream – as the UK Green Party must have realised – by sitting at home and keeping quiet: you do it by getting out and knocking on doors!

There are two aspects to this: firstly the question of how to encourage more ELT teachers, school managers and institutions to take a more unplugged attitude to things.  Second, it means making the ideas behind unplugged teaching open and accessible to teachers of other languages.

Used under Creative Commons licence - Acknowledgement: C!
“Caring and Sharing in the Unplugged Staffroom…” (image courtesy of C! under a CC licence)

Unplugging colleagues, managers, schools and teachers’ associations

Here are a few questions about increasing unplugged outreach:

  • are you open about your working methods in the staffroom? – don’t hide your lights under a bushel
  • are you open to observation? – a picture of practice paints a thousand words
  • Could you ask your school to get a couple of copies of Teaching Unplugged? (no, I’m not getting a commission on sales 😉 )
  • Could you set up an unplugged articles archive in the staffroom – paper-based or links in a browser to online sources – and encourage browsing
  • when observing colleagues, could you discuss any ideas you have for their doing more with less?
  • Have you made your approach clear to your learners? – if they like it, they will ask for that in future with a new school or teacher
  • Could you offer to run workshops for colleagues who are interested but want some “training”?
  • Could you become active in local teachers’ associations? – these often draw their membership from the local state-related sector as well as the private sector
  • Thought about organising a “photocopy-free Friday”, once a month if every week seems too much? – good for teaching, good for the environment, good for the school’s budget
  • Thought about founding an IATEFL TUSIG? 😉

Going unplugged en francais, auf Deutsch, etc.

Here are a few questions to get us thinking about other foreign language learning domains

  • Many ELT dogme teachers either speak another language or have that language as their L1.  Why not write about your unplugged teaching in both languages?
  • If your school teaches in more than one language, are you sure that all your cross-departmental colleagues know about anything unplugged-related going on?
  • Could you make contact with local other language teachers’ associations and find out if there is awareness/interest in unplugged teaching?  If there is, could you suggest organising a workshop?  If they don’t have anyone to do it, why not offer to do it yourself? – Self is The Dogmeist!

These are just questions to elicit ideas, and ideas are just hot air unless someone takes them up as a cause. So, if you by chance are also interested in sharing unplugged principles and practice in your local area, then form a working group on Saturday 21 May in Barcelona and get it started – and if this is the last thing in the world you want to spend Saturday doing, then come along and do whatever you are passionate about: Open Space means you set the agenda!


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