May 07 2011
Not just tweeting talks but tweeting mind maps of talks, the benefits?
Polish-American scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski is famous for saying that “the map is not the territory,” based on the idea that an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself.
And it was Korzybski’s work that inspired Tony Buzan to come up with the idea of mind mapping based on Korzybski’s ideas of general semantics. Today mindmapping is popular tool for recording and making sense of talks and lectures as well as a way of thinking about ways of solving problems and organising information in general. I teach it to first year university students to offer alternatives to more linear ways of processing information and yesterday a very colourful mindmap came up on twitter, tweeted by Jeremy Harmer listening to a talk by Alan Maley at the APPI (Portuguese Association of English Teachers) conference in Lisbon.
Tweets about Alan Maley’s talk
This is a record of Jeremy’s tweets and pics during Alan Maley’s plenary session together with requests from both me and Ceci Lemos.
@Harmerj My companion Jane Harding is doing a wonderful mind map in different colours to take notes from Maley’s talk. Awesome
They say that a tweeting person next to you at a talk is distracting. But what about this?!!!!!
I was impressed by the mindmap and asked Jeremy to take a picture of the final mindmap.
@Harmerj take a pic of the finished product too Jeremy,wd be good 2 see how well we can reconstruct Maley’s talk from it compared to tweets!
Maley questions the ideological correctness of leaner-centredness. think he means that TEACHING works
Alan M waxing lyrical bout guy cook’s translation bk -justifiably IMHO & wants 2 revisit drills, grammar, dictation, repetition
If you commit memorable texts to memory you remember them!! Maley
Everything on earth can be done in an interesting way! Alan Maley having rambling good fun (and wisdom) here
Reading is your best bet for out of class learning says reader-writer Maley. Agree.
Maley mentions silent way, cuisenaire rods, TPR etc. Not often they get into current talks!!
@Harmerj that’s great Jeremy, thanks very much and thank Jane very much too, tell her it’s fabulous, looking fwd to looking at it in detail.
Value of other people’s records of talks?
In secondary schools in Hungary people used to “indigo” their notes for other people. In the days before photocopiers, people used to take notes with carbon paper between two pieces of paper to get an immediate copy of one’s notes for somebody else who was absent for whatever reason.
At my own university it is common practice for students to borrow other people’s notes on lectures they haven’t been to, so that they can revise for and hopefully pass exams. I wouldn’t mind betting that most students miss more than half of the lectures they are timetabled to attend, deciding to use their time more profitably doing other things.
I read somewhere that 90% of notes taken at conferences are never looked at again. From my own experience and talking to others about this, there is probably more than a grain of truth in this, but we still do it. Notetaking as a way of making sense of what somebody is talking about is an old practice, some people tweet to do this now, although I do know people who say they can concentrate better and retain the main points by not writing anything down whatsoever.
Sharing experiences and making them available to others
What is clear now though is that on blogs and twitter many people are passing on their reports and thoughts on talks and conferences that they go to, as well as the brilliant write-ups of the Wednesday #ELTchat discussions on twitter. This is a great resource for others to feel part of something they couldn’t be physically a part of and also a way of making sense of something that you did go to yourself and seeing it from somebody else’s perspective. In the past we had to wait several months to find out these things, IATEFL has been producing a wonderful little booklet with reports of talks from the people who gave the talks themselves for many years now. Everything is so much more immediate now and without any external selecting and editing.
The value of sharing
I loved following IATEFL Brighton online through the British Council’s team and I also enjoyed reading other people’s tweets although there weren’t as many this year partly due to the WIFI problems. More than ever before in our profession, through Web 2.0, we have the means to share more than ever and to feel part of an international community.
When I saw Jeremy’s pic of the mindmap my immediate thought was to think about how useful it might be for others. I also wondered whether it was better than getting tweets, other than it being a great photo of the way that one person was making sense of a talk they were listening to. First though I wanted to see if I could find out anything about the talk online for a bit of background information.
Accessing the APPI Website
I checked the programme on the APPI website and this was the topic of the talk.
Plenary Alan Maley Leeds Metropolitan University, UK (sponsored by the British Council Portugal)
Reculer pour mieux sauter: lessons from the past
For much of the 20th century, practice was dominated by a paradigm of monolingualism which involved the rejection of ‘traditional’ practices, such as translation, rote learning, repetition, reading aloud and the like. I shall challenge this situation, and suggest ways of re-valorising at least some of these practices in the new 21st century context. Lecture – all Applied Linguistics – Language Teaching.
Being part of an online community
In the old days I wouldn’t even have been aware of this conference and it is only through twitter and hearing about it for the first time through Anna Pires last year that I know about it now. This is a great thing about our profession nowadays but based on my knowledge of teachers of English in Hungary over 95% of teachers are not part of this online community and for me it is a challenge, through both preservice and inservice work, to make this online resource and online community more accessible and inviting for more teachers who might enjoy it and benefit from it. I think we all have a role to play in this.
Making sense of the mindmap
Before even looking at the mindmap I obviously bring my knowledge of Alan Maley to it and that too contributes to my reading of it. I’ve never met him, I know he is Ken Wilson’s hero and I’ve done a series of workshops for OUP on the resource books which he is the series editor of. I have read an interview with him on his life in ELT which was great and I have a very open mind to what I’m going to read.
Lessons from the Past
This is just one small part of the mindmap but from it I can see that what this talk is about is “Lessons from the Past”, something I found out afterwards too by looking at the APPI website.
I can see too that Earl Stevick and N.S. Prahbu were both worth mentioning for Alan. Jane also considered it important to mention them. As Korzybski said “the map is not the territory,” but for Jane to think it worth mapping and for Jeremy to think it worth taking a picture of that map suggests that it might be worth looking at. Following somebody’s tweets tells us as much about the tweeter as it does about the talk that is being tweeted and some people might find that valuable in itself. That, after all, is why we prefer reading some journalists to others.
Stevick and Prahbu are both key figures in the history of ELT and for me it was good to be reminded of their contributions. Alan Maley interviewed Prahbu in the past and the mindmap shows that his belief in there being no best method is probably as dear to Alan now as it ever was. It was also good to see the book “Memory, Meaning and Method” mentioned, a classic by Stevick and a seminal work for any English Language teacher.
The mind map and the tweets
I could go on in looking at the mindmap but all I want to say is that it was worth seeing it and it did bring the talk closer to me as did Jeremy’s tweets two of which were “Alan M waxing lyrical bout guy cook’s translation book -justifiably IMHO & wants 2 revisit drills, grammar, dictation, repetition” and “Reading is your best bet for out of class learning says reader-writer Maley. Agree.”
In the end we belong to a very vibrant community of teachers who are committed to sharing our experiences and that is incredibly valuable. It’s like being on a permanent, extended MA course for me. Whether it is a mindmap, a tweet, a report of a conference or whatever, it can all potentially contribute to us making sense of our profession better. Some of us prefer some channels more than others but in the end more people wanting to share their insights and observations can only be good. And this blogpost is an example of that. You’ll be able to see the talk online anyway here but it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth reading about how other people try to make sense of it all online, that’s what we do anyway in the bar afterwards when we are there and online we can often capture these things in a much more reflective way.
Broadening our online community
For me the main issue is how to broaden this community which we all enjoy and that requires good teacher training, enthusiasm and time spent with people who don’t automatically see the benefits of this kind of teacher development. But those were questions we were asking anyway pre-web 2.0. about any kind of ongoing teacher development. Thanks Jeremy for tweeting the mindmap and thanks Jane for its creation!