Saturday, 6 November 2010

Bus man's holiday

I have tried to make it to the annual Tokyo bookfair (TEL) as regularly as possible for the last sixteen years or so. I was struck this year by the very low number of participants, and the absence of several publishers. This event used to be unmissable; I worry it may no longer be so. There are a number of other healthy mini- conferences eg Niigata, Nakasendo, Pan-SIG (in Matsumoto, May 2011) that might supplant this calendar staple.

I was unimpressed with the first presentation I went to about "Expansive Reading": I can read, so having someone read their own (dull) PowerPoint made me reconsider the wisdom of waking so early to catch the first Azusa to Shinjuku. Reading is a favourite topic of mine and something I wish our own students did more of...the Black Cat Readers look attractive but promoted like this I doubt they'll find much room on our shelves. Useful teacher resources at

Nothing to see here - Lexxica for Kids
I was equally annoyed that the next presentation I went to see was mis-titled "introducing the Kids Word Engine!" because Guy Cihi patently did not. It has not been made, nor was there anything even beta to see previewed. Clearly very keen on himself and his financial success, I was cross that this chap had no grasp of delivering phonics. Go have a look at some great iPhone apps? Basing his next money-maker on Smart Phonics is flawed as the book is unsound; the book while introducing good sensible phonics practice uses the same font 'a' as here for instructions to learners...who don't recognize it. Also, 'practice' will involve learners having to translate (& therefor be able to read) hiragana. That, for me, is not language acquisition. Now, if you were using images...I saw Charles Browne present at the first ECAP conference in Tokyo and know Lexxica is a very good product for certain aspects of targeted learning, especially exam preparation (but not for my beloved ESOL ones!). Last comment I have is that this kind of technology has to migrate to smart phones pdq.

Two Oberlin University teachers held a very good workshop on podcasting in the classroom. Sensible, practical & jargon-free demonstration of how easily this can be done. I am not a computer techie or anorak myself, but have managed to produce our own school podcast (on Podbead & found on iTunes). Reassuringly, David Brewster & Hans von Dietze had to cope with unfamiliar equipment! After explaining the how (I want to check out "audacity" for editing, especially if it comes with jingles etc) the audience was challenged to record group answers to a simple question - the content (you have students brainstorm & plan before this stage of course). Within 20 mins this was done, edited on the hoof, uploaded & published. Think you'll find it as 'teachers' at A very worthwhile 45 minutes, inspiring me to make our students do more of this (exploit our graded readers more, I think).

Rob Waring is the man-mountain of Extensive Reading. I have heard him make sense many times before and am always impressed with his calm authority of his mantra - and totally agree that learners have to read to make progress (but they have to want to. Teacher can't read the books for you!) New titles in "Foundations", "Pageturners" & "Footprint" series - I love these non-fiction titles Cengage have come out with National Geographical. These are standalone + CD or backed up with related DVD material. Best of all, these titles are all supported on ER Moodle. The 4th Extensive Reading Seminar will be in Okayama Feb 13th; Rob Waring will be a featured speaker at Pan-SIG.

@mickstout presents Whodunit
Michael Stout (@mickstout) is the inspiration behind this blog; his presentation at TEL three years ago was a "Eureka" moment for me. I rely on his presentations for new ideas and angles into old media with Web 2.0 approaches. At last somebody showed me the much acclaimed "Whodunit" which is going straight into action with one of my adult classes asap. Will try to incorporate & mindmeister as suggested; think there is a role for quizlet perhaps, and certainly Edmodo, timetoast. ran a very good Charity quiz, Russell Willis in sparkling form keeping team-members onside & audience involved. ¥50,000 went to charity & an iPad prize drew a good crowd.

I was more than happy at stumps; saw some good stuff and caught up with the usual suspects. OUP are peerless, but I want to know more about Colin & the librarians. Likewise, Koichi needs to explain the source of his KitKats. Last time I saw those distributed at TEL (Ikebukuru) an urban myth was born. And no tequila tonight - safely on the train home!