Working with me

Hello. Thank you for visiting my website.

I am a teacher in the Tokyo and Kanagawa area. I am interested in how we teach English, especially how we teach listening and pronunciation. If you are interested in working with me, contact me.

Journal article: Exploring Duoethnography in ELT Research Ecosystems: Accessibility, Misuse, and Further Horizons

Recently, my friend and colleague Robert Lowe and I published an article in the International Review of Qualitative Research titled Exploring Duoethnography in ELT Research Ecosystems: Accessibility, Misuse, and Further Horizons. Basically, it’s a duoethnography about doing duoethnography, which could be silly and frivolous, but we are quite serious. We both really respect duoethnography as a research method: I have co-authored four duoethnographies including this one, and Rob has written a few, as well as having co-edited a book about it, which also contains some duoethnographies co-authored by him. Basically, we offer a critique of the method, look at how it can be used by researchers who do not typically use qualitative inquiry in their work, and express our ideas about where duoethnography, especially in English language teaching research, could go next.

A photograph of two medium-size pine cones side by side on brown grass. There are two much smaller pine cones by the one on the right, and they are not immediately obvious.

While we both appreciate the affordances of duoethnography the fact remains that it is subject to many of the same flaws as autoethnography. Essentially, in the wrong hands, it is a method of navel gazing introspection for the sake of it. The authorial partnership should be critical, but in too many duoethnographies there is only backslapping and sycophancy. We hope that is not what we have done in any of our own work.

We also puzzle over why so few quantitative researchers have taken up duoethnography. I have a bit of a fancy idea about it being part of a research ecosystem. I think everyone should either have a go with it or at least quantitative researchers should be actively reading and citing qualitative inquiry including duoethnography. We all need all kinds of research. I also question whether duoethnography needs to be purely qualitative or whether there can be quantitative elements included. This last idea is one that I hope comes to fruition, because I think that it could help make duoethnography more appealing to a wider range of researchers.

If you don’t have access to the paper, you can email me and I can send it along.

Book Chapter: Communicating Information for Decision Making: Reflections on a Leadership Communication Course

Just this morning I got word from one of the editors of the book I have a chapter in that it is now online and published. The book, Leaderful Classroom Pedagogy Through an Interdisciplinary Lens: Merging Theory with Practice, edited by Soyhan Egitim and Yu Umemiya, is quite a wedge (and being an academic book published by Springer, costs some wedge, too), and is highly focused on classroom practice regarding leadership in its many guises.

Anyway, I am very happy to be included, and even happier to have the chance to read everyone else’s chapters.

Presentation: Multiliteracies for student presentations

Yesterday at JALT National Conference in Tsukuba I presented something about how I worked with my students in the last presentation skills course I taught. I often had students isolate interesting/key data points from charts and tables and revisualise them in better, more salient ways, usually with pens and paper.

Also, weirdly for me, I used Keynote for my slides. I don’t hate them, but I prefer my usual template.

The slides are here. Some graphs are deliberately bad, because they should be compared with better graphs.

Get students to select preferred work with the board

I am currently working on a short teaching-related article for university teachers – and I thought I could park some example screenshots here, regarding my use of Jamboard, which is going to be killed off by Google. However, all is not lost, because not only are there other alternatives available, such as Padlet, and if you have work in person, you can also use physical blackboards and whiteboards.

I did this with students when they were making SDGs related Open Educational Resources available on my learner-related blog. (Aside – I really regret calling it Get Great English, now because it seems really boastful, but I guess it’s what I want my students to actually get).

Anyway, I set up the Jamboard and got them to select their top three choices. I told them I would try to accommodate their first choices if possible but it depended on how many people chose different topics out of the 36 students in the class.

Just an example of the way I used the Jamboard, not the students’ actual Jamboard.

It worked well, and it’s somewhat painless. It took me about 10 minutes to group students, and they were all satisfied with the groupings.

As I mentioned above, this could all be done with a physical board and sticky notes, too.

The next stages are that students manage their projects with elements of Agile management and Scrum meetings, inspired by Rebecca Pope-Ruark’s book Agile Faculty.

Software that helped 2022: Obsidian and Espanso

2022 was a year that felt like ten years crammed into one. It was my first wholly face-to-face year since I started at my current job (the year before was lots of on-campus and off-campus). I found two good pieces of software through Mastodon, and thought I would share them with the two people who read this (and their dogs).

Obsidian: notes with tags

Obsidian is now one of the most often used applications on my computers. I use it to take notes and also write documents that do not need to be shared with co-authors, editors or supervisors. The notes are taggable, and can be visualised in a web similar to spider diagrams. Additionally, when the header system and list system are used, parts that are not being edited right at that moment can be hidden away and brought back very easily. The files are eminently transferable between devices. I choose to not sync but purposefully move data between devices for data protection and also utility. Some devices do not need all my notes, such as my novel in progress does not need to be on my phone or my work PC. Also, getting into Obsidian Markdown has helped me with learning R Markdown considerably. I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface but it is very useful.

The graph view is not very linked on my home PC. But I am at home because I was ill. I might change this image tomorrow when I get to my work PC.

Espanso

I seem to use Espanso more often than I think. The main useful interface is text documents in which one adds text short cuts. An example might be:

:hw

which may then suddenly change to:

Hello world!

It works well, is uncomplicated and allows for subject specific lists to be added. I use a mainly limited feature set but I am very impressed so far. I have a couple of very nascent additions to the Espanso base file, but feel free to use them (these are very much works in progress, and I am unlikely to update them on here). They are text documents, but you can open them and ‘Save as’ and give them a .yml extension.

A set of academic shortcuts, with very nascent shortcuts (only 2) for academic writing advice, because I mainly use Google Classroom comments.

A file that has some language and phonology shortcuts.

On (not) automating ELT materials development

Today I was contacted by someone from an EdTech company. It’s unsurprising, seeing as I am a very online person.

I think they were trying to be earnest when they asked ‘what is the most boring, frustrating or tedious task when writing materials?’

In my reply, which possibly seems snarkier than intended, I wrote:

Nothing is tedious or frustrating. If there is anything boring, it is likely to be boring for students. Anything that is frustrating is normally due to software formatting problems. The materials writing process is not really something that can be automated, because if it were, the only possible responses would be automated. In that case, there is no point in having teachers or students in classes, and we could have two neural nets talk to one another. 

If this is an area that your company has identified as a niche market, I urge it to reconsider. There is already a ton of material out there, more than can plausibly be used. 

I know that somebody is likely to disagree, and that the disagreement likely stems from a different teaching approach. That is fine, I guess. But if you have a bunch of PPP drills and it’s tedious for you to come up with them, then it is highly likely that your students are going to feel the same.

Publication: Accent Difference Makes No Difference to Phoneme Acquisition

As of today, my article with Carolyn Blume from TU Dortmund is available in the special issue of TESL-EJ on Global Englishes and translanguaging. It is open-access so it is available for free.

We used TED talks as online self-study, with one group watching talks by speakers of prestige varieties of English (so-called ‘native speakers’) and one group watching speakers outside of these prestige varieties.

The title says it all: there were no real differences between groups. Somewhat worryingly, neither group made gains in vowel learning, which was what we were intending they learned. Both were the same, although a limitation could be learners cramming at the last minute. However, this is something students do!

The article is here, and check out the whole of the special issue while you are there.