Ian Badger on Listening, and apps for teaching

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I had the opportunity to hear Ian Badger speak at MELTA in the mid-2000s, and even back then he was saying we should be teaching the English people need at the workplace, not the standardized language codified and prescribed in Business Engl9780007423217ish course books. Now he has an excellent book/audio CD, Collins English for Business: Listening, which I’ve been recommending wholeheartedly to learners for self-study.

Using a self-study book in class for teaching when I am the only one who has bought it is always treading a very fine line in terms of copyright infringement. MELTA recently held a webinar on the topic, broadcast by BESIG/LTSIG, which a small group from ELTABB attended. (Read Khushi Pasquale’s excellent review.)

In my compact classes for assistants, I have been using a few of the really wonderful audio selections from the book to exercise my learners’ listening skills. I give them an introduction to what we will be doing, and then quickly dictate a few content-related questions to them, or a line to recognize or differentiate. We then listen to the selection. After  discussing the answers, they get two more questions to build lexis.

Frankly, this does not work ideally, because a listener really needs more visual support when doing a listening task, a book or worksheet, to focus his or her attention. The problem is that, in my real world of teaching, there is no way I can get everyone in a class to buy a book, especially not when it is a supplement. And I’m definitely not allowed to photocopy. Even extracting a short text and putting it into the script I write myself as a quote, attributing the source, would mean having to explicitly ask for permission from the publisher. I have avoided that so far, though perhaps it might be a way forward.

In any case, now I’ve bought the Collins Business English Listening App, containing the same audio. An app is naturally geared to self-study. However, I can also use it in teaching: With my iPad hooked up to a projector, from now on I’ll be able to go to the selection and play it, and while we listen I’ll be able to let the learners do the interactive exercises, much as they would with more standard classware products, projected to the front of the class, with them giving and dictating answers, or reading along in the transcript.

I’m not sure whether this is legal. However, if I just use the material as an extract, and I use it well, I would argue that I am doing far more to recommend the publication to potential customers than to damage it through unauthorized use.

I really think apps can change the game in teaching. Tablets are the future. They may be pricey, and Apple may not be the business machine of choice in the corporate world, but more and more learners are getting them, and “getting it”. I just hope publishers see the light and start making apps explicitly for teaching, as classware. There should be apps to purchase bite-sized bits of content and to present that content in class; apps to buy for home study; and apps to select and push content around, e.g. allowing us to upload tasks and completed work to a wiki-like course site. And they should be simple, and preferably all-in-one. It’s what English teaching professionals are waiting for.

Reposted below is Ian Badger’s presentation at IATEFL 2012, which contains some of the excellent audio collected in “Collins Business English: Listening”.

It would be wonderful if he were to come to Berlin to give a workshop at ELTABB. That’s way up on my wishlist.


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