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Teaching Tips 149

Happy 40!
A question of timing


Happy 40!

Halloween is coming up so there are a few ideas in a past Tip 'Spooky Lessons' at:

29th October is the 40th anniversary of the precursor to the internet, Arpanet. This is what a recent Telegraph article says:

The internet's 40th birthday: anniversary of Arpanet

23rd October, 2009

On 29 October 1969, two letters – LO – were typed on a keyboard in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and appeared on a screen at the Stanford Research Institute, 314 miles away.

The computer scientists had intended to type LOGIN, but the connection was lost just before the G. Nonetheless, this was the first time a message had been sent over a telephone line between two computers.

It was not called the internet – that name was not coined for another five years. It was called Arpanet, for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, and was developed by scientists in the US Defense Department.

Nor was it the World Wide Web – that was created by the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, now Sir Tim Berners-Lee, at Cern, the Geneva physics laboratory that now houses the Large Hadron Collider, 20 years ago in March.

And email had existed for a few years before that, between different terminals on single mainframes; the first true email sent between different computers was not sent until 1971.

But 29 October is as good a birthday as any. Those two letters, typed by an undergraduate at UCLA called Charley Kline on an “interface message processor”, were the precursors of everything from the eBay Buy It Now button to LOLcats, Kara’s Adult Playground (we won't link to that) to Google Wave.

The speed of change that the internet has brought into our lives is sometimes surprising.

Given the ubiquity of online video, it may be hard to believe that it is just four and a half years since YouTube was launched, for instance.

The huge uproar over illegal music downloads, which seems to have been going on forever, was kicked off by a legal challenge to Napster in 2000, just nine years ago. Before that, everyone bought their music on shiny plastic discs from a teenager in HMV.

Amazon, the first of the big online shops, is more venerable – it was founded in 1995 – but still, in just 14 years, it and others like it have forever changed how we shop.

Next week we will be celebrating the sort-of birthday of the sort-of internet. They say life begins at 40. It will be extremely interesting where the next 40 years take us.

You might be interested to see the first web page ever produced:
The first domain name was '', registered on 15th March 1985. To see the list of the first domain names:

The Telegraph article would make a nice introduction to a lesson on the internet. For higher groups it could be a quick read as there isn't much there that your students won't already know. For the lower level, with more challenging language, a more traditional top-down approach might be more suitable.

The internet has changed a lot of things & not so long ago I came across another Telegraph article titled:

50 things that are being killed by the internet
The internet has wrought huge changes on our lives – both positive and negative – in the fifteen years since its use became widespread.

Here is the article below - have a read - there are some things in the article that you might want to leave out, deeming them unsuitable for the classroom - specifically no. 7, 24, 36 & 45 - or you may find the cultural references too obscure for your students & not worth spending time on them. You might just use this list as a springboard for ideas for your own list.

04 Sep 2009

Tasks that once took days can be completed in seconds, while traditions and skills that emerged over centuries have been made all but redundant.

The internet is no respecter of reputations: innocent people have seen their lives ruined by viral clips distributed on the same World Wide Web used by activists to highlight injustices and bring down oppressive regimes

Below we have compiled - in no particular order - 50 things that are in the process of being killed off by the web, from products and business models to life experiences and habits. We've also thrown in a few things that have suffered the hands of other modern networking gadgets, specifically mobile phones and GPS systems.

Do you agree with our selections? What other examples can you think of? Please post your comments on the bottom of the story – we hope include the best suggestions in a fuller list.

1) The art of polite disagreement
While the inane spats of YouTube commencers may not be representative, the internet has certainly sharpened the tone of debate. The most raucous sections of the blogworld seem incapable of accepting sincerely held differences of opinion; all opponents must have "agendas".

2) Fear that you are the only person unmoved by a celebrity's death
Twitter has become a clearing-house for jokes about dead famous people. Tasteless, but an antidote to the "fans in mourning" mawkishness that otherwise predominates.

3) Listening to an album all the way through
The single is one of the unlikely beneficiaries of the internet – a development which can be looked at in two ways. There's no longer any need to endure eight tracks of filler for a couple of decent tunes, but will "album albums" like Radiohead's Amnesiac get the widespread hearing they deserve?

4) Sarah Palin
Her train wreck interviews with NBC's Katie Couric were watched and re-watched millions of times on the internet, cementing the Republican vice-presidential candidate's reputation as a politician out of her depth. Palin's uncomfortable relationship with the web continues; she has threatened to sue bloggers who republish rumours about the state of her marriage.

5) Punctuality
Before mobile phones, people actually had to keep their appointments and turn up to the pub on time. Texting friends to warn them of your tardiness five minutes before you are due to meet has become one of throwaway rudenesses of the connected age.

6) Ceefax/Teletext
All sports fans of a certain age can tell you their favourite Ceefax pages (p341 for Test match scores, p312 for football transfer gossip), but the service's clunking graphics and four-paragraph articles have dated badly. ITV announced earlier this year that it was planning to pull Teletext, its version.

7) Adolescent nerves at first porn purchase
The ubiquity of free, hard-core pornography on the web has put an end to one of the most dreaded rights of passage for teenage boys – buying dirty magazines. Why tremble in the WHSmiths queue when you can download mountains of filth for free in your bedroom? The trend also threatens the future of "porn in the woods" – the grotty pages of Razzle and Penthouse that scatter the fringes of provincial towns and villages.

8) Telephone directories
You can find Fly Fishing by J R Hartley on Amazon.

9) The myth of cat intelligence
The proudest household pets are now the illiterate butts of caption-based jokes. Icanhasreputashunback?

10) Watches
Scrabbling around in your pocket to dig out a phone may not be as elegant as glancing at a watch, but it saves splashing out on two gadgets.

11) Music stores
In a world where people don't want to pay anything for music, charging them £16.99 for 12 songs in a flimsy plastic case is no business model.

12) Letter writing/pen pals
Email is quicker, cheaper and more convenient; receiving a handwritten letter from a friend has become a rare, even nostalgic, pleasure. As a result, formal valedictions like "Yours faithfully" are being replaced by "Best" and "Thanks".

13) Memory
When almost any fact, no matter how obscure, can be dug up within seconds through Google and Wikipedia, there is less value attached to the "mere" storage and retrieval of knowledge. What becomes important is how you use it – the internet age rewards creativity.

14) Dead time
When was the last time you spent an hour mulling the world out a window, or rereading a favourite book? The internet's draw on our attention is relentless and increasingly difficult to resist.

15) Photo albums and slide shows
Facebook, Flickr and printing sites like Snapfish are how we share our photos. Earlier this year Kodak announced that it was discontinuing its Kodachrome slide film because of lack of demand.

16) Hoaxes and conspiracy theories
The internet is often dismissed as awash with cranks, but it has proved far more potent at debunking conspiracy theories than perpetuating them. The excellent continues to deliver the final, sober, word on urban legends.

17) Watching television together
On-demand television, from the iPlayer in Britain to Hulu in the US, allows relatives and colleagues to watch the same programmes at different times, undermining what had been one of the medium's most attractive cultural appeals – the shared experience. Appointment-to-view television, if it exists at all, seems confined to sport and live reality shows.

18) Authoritative reference works
We still crave reliable information, but generally aren't willing to pay for it.

19) The Innovations catalogue
Preposterous as its household gadgets may have been, the Innovations catalogue was always a diverting read. The magazine ceased printing in 2003, and its web presence is depressingly bland.

20) Order forms in the back pages of books
Amazon's "Customers who bought this item also bought..." service seems the closest web equivalent.

21) Delayed knowledge of sporting results
When was the last time you bought a newspaper to find out who won the match, rather than for comment and analysis? There's no need to fall silent for James Alexander Gordon on the way home from the game when everyone in the car has an iPhone.

22) Enforceable copyright
The record companies, film studios and news agencies are fighting back, but can the floodgates ever be closed?

23) Reading telegrams at weddings
Quoting from a wad of email printouts doesn't have the same magic.

24) Dogging
Websites may have helped spread the word about dogging, but the internet offers a myriad of more convenient ways to organise no-strings sex with strangers. None of these involve spending the evening in lay-by near Aylesbury.

25) Aren't they dead? Aren't they gay?
Wikipedia allows us to confirm or disprove almost any celebrity rumour instantly. Only at festivals with no Wi-Fi signals can the gullible be tricked into believing that David Hasslehoff has passed away.

26) Holiday news ignorance
Glancing at the front pages after landing back at Heathrow used to be a thrilling experience – had anyone died? Was the government still standing? Now it takes a stern soul to resist the temptation to check the headlines at least once while you're away.

27) Knowing telephone numbers off by heart
After typing the digits into your contacts book, you need never look at them again.

28) Respect for doctors and other professionals
The proliferation of health websites has undermined the status of GPs, whose diagnoses are now challenged by patients armed with printouts.

29) The mystery of foreign languages
Sites like Babelfish offer instant, good-enough translations of dozens of languages – but kill their beauty and rhythm.

30) Geographical knowledge
With GPS systems spreading from cars to smartphones, knowing the way from A to B is a less prized skill. Just ask the London taxi drivers who spent years learning The Knowledge but are now undercut by minicabs.

31) Privacy
We may attack governments for the spread of surveillance culture, but users of social media websites make more information about themselves available than Big Brother could ever hoped to obtain by covert means.

32) Chuck Norris's reputation
The absurdly heroic boasts on Chuck Norris Facts may be affectionate, but will anyone take him seriously again?

33) Pencil cricket
An old-fashioned schoolboy diversion swept away by the Stick Cricket behemoth

34) Mainstream media
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News in the US have already folded, and the UK's Observer may follow. Free news and the migration of advertising to the web threaten the basic business models of almost all media organisations.

35) Concentration
What with tabbing between Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and Google News, it's a wonder anyone gets their work done. A disturbing trend captured by the wonderful XKCD webcomic.

36) Mr Alifi's dignity
Twenty years ago, if you were a Sudanese man who was forced to marry a goat after having sex with it, you'd take solace that news of your shame would be unlikely to spread beyond the neighbouring villages. Unfortunately for Mr Alifi, his indiscretion came in the digital age – and became one of the first viral news stories.

37) Personal reinvention
How can you forge a new identity at university when your Facebook is plastered with photos of the "old" you?

38) Viktor Yanukovych
The Orange Revolution in Ukraine was organised by a cabal of students and young activists who exploited the power of the web to mobilise resistance against the old regime, and sweep Viktor Yushchenko to power.

39) The insurance ring-round
Their adverts may grate, but insurance comparison websites have killed one of the most tedious annual chores

40) Undiscovered artists
Posting paintings to deviantART and Flickr – or poems to writebuzz – could not be easier. So now the garret-dwellers have no excuses.

41) The usefulness of reference pages at the front of diaries
If anyone still digs out their diaries to check what time zone Lisbon is in, or how many litres there are to a gallon, we don't know them.

42) The nervous thrill of the reunion
You've spent the past five years tracking their weight-gain on Facebook, so meeting up with your first love doesn't pack the emotional punch it once did.

43) Solitaire
The original computer timewaster has been superseded by the more alluring temptations of the web. Ditto Minesweeper.

44) Trust in Nigerian businessmen and princes
Some gift horses should have their mouths very closely inspected.

45) Prostitute calling cards/ kerb crawling
Sex can be marketed more cheaply, safely and efficiently on the web than the street corner.

46) Staggered product/film releases
Companies are becoming increasingly draconian in their anti-piracy measure, but are finally beginning to appreciate that forcing British consumers to wait six months to hand over their money is not a smart business plan.

47) Footnotes
Made superfluous by the link, although Wikipedia is fighting a brave rearguard action.

48) Grand National trips to the bookmaker
Having a little flutter is much more fun when you don't have to wade though a shop of drunks and ne'er-do-wells

49) Fanzines
Blogs and fansites offer greater freedom and community interaction than paper fanzines, and can be read by many more people.

50) Your lunchbreak
Did you leave your desk today? Or snaffle a sandwich while sending a few personal emails and checking the price of a week in Istanbul?

So get your students to storm ideas in pairs on how the internet has changed their lives, & how it might have changed other peoples' lives as well.
Then give out your doctored list, or your own list using the above as a springboard for ideas, & the students see if any of their ideas match. You may need to pre-teach some vocabulary, depending on the bits you have chosen.
A variation here on using the text would be for the students to match up the headings & the descriptions first & then compare with their own lists.
They then decide on the top 5 important changes due to the internet. When they have chosen 5, they team up with other pairs to see if they have the same ideas & together agree on a top 5.
After this bring it together into a class discussion.

Then a link swapping session would be nice. In small groups students could discuss where to find interesting stuff on the internet & if they don't know the exact links, arrange for them to email each other later on. And don't forget to provide them with some useful links for their English.

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A question of timing

It is often said that the secret of comedy is timing and it's the same for teaching. Here are a few areas where timing is a major factor:

- we decide when, & the order, to introduce language & sub-skills in our classes.
- we decide when to explain language & when to let them grapple with working out meaning & form.
- we decide when, & type & how much, to introduce practice activities.
- we decide when to change direction in a lesson depending on the students' difficulties, moods etc.
- we decide how much to continue an activity depending on our students' difficulties - a challenging listening stage could have the text repeated several times or even dropped all together.
- we decide when to correct our students.

There are a lot of different factors in play when we make our timing decisions & clearly the more experience a teacher has, the more intuitive these decisions become. That's not to say that we don't make mistakes. Sometimes we over or underestimate their ability & perceptions & plough on in the wrong direction.

Timing in our lesson preparation is crucial. We time the stages in our lessons, anticipating how long activities will take & deciding what will be logical & interesting to move on to. Then during the lesson we see how the students are coping & vary the timings accordingly.

We can also plan 'if time' activities in case the students need, for example, another practice task to consolidate some challenging new language. If we don't use the task, then all the better as the original plan worked, but it's better to be well prepared for difficulties.

As well as 'if time' tasks, we also bear in mind the 'if the students request it' tasks - for example, they may want to listen to the listening text again or spend more time on a reading text.

Maybe, at times, I wonder if we are strict enough on ourselves with the tendency to let things go on longer than necessary. A fairly good rule of thumb for activities is to stop them before they finish, before they fizzle out. Finish them when the students are still enthusiastic about the task, & you don't have half the class sitting around wondering what they're going to have for dinner. It obviously depends on the task, but not a bad idea.

When we are teaching we clearly need to 'go with the students' which will take us off on tangents. They will come up with interesting things in class, be it something that happened in the world that day or another aspect of a language point. A rule of thumb here is to make sure you accomplish your main aims & then you can feel free to veer away from the lesson plan. If you don't, the students might not think they are getting their money's worth & that you haven't planned the lesson well.

Efficient timing makes for efficient lessons, so in the next few lessons consider your timing a bit more & see if you can't improve somewhere.

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World Food Day


I came across an article about a curious restaurant in Japan that gives you only what the person in front of you ordered - interesting idea. The restaurant has a few rules, among them:
* Treat the next person. What to treat them with? It's your choice.
* No buying twice in a row.
* Please enjoy what you get, even if you hate it. (If you really, really hate it, quietly give it to another while saying, "It's my treat...")'

To read the article:

I would imagine that nearly all of you reading this are lucky enough not to know what it is like to be really hungry. 'With an estimated increase of 105 million hungry people in 2009, there are now 1.02 billion malnourished people in the world, meaning that almost one sixth of all humanity is suffering from hunger.' 16th October is World Food Day:

'World Food Day (WFD) was established by FAO's Member Countries at the Organization's 20th General Conference in November 1979. The Hungarian Delegation, led by the former Hungarian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Dr. Pál Romány has played an active role at the 20th Session of the FAO Conference and suggested the idea of celebrating the WFD worldwide. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.'

At the UN World Food Day site:

Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis

At a time when the global economic crisis dominates the news, the world needs to be reminded that not everyone works in offices and factories. The crisis is stalking the small-scale farms and rural areas of the world, where 70 percent of the world's hungry live and work.

With an estimated increase of 105 million hungry people in 2009, there are now 1.02 billion malnourished people in the world, meaning that almost one sixth of all humanity is suffering from hunger.

Both public and private investments are needed, more specifically through targeted public investment to encourage and facilitate private investment, especially by farmers themselves.

On the occasion of World Food Week and World Food Day 2009, let us reflect on those numbers and the human suffering behind them. Crisis or no crisis, we have the know-how to do something about hunger. We also have the ability to find money to solve problems when we consider them important. Let us work together to make sure hunger is recognized as a critical problem, and solve it. The World Summit on Food Security proposed by FAO for November 2009 could be fundamental for eradicating hunger.

World Food Day

Do check out the UN site as there are bits & pieces you can use in class to promote reading skills, vocab development & speaking skills.
- the Information Note would make an informative reading:

- as would the Leaflet:

- the Photo Gallery would make some interesting reading & discussion work - you need to see this online as it's in Flash:

- there are two Videos to use at:

In the Monthly Newsletters we used to choose a theme & storm lots of teaching ideas around that theme, so here are just a couple of ideas to consider when planning lessons around the theme of 'food':

- comparisons of food from different countries.
- food quizzes.
- recipes - sequencing information - linkers. Students fave foods >> they explain the recipes to each other.
Explain a recipe & others guess the dish.

Specific language:
- a few related vocab items: within the restaurant ordering - 'will' for spontaneous decisions - eg. 'I'm afraid the steak's off. Well, in that case, I'll have the fish.'
& a few food idioms: a bad egg, a big cheese, earn your bread & butter, cool as a cucumber, eat one's words, finger in the pie, in a nutshell, spill the beans, full of beans, piece of cake...among lots more.
- categories, types of food & tastes/smells.
- the language of food compliments.
- restaurant complaints - bad service, terrible food etc...could begin with a short video section from Fawlty Towers.
- good for countables & uncountables - the distinction can be clearly seen some sugar v an apple.
- ordering in a restaurant.

- fast food - collect lots of information from McDonalds, burger King - on their sites & in the restaurants - lots of reading material to justify the food.
- fast food outlet roleplay - McDonalds want to open a branch in your neighbourhood - people for: the company, local businesses etc..against: local residents etc.. Stds given a role & prepare & roleplay the meeting.
- Students' favourite restaurants, best meal ever had, strangest food eaten...
A couple of useful links:
'Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Today, we have over 80,000 members all over the world.

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