Each month I interview people in the education world about whom I want to learn more. You can see read those past interviews here.
This month, I’m lucky enough to have David Deubelbeiss as my guest. David is the founder of EFL Classroom 2.0 which, in my opinion, is the very best resource on the web for teachers of English Language Learners. David also writes his own blog, and can be followed on Twitter.
Can you give a little background about yourself — where are you from originally, when you began teaching, what your work is now, etc.?
I am Canadian and grew up in a very nontraditional environment in Northern Ontario. Hippie commune and we lived poor but happy on a farm. Nature and hard work were my best friends. Wood stove, no running water, no tv for many years.
I began teaching when I was 27. During and after university I worked construction. Loved it but finally fate caught up to me. Fell off a building and couldn’t continue steel working. There was a teacher’s college in my city (North Bay, Ontario) so with nothing better to do while I recovered, I entered. Have been teaching since then, now 20 years! First EFL in the Czech Rep. / France / Ukraine. Then public school, adult immigrants TEFL courses in Toronto. For the last 4+ years I’ve been in Korea teacher training. I now teach at Ewha Women’s Univ. in the Graduate school of TESOL in Seoul, Korea.
What made you decide to teach English as a second language?
Basically, when I graduated Teacher’s College, I had loads of references but few job prospects. So I decided to go overseas to get some experience. Ended up in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic and worked in a small school in that “Cinderella like” city. I loved the fact that ELT offered me lots of freedom – I could be so creative and the curriculum was indeed for me, the whole of the English world (and still is, despite our efforts to corral it into some tidy box. )
How would you describe EFL Classroom 2.0, and why did you start it?
It started about 2 and a half years ago. I was teacher training and sharing lots of resources/ideas through my old site – “the batcave”. I outgrew that and Ning had just come on the scene and I realized its powerful potential (though I do have some misgivings about it too!).
EFL Classroom 2.0 grew out of my ideal that teaching is a vocation and about giving, sharing and learning together as a community of professionals. I had seen little of that – fortunately, with new technological tools (twitter, social networking sites, RSS and aggregation, video sharing etc…) this is no longer the case. But EFL 2.0 was a forerunner in giving teachers a place to get resources and meet up without any commercial demands, ads or hidden agendas. I always say, “I started the fire but we all “own” it and responsible for keeping it burning”.
What do you think are the best resources on EFL Classroom 2.0? What are your future plans for it?
Too many to mention! I get “complaints” all the time that there is “too much”! I consider that a compliment though and have tried to work hard to make the site search friendly (we are the only Ning network to have a cross community tag search feature that I designed!)
However, I first started sharing Karaoke as a way of teaching both language and reading. We have thousands of files and an editor to make your own. Also, teachers seem to love the powerpoint games I designed, plus others that are shared (I’m really proud of my BAAM game and Top 5 – both my own creations). Still, I really suggest members read through the blogs – so much there and always downloadables too.
Do you see any trends in teaching English these days that you think are positive and, on the other hand, do you see any that are not-so-positive?
Great question. On one hand, I really see the growth of PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) and a stronger ELT international community as a wonderful new thing. Further, with the advent of anytime, anywhere, anyhow web 2.0 sharing of resources – teachers have more options to adapt the textbook and bring context into their classrooms. That’s amazing – especially how video and speech recognition are affecting teaching. There is a big change in all education – especially how the classroom won’t have 4 walls and will be more about student learning (autonomy) and less about “teaching”.
This is the “push” but there is a “pull” the other way – lead by big corporations and publishers. Yes, I’ll take flak for saying that, so be it. There is way too too too much profit by companies in education. (think Kaplan, think Oxford – teachers should read their financial reports). Lots of effort spent to constrict the creativity of teachers and to make “product” and not enough spent on actually fostering teacher training. [oh yeah, they will always point to this project and that project or cry “poor” but it is a drop in the bucket and like BP talking about their investments in alternative energies]. It is a big negative – how institutionalized learning/education is and continues to be. (see George Siemens on youtube for a good balanced view about this).
I also hope that English Language Teacher starts to develop a closer relationship with general education. ELT seems kind of lost and it would benefit by closer adoption of a lot of the ideas of general educational practice. I find many TESOL professionals ignorant of the wider educational and pedagogical world. We can become too myopic in our view(s).
What books would you recommend to new ESL/EFL teacher and which ones would you recommend to one with some experience?
Jeremy Harmer’s “How to Teach” is great and also his larger “The Practice of English Language Teaching” if you are really serious about teaching. Michael Swan’s “Practical English Usage” is a classic. Further, I’ve enjoyed Scott Thornbury’s “A-Z of ELT” (though I think he left so much out!).
Last year, I read “How to be a more successful language learner” by Joan Rubin and Irene Thompson. I highly recommend any new teacher to read these types of books and think less about “teaching” and more about “learning” and from the student’s standpoint. Of course, my all time fav. “serious” ELT book is Vygotsky’s “Thought and Language”. Pinker’s “The Language Instinct” though, is a good place to start getting serious about knowing language.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to share?
Again, too much to tell! I’m always stirring the soup and doing so much. I love this and it keeps me feeling alive and vital. I’d recommend teachers to read lots of the ELT blogs out there – just made The Random ELT Blog Generator for that purpose. Also, check out English Central and sign up as a teacher. I helped create the teacher’s area and you can track your student’s progress as they use videos to learn English.
Oh! Of course! Join EFL Classroom 2.0 – always free and always new.