#AusELT chat summary: Integrating Australian Content into Courses (26 Oct 2012)

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The original idea for this chat was put forward was Lesley Cioccarelli (@cioccas), looking for more Australian-focused topics for #AusELT chats. A great idea, and extremely popular in the voting, so thanks Lesley! Hopefully we’ll have many more such topics in future.

At the beginning of the chat, @eslkazzyb (who was moderating) said:

  • There’s more to Aus than funny looking animals and beaches?!? #AusELT will show you tonight!

And we did! There are DOZENS of great ideas and links here, and there was such enthusiasm that plans for a collaborative #AusELT resource wiki are already afoot. Instead of wondering what to do, struggling to make our own materials, and reinventing the wheel alone every time, we can use the wiki to share our favourite ideas, lessons, worksheets and links exploring Australian culture, lifestyle, music, film, current events and more. This is a very exciting outcome of the chat, so thanks to all participants – and watch this space!

I’ve divided the summary into broad ISSUES first, then all the actual CONTENT, divided by category. Enjoy!

ISSUES

Current materials

Most of us seem to be using coursebooks by British publishers. These books are trying to be a bit more global and a bit less British-centric than in years past, but many agreed with @eslkazzyb that by trying to do something for everyone, they’re not pleasing anyone fully. @trylingual reminded us that we can all think about trying to use the coursebook we have in a more ‘GLOCAL’ way:

  • GLOCAL- For me it is drawing comparisons between any local place and other countries. That place could be their hometown or where students are right now (@trylingual)

The need for Australian materials

@GuvenCagdas wondered why coursebooks shouldn’t be global:

  • Isn’t English for international sharing?

And @trylingual asked:

  • Do our students want to be global? Or do they still want a Brit/U.S/Native speaker focus?

We didn’t get into this, but it’s worth thinking about. Of course for some classes this won’t be as big an issue as it is for others.  However, most of us agreed that we DO need more (relevant) Australian content:

  • Colleges need to provide meaningful incentives to entice students to make the trip all the way out to Australia to study….Perhaps [Australia is still cheaper than the UK/US] but not cheaper than staying at home, which is becoming an increasingly attractive option with tech advances…Providing lessons grounded in the local context can make that trip more worthwhile IMO. Why come to Australia to use a cousebook available anywhere? (@elkysmith)
  • I find our students know very little about the country they are now living in & really appreciate language with local knowledge learning (@eslkazzyb)
  • Language learning is about more than the few hours of class each day. We need to help students tap into that (@sophiakhan4)
  • Local knowledge allows more access and reflection…can be used outside the classroom and allows students to settle in more easily… Learning about the local knowledge + culture allows more comparisons to be made against the students’ home knowledge + culture (@trylingual)

Using authentic materials

We all agreed that authentic materials are valuable:

  • Important to include authentic material & deconstruct it to help students access it (@vivimat78)
  • I prefer authentic materials because it is more ‘real’ than the coursebook (@trylingual)

But there are obvious challenges:

  • It requires experience to find suitable authentic materials (@elkysmith)
  • [Grading the task not the material] is a skill not all teachers have developed yet, or have time for…For busy or inexperienced teachers it’s VERY hard to make good materials from authentic mats (@sophiakhan4)

Perhaps, as @elkysmith suggested, managers and curriculum developers in our various colleges should invest in developing local content to go beyond the coursebook.

Copyright

The long and short of this is that copyright issues are not well understood. Many are familiar with the ‘10% rule’ for books, but with movies there are also ‘screen rights’ to be considered. There will be an article on copyright issues, including screen rights, in an upcoming issue of the English Australia Journal. In the meantime, I can recommend this recent BESIG workshop as a starting point, with links, for teachers who would like to know more about copyright: http://www.besig.org/events/online/simulcasts/Copyright.aspx

AUSTRALIAN CONTENT

General lifestyle and culture

One of the best ways to explore and access this is to involve real Australians. This may mean excursions – even just within walking distance from your classroom –  but there are also other ways to bring ‘real Australians’ into the classroom. Ideas, with related topic content, are listed below:

Beach safety

  • Swimming is a cultural experience for many students; need to do early on; awareness can save lives (@forstersensei)
  • Surf Lifesaving’s Beachsafe app (@elkysmith)
  • Get local life savers to come in to the college (@eslkazzyb)

Aboriginal culture

  • Get local Aboriginal community figures to come in and talk to students (@eslkazzyb)

Australian culture

  • Campus survey: Students love interviewing Australians about culture, even at low levels. Students can decide on the area(s) of culture, e.g., sport, transport, parenting, finding a spouse(!) (@forstersensei)
  • Interviews: “Interview an Aussie Day”. Great for students to see how ‘diverse’ Aussie are (@eslkazzyb)
  • Videoconferencing: Connect with other Australian classes via video conferencing (@vivimat78NB: Vivian works in a high school. We thought her classes might be interested in talking to adult EFL classes as part of a cultural exchange project, where they can interview each other on their knowledge/experiences. This could be a fantastic opportunity, so please think about contacting Vivian if this is something you would like to explore next year.

TV (incl. YouTube & iView)

News

Published resources (print/digital/online)

Blogs & websites

Movies

  • ESLMovies.com – includes resources for Rabbit Proof FenceThe CastleWhale Rider etc. Cheap and available to download, and in different levels for different movies (@eslkazzyb)
  • Metro Magazine – here’s a good one for studying movies (@vivimat78)

Australian expressions/slang/pronunciation

We didn’t discuss songs, but there has been a long discussion on this on our Facebook page recently, so have a look there if you are interested.

Thanks again to all participants for sharing such a range of fantastic ideas, and to Karen for moderating. Look out for more on the #AusELT resource wiki coming soon!

Sophia Khan (@sophiakhan4)

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