Comeback #87 Conference #3

10 09 2012

Easy by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

Seems like I spend more time injured than I do as a runner.  After two months nursing a torn calf – it still feels torn and lumpy but I felt it might hold up to some light running – and inspired by the wife and friends running the half marathon of Buenos Aires on Sunday (while I was giving my online workshop), I finally managed to trot out for 3km last Friday and 4km this evening (unaccompanied by the wife whose quads are still suffering :). 

As always with my numerous comebacks, early thoughts are always on trying to keep form and not overstress any muscles and I’m consciously trying to lift my quads a little higher and so have a longer bouncier stride this time round.  The softer style new shoes I got from Run&Become back in June help with this and seem to give me better protection that the previous harder ones I used to use. 

But I was also thinking about IHTOC3 and the call for papers that I have to get out by the end of the week.  It’s an exciting time of year as we start organising a new conference, especially since this one is going to be open to all and not just limited to IH teachers.  Let’s hope we can do some solid marketing over the next two months and pull the EFL crowds in on the 2nd and 3rd of November.  

So many things to think about – the rooms, the speakers, the sessions, the moderators, my own contribution, exciting times ahead.  Let’s hope I can keep injury free for these two months so some fresh air and lively muscles can help me to organise the conference even better than the previous two.  Let’s get it on!

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Easy Wedding Preparations in Madrid

24 07 2012

Easy Madrid by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

Having returned to England from Italy, we didn’t get around to running again – too much shopping and family lunches to do.  So once we were in Spain, we did a preemptive run around Retiro before that night’s wedding – the reason we went to Europe at this time of year.  

 

Buen Retiro Park

It was very hot and so we ran around the park trying to stay in the shade as much as possible.  Thoughts were focused on the wedding and how a Spanish wedding would differ from an Argentine one and then already about returning to Buenos Aires, since we were leaving the next evening.  Once back home it was time to start training for the half marathon and if all goes well the marathon in October.  But they’ll both need lots of luck and controlled training if I’m not to get injured again and miss them both.  Even as I was having these thoughts my long-standing calf injury came back to tweak me.





Hitting The Hills, Hitting The Beach! in Venice

17 07 2012

Hills Venice by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

From England we headed to Italy to watch Operas at La Scala (Manon), the Arena in Verona (Aida) and La Fenice in Venice (Carmen), which were all brilliant in their own way.  The day we arrived in Venice, Mer couldn’t stand the heat (39 degrees) and so insisted on going to the beach.  The beach! I was expecting museums, churches, canals and gondolas and found myself on The Beach!  We had fun though and saw great views of Venice from the vaporetto on the way out to the Lido, I might even recommend it.  

But when we got back to Venice proper in the evening, it was time to take a look around and what better way to do it than to go for a run (very Woody Allen in Everyone says I love you I found out afterwards!)

It was lovely to meet Venice again by running up and down it’s bridges and getting cut off by canals.  I’d been once about 15 years ago for a day and it had rained and I hand;t thought much of the place.  But now, returning in a couple and enjoying The Beach and then a run, the magic of the place really came out.  It was also excellent hills training with all those steps to deal with and the breathtaking architecture meant we had run three or four kilometers without even realizing it.  We also got quite a lot of odd looks as we walked back through St Mark’s Square on the way back.  It seems Woody and Julia haven’t made running through the streets of Venice all that popular! 





Brighton beach – running abroad

17 07 2012

Easy Brighton by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

There’s always incredibly rewarding things about running on holiday.  First of all the sheer goodness you feel about enjoying running enough to take the time to do it when you’re allowed to be doing nothing.  Secondly, the freshness and curiosity of running in a completely new environment, enjoying the reaction of differently cultured passers-by, the differing weather and taking in the new views and paths and landscapes.

And so even though I’ve run in Brighton before (my little sister lives there), I was filled with enthusiasm and energy as the wife and I set off down the seafront.  Especially since I was in my new shoes, purchased in Run and Become a few days before.  I was also nursing a calf injury, so was a bit worried it might not hold up and I would;t be able to run again on the holiday – we were in England, Italy and Spain for three weeks in total, visiting family, watching operas and going to a wedding in each respective country.

But the calf held up, the sea breeze invigorated and the shoes felt very comfy.  I’d gone for springier ones from Mizuno rather than the rather rigid Sauconys I’d had before.  I was worried they might not give me enough support, but so far so very good, I felt I was bouncing more and hopefully this means my knees will benefit from more bend and I might even lessen the injuries.  Time will tell!





Running away with it…

3 06 2012

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/177990533

Funny that this 5km easy was only a minute slower than my 5km fast on the previous run.  I guess that’s where I’m at at the moment, just trying to get the body used to the kilometres again and trying to find a good running form that will minimise injury risks.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/179098810

First time I’ve run for an hour in the comeback.  Was very pleased to get to 9km and am confident I have ten kilometres in me, although not got any races on the horizon.  Although this did make me wonder for a minute or two if I shouldn’t be running Fiestas Mayas instead of organising #IHTOC50, but only for a minute mind.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/180372201

Just a muscle loosener and a keeping in the rhythm after the long run the other day.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/181425128

No run this weekend.  A week between runs, not the best!  But I still managed an easy five km, although one of the calves was tightening up towards the end – need to be careful and remember the number one goal is not get injured!

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/183989223

My first ten kilometre run of this comeback period.  I’m managing not to overdo things, at least running wise.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/184812980





Many more hills ahead

9 05 2012

Hills by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

My first ‘hills’ run since January and a third lot of overdoing it in three runs since the return began.  Another six kilometres with the usual cross the bridge five times, rest for five minutes and cross it five times more before heading homewards.  Except I was enjoying myself so much I decided to up the pace over the last kilometre as well as I headed back around the small lake to the car and I managed to keep the pace up to around 6m/km.  Which meant no time for thinking anything except what I was doing running wise.  

The one thought I did have was that I felt much better after my last run and that my legs seemed to have recovered much quicker – was this a result of having a pilates class on Monday?  Did the pilates help the legs to recover better?  I have a class tomorrow too, so if I don;t feel leggy come Friday it must have something to do with it, because normally after a run like today I would be feeling it til the weekend.  Looking forward to the next run already, but going to keep it to twice a week for at least my first month back – that’s the only way I can stop myself from not completely overdoing it! After all, I have many more hills ahead of me to climb…





Easy doesn’t it

6 05 2012

Easy by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

The second run of my latest comeback and having chastised myself all week for doing too much last Tuesday, I ended up doing the same distance but quicker today – when am I ever going to learn? 

The problem was today there was perfect weather for running when I went out, 20 degrees and sunshine but with a cooling light breeze.  In T-shirt and shorts I was neither too hot nor too cold and so I could run easy without getting too hot and enjoy the crowds out enjoying the Palermo lakes and the weather like me. 

Thoughts were split between two things today – finding form and keeping the body as balanced as possible (i.e. not very) as always, and also the organisation of IH TOC50, since I’ve spent the rest of the day trying to out the schedule together and am about to email all of the lovely speakers with the latest details.  Schedule seems to have come together quite smoothly – a wide variety of sessions spread throughout the day from early morning to late night GMT – will we survive the 15mins breaks between sessions?  We had 30mins last time out, but I reckon with separate rooms and hopefully different moderators each time we should be fine.  

I’ve also had a fun idea about my own session at the conference on helping NQTs settle in to the job and survive their first year of teaching.  But I think I’ll keep that under wraps for now so I have a little surprise in store on the big day.  





An overlong return

2 05 2012

Long by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

It’s been much too long since I last ran – 18th January in fact, which is well over three months, and to mark my return to the roads obviously I overdid it, running six kilometres after having had a handful of pilates classes and a couple of quick gym visits since that last run last January.  

Fitness-wise, things have been bad recently.  I’ve put on at least three kilos since new year, I’ve had problems with the knees, the feet and most recently the back, and I’ve done next to no physical activity.  So spending the Mayday holiday running six kilometres was a big step forward, even if I did celebrate it with a big barbecue right afterwards. 

And there were no thoughts at all, I’m afraid.  Simply focusing 100% on what my body was doing.  I’m now so concious that I’m such a bad runner, that I’m always overcompensating for some injury or other and so therefore am always running unbalanced and favouring something, that I simply focused the whole time on trying to run as upright as possible, trying to bend the knees to provide some bounce and save them from some swelling, and to keep my stomach in and my back straight.  Although stiff today, I’m pleased that I managed not to hurt myself with all this overdoing it and can already think about my next, more staid session.  It should be tomorrow but won;t be, because we’re off to the book fair, but hopefully the weekend will bring more kilometres, more balanced form and maybe even a thought or two.  





Me is for Method: Comment on Scott Thornbury’s blogpost ‘A is for Approach’

22 01 2012

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/a-is-for-approach/#comment-6497

Many thanks for such a measured and thoughtful rise to the challenge, which really helps me to move closer to my own understanding of what Dogme is and how it can help us to keep improving as ELT teachers. (Although I wish you’d linked back to one of my ‘real posts’ such as ‘Who Needs Dogme?’ rather than my post-run ramblings like ‘Plodding and Pondering’ :) ).

On first reading, your post almost convinced me that perhaps Dogme was, in fact, an Approach, but closer reading, especially of your Richards and Rogers quote, leads me, personally, closer to a conclusion that Dogme is, if anything, a Method. But certainly not ‘just another’ Method, Luke, don’t worry!

In order to be an Approach, Dogme would have to ‘refer to theories about language learning…’. I take this to mean that it suggests theories, or expounds theories, or borrows theories from other areas of academic research and applies them innovatively within the language learning field. As you admit later in your post ‘these theories are not original’, Dogme doesn’t do this.

On the other hand, if we read on and examine Richard’s and Rodgers understanding of Method, we find it…
“…is theoretically related to an approach, is organizationally determined by a design, and is practically realized in procedure” Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T (2001:20).

For example, a behaviourist approach to learning theory helped to pave the way for the Audiolingual method, which then gave rise to such practical techniques as drilling being used in the classroom.

Within this framework, I now feel Dogme is closest to a Method. It is theoretically related to socio-linguistic approaches to learning, communicative approaches to learning and, perhaps it could be argued, emerges from an eclectic approach to language learning.

It is organisationally determined by a design, since it reacts to the ‘overdesign’ of course book dominance of course content and syllabus design and seeks to place the responsibility for design firmly in the laps of the students, perhaps scaffolded by the teacher. Your further comment about Dogme utilising process syllabi is another very helpful suggestion, although it also adds to the feeling that Dogme’s not the most original of methods.

And it is practically realized in procedure, which can be evidenced by all of the mind-opening and technique-honing descriptions of Dogme practice that you so deservedly praise.

Indeed, Bartolomé’s definition of “effective methods” in a given “socio-cultural context” (2003, p. 411) seems particularly close to how I understand Dogme’s raison d’être:

‘‘The informed way in which a teacher implements a method can serve to offset potentially unequal relations and discriminating structures and practices in the classroom and, in doing so, improve the quality of the instructional process for both student and teacher.’’ (2003, p. 412)
And Larsen-Freeman’s assertion that:

‘’As teachers gain experience, they come to understand a particular method differently ‘’ (Larsen-Freeman, 2005b, p.11).

also fits in with your point about the similarities and differences between how teachers implement their understanding of Dogme in the classroom.

Perhaps it’s in the distinction between whether or not Dogme relates to learning theories in an original way, or combines by now ‘unoriginal’ theories into an original method, or does neither, that our views differ (I don’t share Jason’s view that looking at it as all three is very helpful).

But whether Dogme ends up being an approach or a method or something else, and whether it actually matters, as you hint it’s time to move on. Even if we disagree on where Dogme is coming from, we share a vision of where it should be going. As you say, only through continuous experimentation, description, debate and a little bit of debunking (mostly by sheep in wolves clothing such as meself :) ), will it mature into either an approach or a method. And this is where it provides excitement and where we all need to continue experimenting along with our students and trainees in their classrooms and where I’ll get amusing myself on my blog once I’ve had another run…

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bartolomé, L. (2003). Beyond the methods fetish: Toward a humanizing pedagogy. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 408-439). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Larson-Freeman, D. (2005). On the appropriateness of language teaching methods in language and development. ILI Language Teaching Journal, 1 (2), 1-14.

 Scott Thornbury (19:24:50) :

Thanks, Neil, for coming on board, and in such a measured and well-informed manner.

Thanks also for raising the ‘method’ issue. You may have noted that I carefully avoided the term in my original post, mainly because the term now seems to have out-lived its sell-by date (see my video blog M is for Method for a brief overview). This is because (pace R & R) there seems to me to be no stable, identifiable and autononmous entity on the trajectory from ‘approach’, on the one hand, and the way that that approach is actualised in particuar contexts, on the other. In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook. But, of course, Dogme has no coursebook. It doesn’t even have a syllabus. It is simply an idea that has accreted practices, and out of these practices something recognisably distinctive seems to be emerging. But it’s not a method, any more than CLIL is a method, or task-based language instruction.

As for Dogme’s lack of originality, I wish i could count the times that I’ve said that there is nothing new about Dogme. Except the label. Just as there was nothing new about America. Until Columbus named it that way. ;-)

mcneilmahon (20:31:34) :

I really should be doing other things, Scott, but had to respond to this bit:

‘In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook’

…because in the contexts I’ve worked in over the last 15 years, there has always been a range of methods for teachers to choose from depending on which learning theories they believe in and which approach they therefore take. As I’ve said elsewhere (Who Needs Dogme?) perhaps this is because I’m one of the lucky ones. Encouraged to take an Eclectic Approach, I explore different methods (including Dogme and even a bit of Al or GT when the context suggests it), and practice a range of techniques that have evolved from and outlived those methods.

But I do find the idea of method helpful and persuasive, even if, as Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi puts it in his conclusion to a fascinating article on post-method language teaching:

”Method is a strange concept, old and new, meaningless and meaningful.”

And he goes on to conclude benefits of methods that I imagine all Dogme-gicians would find heart-warming?

”With all systematicity it bears and the order it creates, method swings back and forth from meaninglessness to meaningfulness. At times, it deals with and leads to well-defined patterns as realizations of coherent thoughts and informed practice. There are also times when method equals chaos, especially when in the hands of unimaginative users, unreasonably insisting on sticking to their dogmatic principles. Methodic patterns as they emerge, though, are the quintessence of excellent harmony. However, when dictated and followed blindly, patterns would lose their context-sensitive meaning. Prescription of contextually isolated patterns would, then, impose limitation and this limitation will result in fossilization of practice. Teachers with dynamic minds would never let that happen, struggling to create coherence and meaning as they discover, perceive, interpret, implement and modify methods.”
(Reza Hashemi, ‘(Post)-Methodism: Possibility of the Impossible?’, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 137-145, January 2011

By the way, just in case anyone isn’t sure, I see slavishly sticking to a course book as ‘unimaginative use’ and most Dogme-gicians I know as ‘teachers with dynamic minds’.

And this is why I see Dogme as a method, but not ‘Just another Method’. Because most other methods that are fondly remembered on in-service training courses such as the IH CAM or DELTA, have been outlived by the techniques within in that have been shown to work, while the method itself has been shown to be flawed. Dogme is different in as much as it is alive and vibrant and is showing us at the moment that it can work. The real question is whether or not after a lot more debate and description and debunking it stands the test of time in the way most other methods don’t – it would be very exciting for all of us and our language learners if it does.

Time, as always, will tell, and it’s high time I was doing something else…





Plodding and Pondering

16 01 2012

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/142107065

A successful and satisfying 10km yesterday, after a full day’s work, which had begun with lots of blog work, continued with coordinating and finished up with the run and Lorenzo’s OIl.  The run was the first time in a while that I’ve left the security and proximity of the small lake of Palermo and extended my run out to the big lake.  This is my classic 10k route from home out to and round the big lake and then down to and round the small one.   There was actually a lot more pondering than plodding during the hour and pico that I was out as I was going at a pace of 6:30/km for mostof it and managed to keep it going throughout the 10km.  Unbelievably, I managed to distract myself so much with thoughts of blogging and commenting on all things Dogme so much that I missed my turn off and got a little lost around the small lake – ridiculous behaviour.  

The thoughts that distracted me so much were:

Why is it every time I get close to accepting Dogme someone annoys me with their ‘overeagerness’ for the cause?  Is it something about them, the disciples of dogme, the Dogme-gicians as I’ve decided to call them, or is it something about me?  Am I too unforgiving, too eager to criticise, too cynical? 

What is Dogme?  Noone, even among the Dogme-gicians, seem to be able to agree on whether it’s an approach, a method, a technique, a tool, an attitude, a lesson type or an irrelevance.  And does it matter?  I think it matters if people are passing it off as something it’s not (e.g. an approach), at least to me.  I don’t like people exagerrating the cause.   Am I close in my idea of it as a reflection tool? How do I go about deciding?  Discussing each possibility in a blog post?

Which took me onto the last main thought – how do I reply to everyone’s comments while continuing to blog and while doing the rest of my work etc.  Yesterday morning I ‘wasted’ two hours blogging and commenting on various posts, which I should have spent doing my coordinating work.  But it was fun and stimulating and I got my work done eventually.  Perhaps I should settle for using my comments on other blogs as printing press posts on my own blog, and perhaps a post summarising the main criticisms of my recent posts and my reactions to them, although it will have to wait until next weekend…