Lian, A-P. (2012). English Language Learning in the DIY Era

Category: Education

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Keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Andrew Lian, TEFLIN59, 6 November 2012, Surabaya Indonesia: English language learning and teaching in the do-it-yourself era


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English language learning and teaching in the do-it-yourself era:

English language learning and teaching in the do-it-yourself era Professor Dr. Andrew Lian Suranaree University of Technology Thailand a We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are (Anaïs Nin) The universe is made up of stories not atoms (Muriel de Keyser) Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change (Max Planck)

the 21st century is The Asian Century:

the 21 st century is The Asian Century Asia’s development that will impact on the whole world In particular, there is massive growth in China, India There are new groupings too such as the Asian Economic Community (ASEAN).

globalisation continues:

globalisation continues Linguistic/cultural globalisation brings English with it, but… This does NOT mean that we are moving (or should be moving) only toward English Asian nations need to relate to each other , to major interlocutors and to emerging nations At a very practical level, non-English languages need to remain strong and be strengthened BTW, which English and which English culture?


And… This will place increasing demands on the linguistic and cultural resources of people everywhere People experiencing these demands (everyone?) will require personalised solutions (needs are different and we learn differently) Language and culture education will be critically important but perhaps under-valued / under-funded (because it is so massive??)

Importantly in the 21st century…:

Importantly in the 21 st century… Individuals in all societies (rich or poor), have and will have more access to information than at any time in the entire history of humanity. This can only grow . This important development is being accompanied by…

Some social and intellectual trends:

Some social and intellectual trends They include unprecedented mobility an unprecedented rate of change the growth of interdisciplinarity: we understand that life is not discipline-based (not just Lx) the power of social networks (Egypt and Facebook) everyone is a researcher (growth of a research mentality – weakening of the power of experts ) \ there is a need for creativity and divergent thinking (creativity threatened)(semi-automatic process through exposure to differences?)


And… Some related trends ( affecting all ): we ARE more in groups than ever before. We learn best in groups. This is facilitated by technology Group learning provides more than compensation for lack of knowledge or motivation. Most of all it helps people to look at things differently (Planck, Minsky) A focus on outcomes – people want to achieve things, often their things and, excitingly , Just-in-time learning and the google effect (Sparrow et al.); too much is unpredictable to pre-learn everything, Rise and power of “community intelligence” (public solves scientific problem)


Significantly… What do we do when we need to solve a problem? We go to google, ask our friends or ask “experts”. We are moving from independent to interdependent learning on a massive scale: a new phenomenon We solve serious problems together. And… Potentially, we accommodate for multiple thinking/ learning styles (should encourage creativity) Potentially international (more or less automatically) And… multiple languages may help us think better (Boroditsky) – internationalisation in universities?

Much of this change comes from…:

Much of this change comes from… the emancipatory power (the freedom) of some of the tools provided by modern technology and the availability of these tools: no tools no power interesting, though, is the speed with which people have adopted these tools. for me, this confirms the essentially intrinsic desire by individuals for self-reliance , freedom and independence of thought and action and leads me to the notion of the Do-It-Yourself era many are solving their own problems – by themselves or with private providers i.e. unauthorised sources

In this globalising DIY world:

In this globalising DIY world Language and Culture are critical Consequently, the language/culture teaching profession, including professional networks (like TEFLIN/AsiaCALL) and infrastructure, is critically important It needs to understand these changes, to adapt to them and, where necessary and possible, to mould them for the benefit of all people In other words, as a profession, we need to embrace DIY as it is not going away any time soon

Research will be critical:

Research will be critical Conditions for language-learning in Asia are different non-native speakers of English will interact with other non-native speakers of English not the usual imaginary English native-speaker (globish) the notion of culture in language learning may have to be re-defined … sensitivity/adaptability and we should learn multiple languages – English not enough the EEC’s experience may be very valuable

Many DIY learners will navigate:


In the 21st century atmosphere…:

In the 21 st century atmosphere… self-managed resources will gain importance and formal accreditation will be under pressure : IELTS/TOEFL/private tests will replace B.A. etc. the good news is that resources developed for self-managed spaces will ALSO work in managed (classroom) spaces AND in distance learning this will require at least SOME people with highly specialised knowledge such as TELL developers (requiring specialised degrees/training) but also … all teachers need TELL understandings (more than PPT or MSWord)


Now… If we are becoming a DIY society in everything including language learning, Then we need to have DIY tools available In what follows, I will assume that people need genuine proficiency (not google translate skills) Before moving on, let me mention that many famous universities have come together to offer their materials for FREE! A new dimension in DYI. Is this good? Will the famous universities swallow the less famous?

Now for a few diy examples:

Now for a few diy examples Lots of DYI stuff available but here are some I like First, make your own book and save millions ( Baraniuk ) DIY - – a recorded example DIY - Pronunciation database (auditory perception) Make the invisible visible (the meaningless meaningful): Slowing down/Speeding up & Filtering ( Guberina , Lian ) DIY – Praat pitch analysis DIY - Generate your own practice dialogues DIY - Make your own lessons – e.g. intonation DIY – Explore/Listen to spoken text …. Underneath it all: a linguistic and cultural database

More autonomy – listen/explore:

More autonomy – listen/explore

And some thoughts:

And some thoughts Work will need to be done in an interdisciplinary perspective in the area of language and culture taxonomies to build new kinds of (reverse) “dictionaries” and other Personal S upport T ools (PSTs) PSTs: the equivalent of personal helpers always available to provide the answers we need when we need them and will research them at SUT Language Learning Environments Research Group Some interesting new research (and learning) tools are also becoming available such as Anvil.

ANVIL – things we need but do not teach:

ANVIL – things we need but do not teach



Things not yet done…:

Things not yet done… For instance… Studies of events such as: How do a Hungarian and a Korean function in a conversation in English? OR If not a study, at least provide examples of this as a guide of what to expect – more database work


Awareness-Raising Is clearly an important component of much that I have shown without awareness learning simply will not happen It is helped by support structures and load-lighteners

Also… Knowledge exploration:

Also… Knowledge exploration New exciting systems are also emerging s uch as knowledge exploration systems WEKA (Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis), which is used for making the invisible visible : information buried deep inside large corpora of representations of knowledge

And for the context of DIY learning:

And for the context of DIY learning Here are two possibilities: Second Life Augmented reality this means superimposing computer-generated materials on the real world around you Here is an example: aug_reality_objects.flv All this is fine… but we need to focus on the big picture of learning environments – e.g. LLERG (SUT)

interesting as DIY programs may be:

interesting as DIY programs may be The vast majority are not connected by any over-riding scientific or theoretical constructs - often just fashion or common sense. This is dangerous This is especially the case for the thousands of programs currently available and used on the Internet (the ones you saw actually do have a connecting logic underneath them),

This is dangerous:

This is dangerous because producing more of the same will, potentially, reinforce faulty models, even in the scientific world, how many studies have we done on, for instance, reading and we still have not solved the problem? we seem to be going round in circles.


Ultimately… the challenge is intellectual, not technical. not about techniques, tools or programming but about (changed) ways of thinking for instance, my own work is not based on traditional Anglo-American SLA literature it is built on a postmodern view of meaning-construction derived from Verbo-Tonalism (Guberina), Sociology (Bourdieu), Critical Theory (Derrida, Deleuze) and Critical Pedagogy (Freire) and others… but where are the TESOL people??

And in turn:

And in turn This has led me to work on a model of learning based on students’ personal histories engaged in navigating a rhizome : A system where there is no pre-determined path for them to follow, through a network of representations of knowledge and learning activities. Students may connect to any node from any node. At each decision point, they have choices which they need to exercise wisely Software can offer them good choices


Particularly If these choices are based not on intuition but are personalised according to new research not only into the now commonplace area of strategies but also thinking and learning styles. This is another important area of research that we cannot ignore and which we are performing at SUT Now here is…

A rhizomatic fragment:

A rhizomatic fragment

Three final comments - #1:

Three final comments - #1 Earlier, I said that technology gave us freedom. It can also imprison us because of its models of how to deal with the world (e. g. PPT) We are obliged to conform to the thinking modes o f the software creators i.e. how the software creators want us to think Basically our ways of thinking could be colonised by software writers – probably are Of course, we know that if we are the software writers then everything is ok… Right???


#2 Because so much DIY software is available the teaching profession (the experts) is under strain Why go to a professional and pay money when you can do it all yourself and for nothing (after all google will tell you how… Right???) – or Berlitz… We need to (re-)build trust in us (the experts) The best way to do this is to make research breakthroughs with divergent/creative thinking (100 more years like the last is not an option)

#3 minsky and planck were right:

#3 minsky and planck were right The more I do research, the more I am struck by the need to look at things differently Marvin Minsky said (I paraphrase): in order to really understand something you must understand it in a variety of different ways And Max Planck is reputed to have said: Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change

And all of this means:

And all of this means That there are truly great opportunities for members of the language teaching profession. Literally for each and everyone of us! Don’t wait for the experts to tell you what to do! Do-It-Yourself! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!

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