Innovation

With the Innovate ELT conference coming to a close, I’m (like many others I’m sure) excited at the prospect of some new ideas and talks being shared online. I’m always excited about innovation, but perusing Twitter feeds and blogs often leaves me with a feeling of frustration.

There are several innovation bandwagons rolling at the moment, namely Flipped Classrooms and edTech, as well as the classics such as more natural approaches to teaching. I fear that as these well-founded ideas gain traction, too many cheerleaders are hopping on and taking focus away from the practical implications of the proposed changes in the ELT world.

For example, here’s a short, paraphrased summary of a conversation I participated in today on Innovate ELT’s twitter:

Innovate ELT : What’s wrong with ELT course books? Attend Mr. X’s talk on to find out.

Mr. Pink : What’s wrong with them? Everything! When do we want change? Now!

Mr. Blue : Will your talk propose realistic alternatives for 100s of millions of YLs around the world using course books?

Mr. Red : Just because millions of people do something doesn’t mean it’s good

Mr. Blue : Very true. But reality of huge classes/unconfident teachers often with poor English, what’s the alternative?

Mr. Red : CHANGE!

I’ll stop there, as for me that was enough to see this phenomenon of the bandwagon unfolding. The rest of the conversation was similar – people calling for revolution, giving their vocal support for change, but not proposing one solitary hint of an idea for how that change might be brought about.

Russel Brand is famous for this phenomenon, as he caused a stir last year with eloquent rhetoric regarding the total overhaul of political and financial institutions. This populist argument, which I’m sure seemed sweeter when the royalties from his book began rolling on, dredged up a Twitter army of bandwagon-riders, ready to shout their support for change from the rooftops, despite not having the faintest idea how to bring it about,

Such phenomena by no way indicate a lack of credibility in the original argument, but they certainly undermine its potential for real tangible results. Voices of feckless cheerleaders drown out those with practical, actionable ideas which could potentially lead to the change sought in the first place. This unfortunate situation seems to have fallen upon many of the important drives for change in the education profession, including ELT.

I’m writing this post not just out of frustration, but in support of people in the world who have real ideas that could lead to positive changes in the education sector. Don’t let your voices be drowned out by the bandwagon. Keep innovating, and never let your efforts be undermined by the occasional onslaught of populist rhetoric.