Summoning the Spirit of the Dodo

Dodo mortar rock Summoning the Spirit of the Dodo

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This post will be re-posted as the feature article on the Oxford University Press ELT blog site on March 14.  (http://oupeltglobalblog.com/)

In a previous post I talked about the infamous dodo bird that mysteriously became extinct in the late 17th century and how we teachers should take care not to suffer the same fate due to our occasional blind love affair with technology. It’s quite funny. My girlfriend often affectionately refers to me as a dodo. More accurately, she calls me a “dodo bird” which is somewhat confusing because I don’t know if she’s referring to an extinct bird or an idiot. I suspect both.

It got me thinking about the evolution of the meaning of the word dodo. As I mentioned in the previous blog post titled, “Is the Teacher Going the Way of the Dodo?” I talked about how the original dodo was the infamous now extinct bird that inhabited a remote island off of the eastern coast of Africa. Over time, that original definition of dodo was replaced by the more modern definition we have come to associate with the word, which as defined by Oxford English Dictionary, is “an old-fashioned, stupid, inactive, or unenlightened person”. Neither definition represents a condition any of us would want to find ourselves in – extinct or being an idiot. However, upon closer examination, I wonder if we should be careful not to quickly dismiss today’s dodo out of hand for fear of overlooking some of its hidden merits. Although our modern dodo may not have been able to save its feathered predecessor, it may paradoxically hold the clues to preventing our extinction as teachers.

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Is the Teacher Going the Way of the Dodo?

Dodo Is the Teacher Going the Way of the Dodo?

© Chris Franek, Unauthorized reproduction of this image is prohibited

Is technology a giant meteor that is threatening teachers with mass extinction? Are teachers perhaps like the infamous Dodo bird that mysteriously went extinct from its remote island off of the eastern coast of Africa in the late 17th century?

Dodo–such a funny name.  In the contemporary use of the word, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “dodo” as “an old-fashioned, stupid, inactive, or unenlightened person.”  That more modern association with the word might have relevant application for the purposes of this post as well as such a person can also find himself on a path to extinction—be it in the literal or metaphorical sense.  I was curious about the dodo in writing this blog post so I did some quick research using our good friend, Wikipedia.  One theory about the cause of their (the bird) extinction centers around the idea that because they lived on a remote island without any predators higher up on the food chain, when they encountered humans, they were unafraid and easily approached.  This inevitably made them easy targets for capture and ultimately a meal.

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New Posts Coming Soon

BertramTrainStation3 1024x682 New Posts Coming Soon

© Chris Franek, Unauthorized reproduction of this image is prohibited

I’ve been remiss in maintaining my blog site this year but that is about to change.  I am planning to restart creating new blog posts on a regular basis.  The big challenge for me is setting up an editorial calendar that includes not only blog topics but concomitant ideas for photo shoots to generate the photos I would need to complement my posts.  Since I’m a photography enthusiast/nut, this gives me an excuse to go out on photo shoots more often.  At any rate, new posts are coming soon along with new photos!

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Ensuring the Inclusion of Culture in Language Learning

Mexican dresses Ensuring the Inclusion of Culture in Language LearningThis is the final post in a four part series discussing why the approach to language learning should not be reduced to grammar rules and vocabulary words as is so often the case.  I believe that when people choose a language to learn, they are not so much seeking a meaning of language as much as they are an experience of language.  I think that experience of language is best transmitted through the cultural context that language arises from.  The ultimate question then, is how do we go about ensuring that culture is included and woven into the language learning experience? ....continue reading article

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Culturally Relevant Language Learning

earthboy south america Culturally Relevant Language LearningIn the previous three blog entries on this topic, I argued for the wisdom of not employing a teaching approach that reduces language down to its sub-components, a bunch of grammar rules and vocabulary words.  By doing so, something that is akin to a rich, vibrant, meal is transformed into a bland pablum.  The learning experience, by extension, also becomes bland.   This blandness is the result of untethering language from the source that feeds it, culture.  In this blog entry, I’d like to talk about what a learning environment that is conjoined to its cultural roots would actually look like.  What does it mean for a learning environment to include culture?

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Choosing a Culture to Learn or a Language?

Mexicanflagface Choosing a Culture to Learn or a Language?In part one of this four part blog series, I talked about how trying to replace eating real food with scientifically formulated meal replacement shakes strips out the joy that is inherent in eating.  Reducing eating to being nothing more than a problem in need of  a solution is probably not wise.  Likewise, reducing language learning to being nothing more than the memorization of a bunch of grammar rules and vocabulary words is also equally unwise.  Language, I argued, is more than a collection of grammar rules and words.  It is connected to culture which in turn is the collective expression of a group of people.  How then, might this inform us in how to more effectively learn a language? ....continue reading article

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Language Learning More Like a Meal or a Shake?

Shake1 Language Learning More Like a Meal or a Shake?I once knew of a young guy in his early thirties who was a former college baseball pitcher.  He was obsessed with being fit and was always working out.  As an outgrowth of his obsession with being fit, he eventually came to the conclusion that what was most efficient and convenient for him diet-wise was to treat the necessity of eating more as a problem to be solved rather than something to be enjoyed.  In his final analysis, he concluded that not only was cooking a waste of time, but eating in general was a waste of time.  Why, he reasoned, should one waste his time eating when science had evolved to a place where there existed an abundant supply of meal replacement shakes that were precisely formulated with all of the nutrients the body needs to function physiologically?  Not only was it more efficient but it was much more convenient.  I suppose my question is, do we really want to reduce eating to being nothing more than nutrient intake? ....continue reading article

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