Um, I’m Denise Murray and currently I’m the director of the National Center for English Language and Teaching—whoops. English Language Teaching and Research at McCory University in Sydney, Australia. And I’ve just moved from California where I’ve been for the last 20 years and I was uh Chair of the Department of Linguistics and Language Development in San Jose State University.
Well, when we look at K-12 instruction in the US, and I guess we also need to P in front of it because in some states uh P, as well as kindergarten. Uh, some of the—the real difficult realities for the teacher in the classroom is that in some settings they will have many, many different students in their classroom. Um, in others there will be a large percentage of one particular group of students and therefore you would have to use different models of instruction. Uh, you can use bilingual education, for example, if you have a large number of the same language background students. But if you’ve got 20 different languages uh groups in class, clearly you’re going to have to use ESL methodologies. And, of course, one of the other methodologies which I’ve fought against for the last 20 years of the my career is the whole issue of the marginalization of the ESL profession and the fact that in so many cases um—and I hope that isn’t going to be the case um with the endorsement in Utah, but in many places the ESL classes are held in, you know, closets and basements and that sort of an add-on and isn’t part of the regular cur—curriculum and isn’t thought about in terms of the regular curriculum. And particularly an assessment of the learners that um—they aren’t considered when curriculum is designed or when uh they’re trying to assess their—the knowledge that they have gained.
Well, ESL at the moment is in a bit of a critical state in the United States uh because although bilingual education, it’s been largely under attack right at the moment. Um, because ESL is part of a bilingual program and the two clearly are interrelated with the same set of language learners this has had an affect on sort of a negative backwash effect on ESL around the country as well so that um it—people aren’t sort of seeing this as a disciplined based um area of instruction and that ESL learners truly do have different learning patterns and need to have different sorts of instructional models used with them, the mainstream students and so a lot of what is happening in many coun—many states, for example, the unintiative in California un in taking away bilingual education, its also taking away even almost the name, ESL. Um, so that we have this new structured immersion which nobody quite knows what it is yet and yet we already have a discipline of ESL, a field of ESL that has been around longer than the 20—30 odd years that I’ve been in the field. Um, so we’re really at uh a difficult junction point at the moment. And uh I’m just hoping this isn’t going to disadvantage the students who are in the classrooms now, but that we can come out of this with perhaps new ways of approaching uh the education of language minority students in K-12 um and I think that’s something that we’re going to have to work hard on, uh which is going to be a little bit more political then educational, I think, in order to achieve gains for the—the kids who are in our classes.
OK, um well it’s pretty clear that there is a situation where there are a lot of students who are from the same language background that a bilingual model is workable. But, of course, in many classes around the country uh that’s just not possible because there’s going to be, you know, 20 different language groups in a particular class and so the uh methodologies and uh some of them being used are going to have to be more um ESL. Um, I think the area that I find most exciting and is in the uh TESOL’s publications and the TESOL standards for pre K-12 students uh in the US, that work uh is really interesting because it looks at all of the foundations that the learners need. You know, the—the language issues, but also the sociocultural issues and also the content because I think often in ESL classes one of the disadvantages has been that some of the ESL instructors have not necessarily been content teachers. They’re never given the time to work with a content teacher and so often the language instruction is contentless and the learners’ sort of slip in learning the content, whether it’s in social studies or in math or whatever. And to try and bring all of that together I think is where we have to be heading in the future so that the students get the content that they need in order to progress in their subject matters areas and they’re also getting the language uh support and they’re improving in their English at the same time while still maintaining their mother tongue uh because that as we know is a very good foundation for their learning if uh if the English language and particularly for English language literacy.
Um, interestingly enough about uh the difference between ESL and bilingual uh I think my whole history has been trying to bridge the gaps that there often are in people’s conceptualization of it rather than in—in reality. Um, if you have a bilingual program, one of the goals is for the learner to learn English. And so ESL has to part of the instruction there. But in many cases teachers in bilingual programs were never taught ESL strategies and on the reverse side, you know, somebody who was teaching ESL may know nothing about bilingual education. So I was very pleased in—when I was working for 20 years in California to—to get to the point where we were able to bring these two together and create a whole certificate program that had the two working side by side in—well, actually side by side’s wrong, in integrated fashion because there’s so much common to both. You know, the understanding of language, understanding of culture and uh many of the methodologies are the same. But ESL is part of a bilingual program but it can also be a stand-alone program.
Um, yeah, I mean as most people uh know a lot of the work that I’ve done has been about—sort of semi-political advocacy on behalf of the profession. People tend to think of advocacy unfortunately as, you know, just going and lobbying um the Federal government or your local state Parliament and so on. But I have a much broader view of advocacy. Um, I think of that as individual teacher who has a language minority student in her class who was misplaced by whatever placement tool is being used by the school district and goes to the principle or goes to the school district and say, “You know, how the—the student is performing in class is totally different from how uh she’s being placed, so maybe, you know, she just didn’t perform well on the placement assessment. Can we do something about it?” And that’s been part of my goal is to try to empower teachers to advocates for themselves as a—and as a profession, but also for the learners. So when I sort of uh fight for advocacy, it’s not just about, you know, trying to get legislation changed, that’s part of it, but it’s also being pro-active so that we can as a profession act in professional ways that help learners to reach the best that they possibly can so that teachers can be considered to be a profession. I’ve always been very dismayed at the sort of second-class citizenship that ESL teachers so often have um in the country. This actually applies at the adult level as much as it applies in the P-12 area, unfortunately. And TESOL as a professional organization has spent a lot of its time trying to change those perceptions uh in the world. We’ve done a lot of advocacy work. I think all of the standards projects we’ve had looking at student standards, looking at teacher standards, all of that also is a professionalization of the—the field. Because unless we decide what the standards are of—for what a teacher should know and be able to do in the classroom, you know, it should be the professionals associations that makes those decisions. And until we do that, you know, we’re not going to be recognized by other groups um as being professional.
The—the standards effort in um—in the TESOL Association began while I was on the board uh before I got into the presidency line. So I was on the board for seven years. So it was about eight or nine years ago that it began. It’s a very slow process trying to develop standards and uh TESOL now has standards for P-12 learners, they’re working on standards for um P-12 teachers that will eventually be part of the NKAT accreditation process. We also have ones in other arenas such as adult education and so on. And I know some people have a real, sort of problem with standards because they think, you know, how can you have a standard that, you know, everybody can reach or some people don’t like to see that, you know, a standards imposed. And that’s where I think a professional association comes into play because it should be the professional deciding what it is the teachers need to know, what they need to be able to do and what’s sort of dispositions they have towards their learners, towards teaching, towards the learning process. Um, and when we can make those decisions and then have people adopt them, that’s a very powerful model. And the projects in uh—that TESOL’s been engaged in have been very successful so far. The one for student content area uh is particularly excited because it was uh somewhat different from some—some other ones. We had a lot of grass roots support, the standards and the performance indicators were written by uh teach—practicing teachers around the country. They were all sort of, you know, massage so that it—you know, it was a coherent hole and rather then it being imposed by some sort of Federal body, which there is none for—for students, what happened was those standards were then taken sometimes by states or sometimes by individual school districts or by individual schools who would then ask some technical help from TESOL to work with them so that they would develop new curricular that would be aligned to the TESOL standards because the standards were specific enough, but general enough that people could adapt them for local areas. And that I think is vital with standards and why some people get very nervous of the idea of national standards because they think, you know, “How can I in a small school district in Kentucky possibly have the same sort of um situation as, you know, in downtown Los Angeles.” I mean, clearly uh you’ve got to look at context. But if you develop the standards so that they have flexibility that any curriculum can be designed for students to meet the standards within the context of the particular school district or school or whatever, that’s what I think is exciting about the ones that TESOL developed. They really were teacher standards that teachers wanted and were able to use and often convinced their school district their principle that their profession had given them a tool to be able to help develop curriculum that met the needs of their students.
Well, the reason that they were uh more general was for—for the reason that they could be used in any different context and they’re not meant to be a curriculum document. Um, it’s meant to be, you know, a general frame work and then each state, each school district who wants to use it can develop their own curriculum and still abide from it. And now that we’ve got the textbooks—they’re not textbooks, but the books that have come out for the different levels with actual samples um of classroom uh—they’re almost like lesson plans but the classroom activities and tasks uh in different types of settings, that provides a lot more guidelines and uh models that people could use. But it’s—I think it’s really vital that these are done at a local level. I mean, not only because the context—context is different, but also because it gives the teachers who are helping develop that curriculum power and control over what they’re—they’re doing in their local area. I mean, the idea of national standards that are so detailed that, you know, every Tuesday everybody’s going to do the present perfect, I mean that’s—I think any American would raise their hands in horror. Um, but I certainly would. And we certainly didn’t want to go down that road when we uh developed the standards.
It’s really fascinating that I’m now back in Australia. I am originally an Australian but, you know, I’ve had 20 years in the profession in the—in the states and being very involved with—to go back to Australia and see such a different context um, although they’re both Federal um in terms of government organization, in some areas there’s a lot more central control in Australia. Um, in the adult area, for example, there is a whole adult program which is, in fact, part of the center that—that I run. Um, that that is done by the Department of Immigration and that is nationwide and we have a curriculum nationwide. Uh, then the actual what happens in the classroom is up to the individual teacher. And that is just not the case with education um in the US. At the state level, it’s a little more similar. I mean, sorry. The K-12 arena is uh most—more the same. Um, much more state um—more local control. But Australia is so much smaller that you could have a state doing curriculum and so on whereas in the state it’s usually the local school district although there’s some state control. Um, it depends a lot on the—on the state. But Australia also has gone to ESL standards and developed these actually before we did here in—in the states. And we used the Australian models when we were developing the P-12 student uh standards here in the US. Um, but I think the—the difference is more at the adult level—level. I think there are a lot more similarities at um P-12 um except for the bilingual education. Uh, that—there are some programs in Australia, but not very many. Um, it’s very seldom that you get a school that has um, you know, a large enough number of students from one language background uh to be able to actually have a bilingual program. They do exist but um most of the classes tend to be ESL. Um, the other thing that’s similar is—is a negative I’m afraid. Um, in both countries literacy sort of hit the—the uh news waves in the early 1990’s and so in both countries Federal governments got all worried about how illiterate they—the population is. And uh so they wanted to have uh literacy campaigns and improve the reading/writing skills of uh students coming out of school. And in both places they sort of tried to subsume ESL underneath that. And that has been to the determent of ESL in both places because what—what—trying to develop literacy for native speakers is rather different from non-native speakers. And I think it’s very important that ESL maintain its own professional knowledge base. It has a large research base and so and then language becomes really important um for the second language learner.
When people talk about, you know, a literacy programs and that we know we’re sending kids out of school who don’t have literacy, um they’re usually—they’re probably about four different populations that they’re often looking at. One is um often the indigenous uh peoples uh or as in the US also African-Americans who speak a variety of English but isn’t the prestige variety, that isn’t the one that is used for um the national broadcasting, for example, or for academic writing and so on um, and in Australia aboriginal English sort of fits into that category. Now, of course, in the US there’s Chicano English as well. So that’s sort of one area that people often think of literacy and therefore often talk about remediation. But in fact what it is for that population is not remediation, but it’s learning a new dialect, in fact. It’s learning a new variety of English that is used for academic purposes and that’s the more prestige mainstream uh variety. The other um population that people are often looking at is the second langue population. And so they’re saying, “OK, this is a group of students who, you know, don’t have literacy in their first language, don’t have literacy in English” and, you know, people have even said that, you know, they—some people have claimed they have no language, which of course, you know, we know from the research is um totally absurd. Um, and that population falls often into two categories too. Or there are probably more but this is an over generalization. There are those learners who do not have much literacy in their first language, whether it’s because it’s a preliterate culture or because they’re from a particular socioeconomic background where they didn’t have access to literacy in their first language. So there are special issues in trying to instruct them in literacy in the second language. Then there are those who—second language uh speakers who are highly literate in their first language for whom developing literacy in English is relatively straightforward. Um, and then, you know, a fourth population that people are often thinking about of those who, you know, some how or other are not um literate are often, you know, kids who come from some sort of um deprivation in their—in their family environment, their—it may not just be their family, it may be where they’re living or it may be poor schooling. But for some reason, you know, the schooling that they got was not to the level it was allowed able to allow them to develop their literacy. Um, and so it’s really difficult when people say, “OK, we have a literacy problem.” Um, I mean I’ve only mentioned sort of four populations and in all of those you can divide up even more. I think we need to look at a much more individual level when we’re talking about literacy, you know, what—what is the issue with this particular learner sitting in my class right now and how can I help that learner uh develop literacy in their first language, in their second language?
Yeah, I’ve spent quite a—a lot of my time, actually, uh working. I—I mentioned the African-American community. I’ve never worked in the African-American community as a community. I’ve had many uh African-American students in my—my classes and when the um Ebonics issue hit the press, I actually was in Australia on—on vacation visiting my folks and I looked at this in the paper and I thought, “Some Australian newspapers person has gotten this totally wrong. I mean, I don’t what on—they can’t possibly be saying in Oakland that they’re going to teach Ebonics. These kids already speak Ebonics. This doesn’t make any sense to me.” And, of course, when I got back I realized that, you know, the Australian newspaper in their tiny little column had just taken a tiny bit of what was going on. And that sort of got me involved and interested um because—because I saw a parallel between that and the, you know, sort of ESL issues that both situations where what we’re trying to do is take what the learner brings to the classroom with the ESL learner it’s, you know, their first language. With the Ebonics speaker, it is a variety of English that they are already absolutely fluent in. How can you move a learner from what they already know and what they already have and what they can do into a possibility of working in mainstream areas with the language of power, the mainstream more academic variety? Um, and so that’s why I started sort of writing about Ebonics. Um, excuse me. I don’t like writing on behalf of a community to which I don’t belong. Um, but I have talked to some of my colleagues and friends who are African-American and they’re comfortable with the things that I’ve been talking about. Um, but I wanted to sort of bring the two different research branches together because I think that the more we talk to each other and the more people understand how languages work, um I think the better we’re going to be able to serve all students in our classes. Southern state was a good example of this. Um, when my department was formed there was a big question of what we were going to do with the “remedial learner” who came out of high school and did pass the uh placement test to go into freshman composition and that group is mostly ESL students or uh long-time bilinguals in the—in the US, a lot of African-American kids. Um, and some kids who for some reason just didn’t quite get it when they’re in school. And one of the uh suggestions was made, “Well, you just look after the ESL students and, you know, we’ll have the others do remedial,” and I said, “OK, well tell me what’s an ESL student.” And a consultant came to us and said, “Well, they’ve been in the country five years.” I said, “So OK, if somebody’s been in the country four years 11 months we take them. If they’ve been here five years, one month, they go somewhere else?” I—I just—I don’t get this. You know, can you explain to me what’s the research methodal—you know, what’s the research behind this that says there’s something magical about five years. They said, “Well, you know, there isn’t any but, you know, the first five years—if they haven’t gotten if after that, they probably not going to get it.” And I said, “So you just, you know, write off these students, you know who’ve been here a little longer?” Um, I was a little incensed by this sort of whole proposal and fortunately, you know, other people who were in the department felt the same way and also the dean and people who were developing the department did as well. And so what we decided to do was to—out department would deal with all of these students and we wouldn’t stream them, we would put them all in the same class with the goal being that the only thing that they didn’t have was academic English and that was what they had in common. They all had some sort of English, whether it was, you know, Chicano English or African-American English or some sort of, you know, ESL English. What they didn’t have was the language of, you know, the—the sort of mainstream community in academic English and so we called the classes academic English. Um, they’re awfully difficult to teach. You know, I don’t want to say that this is, you know, the perfect solution or that it makes life easy. Um, because there are individual different needs there. You know, if I had uh only an African-American group of students I would have them going and studying their own language, take recording it, writing down the grammar of it, comparing it with what they’re seeing in their textbooks, and doing that sort of analysis. If I have ESL students, I’d be teaching them more about, you know, language awareness of how English operates and their language operates and so on. Um, so it does make it a lot more difficult. But if—which we did, if you hire people who have good grounding in studies of language, of how language varies, a sort of cultural issues, and a good teaching methodologies we’re able to pull it off. It’s—it’s tough work. But also it sort of—I thought it was going to be a ghettolization of different groups of people and let’s face it, when we’re in the world and you’ve got a job, you’re not going to have your ESL people all in one place and your African-Americans somewhere else, and somebody else somewhere else. So I thought this is—this is life. This is the way it is and um I think that—I think we’ve served all of those communities a lot better by keeping them together, helping them to interact with each other and having excellent, excellent instructions. So that’s sort of how I got into the Ebonics argument, which seems odd for an ESL person. But it’s largely because I see a lot of commonalities and my biggest issue on this is that every teacher education program in the country should teach about language whether you’re going to be a math teacher—and I’m a former math high school teacher. Um, I came into language in a sort of secretors ways. So, you know, so I can say this because I was a math high school teacher and I think if had been and I knew—had known about language, um although when I went to school we did a lot more about language then, but I think every teacher education program should have the study of language. And I don’t just mean formal linguistics. I mean, certainly how language operates at the grammatical and syntactic level. But it’s also the sociocultural issues that—that language varies. You know, my language varies as I’m talking here. This isn’t how I talk to my husband. This isn’t how I talk to my cat. And if, you know, people understand this, then they won’t have the sort of um discrimitory views of the way an African-American kid talks or, you know, be pejorative about, you know, a Chicano English or whatever. So I think this is absolutely vital as the first stepping point to be able to make any sort of change in teaching practice and in attitudes towards um language differences, is for people to really understand how language operates. As you can tell, I’m really passionate about this.
I guess what I’d want teachers to understand about Ebonics is the way it’s structured and so it’s a rule-governed variety of English. Um, and I’d like them to be engaged in the debate of whether it’s a language or a dialect, not because I think there is an answer, but because I think they would at last begin to see that saying with something is a dialect or a language is—Euro Winerick (? spelling) said, you know, it’s a question of whether—what—what did he say? A language is a dialect with an Army and a Navy, right? Which, you know, any linguist has heard. Um, and I think that’s just sort of a wonderful expression that you—it doesn’t matter whether you call Ebonics a variety or a language, um because, you know, languages are only when they’re languages f power. Anyway, um so just knowing the—the choice of the standard language is purely arbitrary. So why is English the language of globalization? Purely arbitrary because British colonialism, American um uh power both economic and political power. I mean, it’s an accident of history like Latin became, you know, um the language uh used around Europe. And, you know, when people understand this, I think they have a very different view um about, if they’re an Ebonics speaker, about their own uh use of language and teachers would see that, “Oh, OK. You know my language varies as I’m talking to different people. I may have two or three different reg…”—I hope they’ve got more than two or three. I hope they’ve got a lot of registers. Um, so they’re the sorts of things I’d like teachers to know about Ebonics as just an example of how language varies.
We have probably—um, I don’t know if anybody knows but I always talk about remediation with quote marks around it. Um, and I do this because I absolutely hate the term uh because you can only remediate if the—the person was given the opportunity to learn it in the first place. So if you have uh, for example, an Ebonics speaker or an ESL student who’s been in, you know, mainstream classes in—in the states for five or six years but they were never actually taught academic English, you can’t tell them—tell me that it’s then remediation when they get to college. Um, it’s new. So that’s why we don’t like using how the word remediate. And in my program at San Jose State, we fought very hard against it. But the institution always wins. So, you know, institutionally the whole system called it remediate so we sort of had to fall into that labeling, but always with sort of quote marks around it. And so, you know, so one of the misses—that—that all of this stuff is remediation and that’s because they think that students were never exposed to it and if you could just sort of remediate them, everything would be well. And the other is that, you know, if you look historically, you discover that freshman composition is in fact a remedial program once. Um, and it was because, you know, in the—in the late 1800’s suddenly um Berkeley and I’ve forgotten now the other university that started um having engineers and—and uh commerce, it was, um those courses at the university. And they found that those uh, new students didn’t—they didn’t think could write quite the way their classic scholars could write. And so they said—said, “Well, you need to have some classes on—in, you know, composition. And so it was a sort of remediation. But now it’s just sort of part of the mainstream and there are classes below that are remediation. So, you know, it’s sort of a—a myth to think that, you know, in the 1990’s or now it’s in the 2000, we suddenly have this problem of remediation. If you look back historically, there have always been students who’ve needed to learn a different use of language for different things that they want to do with their lives. So I—I have a problem with the whole notion of remediation.
One of the tough things, of course, is, you know, how do you help the learner move from whatever language they currently are using into um the academic language, whichever variety it is that, you know, is going to be the target. Um, I think there are two issues. I mean, one is just the teaching issue and the other is, “Do the students all want to do it? “ I mean I think that’s something that isn’t always addressed. We often think, “Oh, well we’ve—we’ve got to teach them this.” Um, and I think as an educator we have to make the teaching and the learning available to the learner and I think it would totally remiss of me not to help my ESL learners or my Ebonics speakers who have access to the—the code that is the academic code. But I think they have the right to reject it and say, “No, no, no, I don’t think I want to go this way because I think my community would consider I was white or, you know, I don’t think that I really want to sound like—like me or, you know, whoever.” Um, I think the learner can make the choice. But they can’t make the choice unless they’ve got a choice. And to have the choice, they’ve got to be introduced to the new codes. Um, so I think we need to have that discussion with learners and people often say to me, “Well, you can’t do this with kids and you can’t do this with, you know, beginning ESL learners because they don’t have enough um English.” I—you can’t do it with absolute beginners, of course, and with really young kindergartens, but you can do it with fairly young children, of having them, you know, go out in the communities, tape recording their own use of language, their families use of language, and as I said, even if it’s—look—you know how do they talk to their siblings, how do they talk to um their parents, how do they talk to um—if they’re teenagers, to the kids down the road? And they’ll very quickly see that they use a whole lot of different types of language. I think that’s the starting point is to recognize what they have and that there is no value judgment on what they have. They just have several different registers, maybe several different varieties. That’s the way it is. Where is it that you want to go? And this I what academic writing is going to look like. This is what academic English is going to look like if you want to be successful in school. And to be successful in, you know, writing about history, writing about um science, writing science reports. You’re not going to be able to do that in Ebonics or the slang you use with your teenage friends, or the way you talk to your cat. Right? That’s just not going to be acceptable. And it’s not that one’s right or wrong, it’s just that it’s different. Of course, you’ve got different audiences. It’s a different context. That I think has to be the framework in which you do it and then the actual, what are the little pieces of language that becomes really easy because the students see that it’s just a question of differences.
OK. Um, I have done a lot of work in the technology area um which started and—and maybe this actually work um telling people of where—where I started in this. Um, I was doing a little mini ethnography of literacy practices and, of course, when you’re married you choose your spouse and your family. Right? So I was watching my husband and um taking notes of what he was doing and looked over his soldier and there he was in front of the computer and there were these sort of things flashing across his computer and I said, “What are you doing?” And he said, “Oh, I’m sending e-mail messages um backwards and forwards to, you know, work.” And I said, “What’s all this about? Tell me more about it.” Uh, this was back in oh, about ’82 or ’83 you know, when the word e-mail, nobody knew what it was all about. And that was what got me launched on the whole studies that I’ve in the use of what is called computer mediated communication. Uh, using the computer for communication whether it is, now what’s called Chat or Instant Messaging, Bulletin Boards, uh e-mail, all of those things? And when I first started researching, I always had to spend five pages explaining what—what the actual context was because nobody knew it. Now everybody hands you you’re—they’re e-mail address more than their telephone number. Um, so that’s got—what started me on it. Uh, and being a linguist, I wanted to look at the discourse and, you know, how it was different from spoken language or written language or whatever. And it very quickly was apparent to me that the sort of language that was being used was somehow spoken, but somehow written. And so I thought, “Well, this is really interesting. It’s sort of a form of literacy because it’s written, but it has many of the features of spoken language.” So I kept going down that sort of path of how can we best describe it because we can’t say it’s just a highbred? Um, and I found actually that the Halladain and systemic functional um model of linguistics was the best framework to put this so you’re looking at, you know, what is the audience, what is the purpose of communication? You know, what are the functions that you’re trying to achieve here? And then in some of the studies that I did in industry, I found that people actually switched. They’d be doing an e-mail and then they say, “Um, oh I’ve got some really uh private information. You know, I’ll just—if you’re in your office I’ll just pop down.” And so they would actually move from one uh mode to another depending on the context, depending on the person. Um, so I found that that sort of sociolinguistic frame for being able to place um where e-mail and all CMC fits was a very useful um model for me. But that’s also been the model that I then used in talking about non-literacy in—in general, you know, even when I’m talking about Ebonics and so on. It’s always within this sort of sociolinguistic framework. Um, and now, of course, you know, technology is in schools and kids are sending e-mail to each other and in fact, they are far better at it then I am. And I think it’s going to become an issue at some point. I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Of course, we haven’t developed all the conventions for um e-mail. Uh, it’s still in the process of being developed and I’ve—I’ve been writing about that too. Um, but I think they’ll be a time where we’re going to have to include in our language instruction for, you know, academic English, for composition, for, you know, ESP, EAP, CMC is going to have to be one of the uh modes that’s described because learners um in those classrooms are going to have to learn how to interact by e-mail as much as how to write a business letter. And, as I said, now you can’t sort of teach it because the conventions aren’t right there. So you need to have a discussion about it, but you can’t say, “You have to start an e-mail with Dear, whatever.” Um, but eventually we will have more coded conventions and then will need to be able to teach those conventions to learners.
Um, I—I’ve done quite a lot of work on technology um but most of it has been in—in the area of doing research. I have done very little um that’s actually been um pedagogical, except for a major multi-media project that I was in—involved in that was to do with writing and because it’s a, you know, a product I don’t want to, you know, talk about it specifically. Um, but I—I do think that there are uses of technology that are really very um powerful tools to use in uh teaching both lang—second language—English as a second language or say composition writing and so on and the ones that uh—my center that I’m now at, we’re exploring a number of these. Um, because the technology is moving so fast, um it’s becoming a little difficult to, you know, keep up with what’s going on. We’ve been doing some Web-based work, um you know, using discussionalists, for example, using chat lines. Um, these work very well. Um, chat is a little difficult. I find that that’s not particularly useful um as a pedagogical because you can’t say enough fast enough because most of us aren’t touch typist. Um, but the discussionalists seem to work incredibly well. Um, they also work well because the learners can talk to each other in the discussion group and the teacher can sort of have a bit of a hands off approach, but be an ease dropper, watching what’s going on and intervening when—when they want to. And once we get into broadband and we can actually on the Web send out um, you know, video and so o, then we’ll be able to have, you know, the multimedia products that are now on CD-ROMS that can be delivered by the Web, then I think we’re going to have some really um powerful tools. But, you know, the broad banding isn’t there in—in most cities and certainly we need to talk about distance education. I mean, people usually want to use this technology for distance education, but you know, half the world—I mean, I’ve written about access issues and half the world doesn’t have access to this technology, even in the US. We may be highly technologically advanced, but, you know, the—the digital divide is there and the research on that has shown that, you know, its rural kids um and rural adults, um people of color, low socio—socioeconomic status, um they are the people who don’t have the access and yet they are the people who we would like to reach with distance programs. So we’ve got to find ways around this access problem. And I don’t think it’s because they don’t want it, they can’t afford it. Computers are expensive. So maybe when we get these cheap dummies terminals—you know I started work on dumb terminals. And maybe we get back to dumb terminals that are $200-300; it might make it more possible.
I—I guess over time I’m—I’m passionate about so many things about the field. I mean I’ve been a teacher since I was 19. I was sent into a country school in Australia to teach high school math at 19. Quite an indoctrination—oh, no. What do they call it? Something by fire. Uh, trial by fire. Um, and I’ve loved every moment of teaching as being just the joy of my life. I’m passionate about the problems that we have of not always being recognized, that there never being enough funding for education, you know, the lack of value that communities have for teachers. You know, when—and particularly when you go to some other countries outside of the US or Australia where, you know, educators are, you know, on a pedestal. Um, and we sort of take it for granted and we’re so critical and we’re so unsupportive. Um, whether it’s through our tax money or whether it’s through getting involved in education. You know, the average person is so uninvolved in what it means to be um an educator. And I sometimes wish that a few more legislators and a few more um ordinary folk went into a classroom and saw what it was like to be a teacher, to just stand in those shoes for one day and see the job that a teacher jobs is—I mean, I can’t tell you how um strands of different professions that you do, you know, from nursing and doctoring to mothering, to being a secretary, I mean, you go on. The sorts of things that a teacher is expected to do is incredible. And all I can say is I’m proud of every one—every teacher who’s out there.