Sunday, March 2, 2014

Plenary Speakers: Interviews (Kieran Donaghy)

Please tell us a few things about yourself and your involvement in education.

I’ve been teaching English for twenty five years and I’ve worked as a teacher in the UK, Portugal, Italy and Spain. I currently work at UAB Idiomes, the language school of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona where I teach general English courses. We offer courses to all the members of the university community but also to the general public, so we have learners from a wide variety of backgrounds which make the classes really interesting. At the moment, I’m mainly teaching seniors who are students aged over fifty five. The classes with the older learners are great fun and very rewarding. I’m also a teacher trainer and I’ve trained teachers in many different countries. In addition, I ’m a writer, I’m the co-author of a book on using films to teach medical English Films in Health science Education.   My website Film English is a free resource site with over one hundred detailed lesson plans designed around short films; it’s visited by over 80,000 teachers every month. I’m really passionate about the use of film in education in general and language learning in particular. I’m also very interested in the role of empathy in language learning and teaching English through values. 

What attracted you to the field of education? 

I studied Politics at the University of Nottingham, but I always wanted to be a teacher. Initially I was going to be a primary school teacher, but I decided to do a TEFL training course as I wanted to travel. I found I really enjoyed the combination of teaching English, travelling and living in different countries and I have stayed in language teaching ever since. I did an MA in ELT in 2000 and another MA in Business Communication in 2003. It’s been a really great career 

Which are some of the most memorable highlights of your career in education? 

2013 was a really great year for me. My website Film English won a British Council ELTons Award for Innovation in Teacher Resources and the most important European media in education prize, the MEDEA Award for Best User-generated Educational Media. Another highlight was founding The Image Conference, the only conference in the world exclusively on the use of film, video, images and gaming in English language teaching. The conference is an innovative and collaborative project which seeks to explore the possibilities which film, video, images and video games offer to both language teachers and language learners, it brings together leading experts and practitioners in the use of images in language learning who share their experiences, insights and know-how and provides participants with an excellent opportunity to enhance their competence in the innovative and creative use of images. The first conference was run in conjunction with the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG and my school UAB Idiomes, and was held in Barcelona in June.  The second edition was organised by Bras-Tesol and held in Brasilia. Both conferences were great successes and this was really satisfying and rewarding.  

Which aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the relationships I build with students, especially the older learners. I find that by teaching English you’re really making a difference to the lives of your learners; English is really essential for the younger university students who need it to help them find a job. With the current recession in Spain a lot of young people are having to emigrate to find a job and English really helps them to further their careers. English is also very important to the older learners as
they didn’t have the opportunity to learn English when they were younger. They are really enthusiastic and hardworking, and make the most of the classes. 

What are you working on now? 

I’m currently writing a methodology book on the use of film in language teaching. It’s a lot of work but also a labour of love. I’m also doing some work on an app which helps students learn English through film. I’m also trying to find a location and venue for the third edition of The Image Conference. In addition, I’m also speaking at a lot of conferences and training teachers. 

What are your professional plans for the future? 

I’m going to write a book on how to write activities for video. One of my dreams is to write a book on teaching languages through values. I’m hoping to move more into materials writing. Another dream is to make a short film which I hope to fulfil in the not too distant future. 

What should your audience expect to learn during the plenary session at the 21st TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece Annual International Convention? 

The session is titled teaching English Through Film in a World of Screens, and
in it I’m going to examine and offer guidance on using film critically and creatively in language teaching in a world of screens. I’m going to look at why film is increasingly important in society, education and language teaching in particular, the benefits of using moving images in language teaching, and some pedagogically sound approaches to film in language teaching. I’m also going to demonstrate some generic activities which can be used with virtually any film, film clip or short film. I’ll also show where teachers can find excellent free film guides and websites where they can send their students to learn English through moving images online. I hope the audience will go away with a better understanding of how we are living in the age of the image, how we can embrace this in language teaching and with very practical ideas and activities to 
use with their students. 

What are the three words that sum up your session? 

Creative Critical Fun  

Is film just a new medium or a whole new language for students? Can we use film in a form of short digital stories to replace written narratives and essays at school?  

I think that film is fun, motivating and entertaining. It’s undoubtedly the rising language of the 21st Century and we should embrace this in language learning.  This is not to say that print literacy is going to die, it’s obviously going to remain a key literacy. However, other literacies such as film literacy are going to become increasingly important. Print literacy and film literacy are not mutually exclusive; they often work hand in hand.   
One of the things I’m going to look at in my talk is how we can use student-generated moving images in language teaching. With the increasing ease of capturing, editing and distributing moving images through distribution sites such as YouTube and Vimeo anyone who has a smartphone or tablet is potentially a film-maker. This can be exploited in the language classroom. One of the things we can do is to get students to make very short videos of things which are important to them on their mobile devices, bring the videos to class and talk 
about the videos they’ve made.   

Thank you very much, 

Anastasia Loukeri 
for TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece  

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