Mark Barnes Interview

Student Centered Learning, Social Learning, and Twitter: An Interview with Mark Barnes

There was an article popping up in my various social media feeds the other day called, “Why Everyone Should Be On Twitter.” I then realized it was by Mark Barnes, another fellow presenter in the TTO MOOC. I then read some more of his stuff, asked him for an interview, and a couple of days later we met on Google Hangouts.

In the interview discussion we talk about student centered learning, narrative feedback, social learning, why teachers should be on Twitter and how best to use this platform.

Below the interview I break down what was discussed and relate this to ELT.

Here is the video interview:

What We Discussed

Mark was a teacher for 20 years, and left the classroom two years ago to focus more on his writing and professional development. Let’s start with..

Creating a Results Based Environment

Mark talks about how he was a “traditional teacher” for the first ten years of his career, but after taking some time to research motivation, he decided to do something different. His biggest focus for this was the final result: learning.

To achieve this he created what he calls a chaotic environment, one where kids are working on different things, have long-term projects, and use different technology to head towards a goal and learn whatever the objective is at that time.

“The most important thing of all was I eliminated traditional grading… I’m tired of measuring kids learning and punishing them if they don’t turn something in… that turned out to be something really exciting.”

Narrative Feedback

Mark talks about a system that he pulled from other systems called SE2R (Summarize, Explain, Redirect, and Resubmit). This is using descriptive feedback to eliminate subjectivity and comparisons. It gives the student to go back and revisit prior learning.

“I think that education should be about mastery learning and not punishing kids with grades.”

We then go on to discuss the tools that we can use to achieve this.

Social and Mobile Learning

Mark then goes on to talk about social and mobile learning and how we should find ways to incorporate the devices our students have into their learning.

“We are heading to a place, very soon, where every kid will have a mobile device.”

“Educators have to face it, and they have to prepare for it.. I have to be ready to use it myself.”

There is then some great advice given in terms of how to do this: watch online videos and actually use the devices and applications that you want to use. And learning how to use these tools will take less time than you think.

Twitter

Mark’s article went viral this week. And he gives a couple of reasons why everyone should be on Twitter (click here for the full list):

1. Free Professional Development: Twitter has an advantage in that it is very professional. Following other educators and following specific chats gives you access to advice and resources in your industry.

2. Kids are moving to Twitter from other platforms.

When joining Twitter, it is important to follow these discussions, find “How to Use Twitter Videos,” follow people in your industry (more specifically, find one person who you look up to and follow who they are following), and post with hashtags when first starting.

Relating this to ELT

Throughout the interview I related what Mark discussed to ELT. Here are some ideas I talked about and more on reflection.

Traditional Marking and feedback: The language schools that I worked in liked exams, and it seemed like half our time was spent on either studying for an exam, taking an exam, or reviewing an exam.

I really like the idea of trying to achieve mastery in learning, especially in our industry. Having running feedback, using Google Drive for example, means that we can ensure that our students stop making mistakes that seem to be engrained. This is something that I have implemented through creating audio resources for my learners.

Repetition is such an important part of learning a language. It is our job to make this fun and engaging.

Student Centered Learning: Although we didn’t talk about this too much, it is really important that we help our students find their intrinsic motivation. This is what I believe to be at the core of a results based classroom, especially when talking about online ELT.

An easy way to do this is to make the lessons centered around the interests of your learners. For example, I have one learner who is an athlete (running, rogaining, skiing, and biking!). The materials we use are centered around these topics. By doing this, we talk about things that she is interested in and she also learns the language that she needs to know.

I recently posted a video for my online learners that talks about how to read interesting things and how to subscribe to blogs (click here to watch it).

Social and Mobile Learning: As I mentioned in our discussion, I convince my students to change the language of their devices into English, and use these devices to read, listen, and watch things in English.

This really helps when it comes to getting the input needed to make progress in English. People are going to use these devices; as educators we need to think about ways to use this to our and our student’s advantage.

Twitter: Mark has given me the motivation to follow more discussions on Twitter and to use this platform for professional development. If you follow Marks advice, you will get so much out of this platform.

Resources Mentioned in Our Discussion

You can follow Mark on Twitter and check out his blog: Brilliant or Insane.

Here are Mark’s books:

Role Reversal

The Five Minute Teacher

Teaching the iStudent

And, here is the website Learn it in 5.

I also mentioned the Twitter discussion #ELTchat, you can find out more information about this here.

Mark talked about Daniel Pink and his book Drive (I’ve just ordered it – I’ve been wanting to get this for a while now), and research from Alfie Kohn.

Over to You

I would love to hear your feedback on student centered learning, social and mobile learning, and narrative feedback. Here are some questions:

How do you keep a narrative feedback with your learners?
How are you incorporating devices into learning?
How are you bringing out your learners’ intrinsic motivation?

Please leave your comments below; I really appreciate them.

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