Time to prepare for disruption?

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the ACEIA conference, held every year in Seville. This single day conference brings together teachers from (mostly) language academies all over Andalucia. There are always some impressive speakers and an exhibition featuring all the main ELT publishers.

I took the opportunity to catch up with friends, did a bit of networking and even attended a couple of talks. I listened intently to Jeremy Harmer discussing the potentially dystopian future of ELT (Through a glass darkly) a discussion worthy of some good beard-stroking contemplation.

In his talk, he ran through the concept of disruption and disruptive technologies, both outside and inside the field. Uber, Air BnB and Purple Mattress (a new one on me) from outside, and DuoLingo, the Waverley Pilot and AI computer marking of exams from inside.

We moved on to the need to analyse what we do, whether the grammar syllabus is ripe for disruption, what influence CLIL will have, if Sugata Mitra is, or isn’t, right about MIE, SOLES and the role of the teacher. We went on…and my notes begin to look (slightly) poetic (to me anyway):

Ivan Illich – deschool,

(skipped a slide about Summerhill)

Berlin school,

oil tankers,

the fact that Donald Trump is a …

Teacher training

What’s efficacious?

Teacher tribes

Echo chambers

All extremely suitable for a good think and deep discussion. However, speaking to a friend later, I heard that some colleagues of his had said it was ‘rubbish’, because Harmer failed to ‘offer any solutions’. Now, Jeremy Harmer is an interesting man, and he’s a hugely successful writer and speaker with much ELT success behind him. However, I think that requiring a Saturday morning, plenary-style talk on the future of English language education in the face of disruption and change (which “happens slowly, until it doesn’t“) to offer ANSWERS is perhaps asking a bit much.

Mind you, I thought the answer was clear. At least the answer I took away for myself was clear. The role of language teachers and face-to-face language classes, language academies and what they offer and the whole industry around language learning is changing. It has always been changing, you may argue, and that is indeed true. But I feel that there is a likelihood that some significant change to the current model of language academies is likely to occur over the next few years. The answer to take away from the talk, if you ask me, is a question:

What are YOU going to do to ‘ride the wave’ of disruption?

Any thoughts? Let me know. Thanks for reading.

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1 Comment

  1. I think this is an interesting question to ask at the moment. To me the secret to what the role of teachers and classrooms will be is to understand the aesthetic and social possibilities of the classroom, since the part to do with delivery of info/content will be the bit disrupted first and most by technology, im guessing

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