This post is to present a project I’ve been helping with: ESOL News has come from Reflect ESOL and Action for ESOL. Most of content had already been written by ESOL teachers and learners in London, but I was asked to add an online aspect to it, which you can see at www.esolnews.org
Action for ESOL has led a campaign to get the UK Government to reconsider funding changes which would have excluded large numbers of the most vulnerable learners from being able to access English language tuition. The big success of the campaign so far has been the temporary U-turn regarding funding, however at present this is only due to run for one year and many courses could still have to close next summer. The priority for the campaign now is to ensure that this does not happen, as well as ensure that vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers are not overlooked.
The campaign has tried to involve learners at every point, there was a large number of learners who wrote to politicians and at the protests, as you can see below.
ESOL News is trying to further support this, by providing information for learners on the issues as well as acting as a platform for learners to express their own views. There is a clearly political theme to the materials which might be seen as controversial. Personally, I think it depends on how this is dealt with by the teacher – learners should be the drivers, if a class is not interested then these issues should not be forced upon them. Also it is crucial that learners are allowed to explore the issues, that all points of view are expressed and that learners are allowed to reach their own conclusions.
The issues in this campaign are of direct relevance to many ESOL learners in the UK. ESOL teaching in the UK is supposed to deal with citizenship content alongside linguistic ones – given that language is always embedded in a social context, this is necessary. The Action for ESOL campaign has been a great lesson in democracy as it functions in the UK: Learners have seen the direct response of an election leading to a change of government, they have seen how a change of government leads to a change of policy and the effects of this on themselves as members if a society, they have seen how their disagreement with these changes can be be expressed through peaceful protest and correspondence with their elected representatives and it now appears that they can see how this campaigning can have an effect on policy. The opportunities for allowing learners to express themselves have been very rich – the best example is of a student who could not speak English a few years previously, but who spoke on BBC Radio 4 to a nationwide audience as a result of the campaign.
The magazine started as a PDF but it was easy to create a newsletter website using WordPress, this way we can easily distribute the printable magazine while also having some online activities for learners to try.
We’ve tried to include activities that can be used in class or accessed by learners independently. There are some reading activities and a Lino online noticeboard for learners to share their views. There are also word clouds of all the activities, which tutors can use as they see fit. We want to have a selection of on and offline activities. While WordPress is a great blogging site, it hasn’t been designed as a learning platform. What we want to do is to find some more interactive customisable resources and link to them from the main site. All suggestions for this would be gratefully received, so if any of you readers (come on, I know how good you all are…) have some ideas, we’d love to hear them.
I’d really like to know how you would go about a project like this – have you got any simple ideas to improve the interactive side of a webiste like this? Do you think this could be an interesting resource for your learners? Do you have learners who might like to contribute? Please add some comments below if you have any ideas…