Only a couple of days ago I learnt about this wonderful movement initiated by Ann Loseva in tandem with Mike Griffin called #FlashmobELT. The whole idea is very simple; ELTs from all over the world are invited to post a description of an activity on this Lino board. Ideally, it should be an activity which was piloted and worked well in their class. Nothing new under the sun so far, right? However, as I'll demonstrate later on, this is more than a mere collection of activities.
First of all, the purpose of this project is not to collect stuff we normally find in teacher's books. The thing is that before posting an activity, the teacher should bear a few rules in mind; most importantly, the activities should be generalized, adaptable, materials free/light, and easily modelled and used with students. The metaphorical icing on the cake is the fact that once a teacher tries out an activity, they are encouraged to blog about their experience.
I have to confess that, like Mike Griffin, I'm not a keen activity collector and I'm not really interested in workshops or webinars primarily focused on sharing all sorts of classroom activities. Ironically, and to my amazement, whenever I attend a conference, I always find myself in an advantage because the workshops I'm NOT interested in are usually the most popular and thus totally full. On a few occasions I was told that unlike me, EFL teachers are generally keen on practical ideas and tips. I should stress though I'm not against sharing of any kind. However, I have a slightly different perspective on sharing activities.
Let me elaborate on this. During their presentation for iTDi Summer MOOC For English Teachers Mike and Anna asked where we teachers mostly find ready-made activities. The influx of links coming from the participants was simply overwhelming. I couldn't quickly recall any of my favourite websites, which was probably due to the fact that I actually make up most of the activities myself. I admit though that the activities I invent are usually inspired by something I heard or saw at some point of my teaching career. I would describe my approach as a combination of inspiration and invention.
Anyway, I believe that he #FlashmobELT project is ideal for both teachers like me and those unlike me. While reading through the activities I catch myself visualizing them 'in action' and at the same time mentally adjusting them to my teaching context. I catch myself assembling bits and pieces, storing those in my memory, and ditching parts which are too complicated or context-bound. Having the activities in one place in an online environment is a great idea, but given the nature of the project (especially the fact that the activities should be easily and quickly accessible), I think it would be handy for me to print them out, classify them and have them stored on separate paper cards somewhere on my desk, so that I could flip through them if need be.
All in all, this is a truly practical and useful project which can help us spice up our teaching. However, there's one more thing I find fascinating. As each sticky note activity is signed by the author, I can see what people in different parts of the work like doing. Thus I can peek in their spaces and get to know their mindsets. By doing so I realize that we are actually sitting in a huge global staffroom and there are things which work/don't work the same way everywhere. Also, I find it exciting that someone might well try out my activity some day and I will be able read about it in a blog post. I believe that apart from the fact that this is an amazing form of communication with like-minded people, it's also a great way of refining things which already worked well for us. We discover that by adjusting and tweaking stuff based on somebody else's suggestions, we can make an activity even more effective and meaningful. Isn't this actually a kind of Action research? Don't we experiment, report and replicate and thus turn subjective assumptions into valid and objective data? One way or another, I think it's cool to be connected.