Would you rather text than talk?

Would you rather text or email than talk?

It’s just so easy. I don’t have to interrupt anyone, I can write while I’m in the moment, I don’t have to hold anything in my memory, I don’t even have to wait my turn to talk. When the thought appears, I can just shoot a message off and my counterpart can react when it is convenient for them. In some case, with my more talkative friends (and family members) a digital message is the only way I can get a word in edgewise.

Plus, I can re-read, check my tone or make sure I didn’t word anything in an insensitive way. I can edit. Digital communication allows me to put forth my best self. Great stuff…right?

Sherry Turkle is not so sure. Her TED talk Connected but Alone? takes a good hard look at what digital communication may be doing to us. We have all heard that technology may be making us more isolated, so beyond this statement, just how it is doing that? Turkle gets right under the hood of our communication habits and puts forth some thought provoking concepts that definitely gave me pause.

This lesson is definitely for more advanced students. I did this with a mixed class of high level and lower level students and the lower level were a bit lost. However, I still recommend using first language material as much as you can to get their ears and minds used to native speaking. Once they get over focusing on what they don’t understand and focus on what they do, they will increase their ability to get into the English speaking community.

Pre discussion

  • Let’s hypothesize…Why do you think Turkle thinks texting and emailing is making us more isolated?
  • Make a pros and cons list for digital communication
  • What is the difference between isolation and solitude?
  • What is the difference between friendship and companionship?
You can change the play back speed
And add subtitles

The Video: TED Sherry Turkle: Connected but Alone?

There is a ton of stuff to talk about here. And rather than try to Tell Back everything Turkle says (although you are free to do that), I would jump right into the discussion with some of the following key ideas:

  • “We want to customize our lives and control where we put our attention”
  • “We are getting used to being alone…together”
  • “We are compromising companionship for friendship”
  • “We have an illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship”
  • “We can’t get enough of each other, at a distance, in amounts we can control”
  • “We use technology to manage our relationships in ways we can comfortably control”
  • Technology is satisfying 3 basic fantasies:
    • We can put our attention where we want it to be
    • We will always be hear
    • We will never be alone
  • “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved”
  • “I share therefore I am”
  • “Connection is creating isolation”
  • “We need to cultivate the capacity for solitude”
  • “We need to build a self-aware relationship with technology”

And I could go on and on pulling quotes from this video. Turkle is articulate, astute and a fantastic social analyst.

I am ready to admit that I am getting caught in the fray of convenience, but short of stopping (which is not going to happen) Turkle has helped me see where I might be more self-aware.

I hope you enjoy talking about this as much as me and my students.

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What are the top 5 vacations…just for you?

Are you ready for a vacation, but don’t know where to go? Have I got a fantastic tool for you. The Washington Post offers this wild vacation planner tool. All you have to do is answer their questions and the computer will generate the top vacation spots based on your answers.

Is that not an awesome ESL exercise! I was beyond tickled when I stumbled on this gem of a website. Not only is it super useful for the common mortal, but it is also a fantastic speaking, reading and conversation exercise.

The questions are interesting and the options are funny. You may need to help the students with some of the jokes and figurative language, but once they understand that they don’t really have to understand everything verbatim, they should have a good time.

The articles are well written, perhaps a little challenging at times, but include many pictures.

How I would Teach This

  1. Get students in pairs. One person asks the questions and the other answers
  2. Let the computer generate the results
  3. Ask each student to choose an article, even if they are not the traveller. Each read and then do a Tell Back on the content.
  4. Switch roles and repeat steps 1 to 3.

The article: Washing Post Vacation Finder

Washington Post Vacation Finder

Let me know how it turns out.

Bon voyage

Do you talk to strangers?

Do you talk to strangers? Maybe we should.

Did your mother tell you not to talk to strangers? Mine did. Was that really good advice? Of course, we don’t want to compromise the safety of our children and we are not all be social butterflies. We have our personalities and our boundaries and it is important to respect ourselves in that way.

But isn’t there something alarmist, maybe even cold, about stranger danger? Are we encouraging isolation, apathy, disengagement, fear, tribalism? Even though it is natural to gravitate toward people who have familiar ideas and beliefs, could we be missing something?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Talking to Strangers” he exposes how opening ourselves up to others has a lot to teach us. But it is not all touchy-feely shiny happy people communing. Talking to strangers can be very destabilizing and may even reveal or confirm that there are some twisted people out there. Not everyone is truthful and not everyone is empathetic. But some are, and by closing ourselves off for fear for landing on a bad one, we are pruning our outlook and our own empathy.

Justin Trudeau’s keynote address to the NYU graduates takes this notion to the next level. He calls us out on our hidden biases, our fears, our tribalism. He wants to inspire us to have courage and get to know those who make us uncomfortable, get to know those who don’t resemble us and get to know those who don’t think like us. For him, and perhaps for Gladwell as well, talking to strangers is the path to world peace…no less.

Warm up

  • What do you think talking to strangers can achieve?
  • Why is it so difficult for us?

The Video: Justin Trudeau Diversity doesn’t have to be a weakness!

Discussion Questions

  • What are some of the main messages that stuck with you?
  • What does Trudeau mean when he talks about ‘tribalism’?
  • What does he mean when he says “win the argument”?
  • What can we do to know the good strangers from the bad strangers? Are there tools, tricks?
  • Do you think Trudeau is being naïve? In what way?
  • What are some of the ‘juicy’ words and expressions? Make a list and see if you can put them in other sentences.

What do your hobbies do for you?

What do your hobbies do for you?

Do you knit, run, read, eat, garden? Hobbies are acticities that we do for the sheer pleasure of doing them. They help us take time for ourselves. Whether they are sports related or a more relaxing activity, a hobby is something to enjoy. In other words, when you have given them a bit of time, you feel recharged and happy–as opposed to guilty or tired.

Personnally, I have more hobbies than I probably should. I love relaxing. I knit, paint, garden, cook, take long walks with my dog, read and write blogs. In fact, my hobbies help me channel a lot of creative energy. My husband on the other hand uses hobbies like obsesive video game playing to expell his stress. I’m not sure that it works though.

Moreover, not everybody nutures hobbies. In fact, in many cultures hobbies can be viewed as lazy or a waste of time–something you do when you are children or you want to avoid ‘real’ work. What do you think? Are hobbies healthy or a waste of time? In this Huffington Post article, the author develops the idea that there are good and not so good hobbies.

Warm up

Do a Mind Map of the different hobbies.

The Artcle: Healthy Hobbies That Will Improve Your Life

  • Scan for words that describe the benefits of hobbies.
  • What hobbies do you have?
  • Out of the 11 hobbies listed in the article, which would you like to try?
  • What is it about that activities that sparks your interest?

Do you eat…environmentally?

Being environmentally mindful can mean much more than composting your food scraps and recycling packaging. There are hundreds of little gestures that can contribute to making the planet healthier.

How many try to pack litterless lunches? Do you use plastic produce bags for your fruits and vegetables? Do you use reusable shopping bags? And more importantly, do you think that any of this makes a difference in the planet’s health?

And what about the way we buy food. Do you try to buy local? Can you tell which is local from the imported stuff? What do you know about how your food is produced? If you are like me, probably not enough.

If we look at food buying trends, it would appear that we are trying to shop and eat smarter. So what do you think that means? In this PBS Hot Mess feature, they take a look at global food production and why it is so hard to change methods that are depleting the planet of its resources.

About the video: the information is not always easy to follow. It is full of government references (I guess it must be interesting for someone) and they bring up many questions but don’t really get to the answers. Still, I suggest you get through to the end. The conclusion carries many of the main messages and leaves a few concrete things to think about.

Warm-up

  • How have you changed the way you buy food in the last 10 years?

The Video: PBS Hot Mess Food vs. Climate Change

Discussion

  • First, do a global Tell Back of the video…broad strokes.
  • What do they mean by a universal food reference?
  • Does eating more fruit and vegetables help the environment?
  • Why is it hard to change our food habits?

Agree or disagree

  • Adopting a universal reference diet is easy
  • To reduce carbon emissions, all we have to do is eat less meat
  • If people knew more about how food is produced we could change damaging food production practices
  • There is nothing we can to do change food production

Are your clothes environmentally friendly?

Are your clothes environmentally friendly? Do you even know. I didn’t. Manufacturing clothes is a complex industry that involves chemicals, non-ethical labour (child labour), shipping, and very high carbon emissions (5% over the overall carbon emission every year).

Clothes define us. Make us feel pretty or handsome, help us feel confident. I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to feel good in a job interview when you are wearing and old suit. But

Still, I know that my love of clothes is not the best for the planet. So I made one of my environmental objectives to buy more second hand clothes. In this PBS YouTube show Hot Mess they present other ways to help reduce our environmental foot print with different ways of choosing and buying clothes.

Pre discussion

  • Do you like to shop for clothes?
  • Do you ever buy second hand clothes?
  • What do you do with the clothes you don’t wear anymore?

Some concepts to explore before the video:

  • clothing as a status symbol
  • impact on the planet
  • textiles, garments
  • releasing carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emission
  • climate-friendly
  • fossil fuel
  • sustainable
  • ethical labour
  • environmentally friendly shipping

Teachers note: The presenter speaks fast. But you can reduce the speed to 0.75 and still get a natural flow. You can also add the close captions. If the rate and vocabulary is a bit frustrating for your students, encourage them to use their meta-knowledge to achieve comprehension (images, body language, guessing from context). The faster they get over what they don’t understand, the better they will feel when faced with native speakers in real life.

The Video: PBS Hot Mess How To Make Clothes Less Terrible for the Planet

Discussion Questions

  • Stop the video 2 or 3 times and do a Mind Map of all the key concepts.
  • Why are clothes so important to us?
  • What are some of the impacts of polyester, rayonne, leather, and cotton?
  • What are some of the environmentally friendly things we can do to reduce the impact of buying clothes?
  • After watching this video, what could you change in your buying habits that could improve the impact of the clothing industries’ impact on the environment?
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Let me know how it goes…

Can I help you?

In three minutes this video gave me goosebumps. It’s not the first time I encountered the idea that kindness is contagious, but it’s another thing to watch someone put it into practice. The gratefulness, the “someone sees me”, the “someone cares” leaps right out of the screen.

“Can I help you with anything?”, produced by Kindness.org, so simple yet so potent, so connected. Can you remember a time when someone just reached out and gave you a hand? Perhaps you didn’t even know you were struggling and they just cut into your bubble and helped.

I don’t have too many anecdotes, but those I do, I cherish. I also cherish times where I have stepped in and the person let me help them. In my mind, this is a unique privilege that is sometimes more about me than about them. Because it feels so lovely to feel the upside of my humanity. Better than a glass of good wine, a beach breeze or even a great tune, it ignites my soul.

Warm-up

Can you think of stories involving random acts of kindness? Either someone helping you, or you helping someone. How did it feel?

The video: Can I help you? Kindness.org

Discussion

  • What is Joe’s objective?
  • What are some of the problems he encounters?
  • What are some of the things he does?
  • Do you need money to help people?
  • What is meaningful?
  • What is the butterfly effect?
  • As a class, make a list of random acts of kindness
  • Who, in today’s world, promotes kindness?

Blessings to you…

Top 7 Travel Destinations 2019

If you could go anywhere on vacation, no budget, no constraints, where would you go? Erik Conover is a filmmaker and traveler and he has used social media to help him discover new and little know traveling gems.

He challenged his YouTube followers to make suggestions for the most incredible travel destinations. From this list, he charts his course and reports his adventures on his YouTube channel.

The result is a super interesting video of incredible destinations that have definitely made it to my bucket list.

Warm-Up

-What are your top 7 travel destinations and why?

The Video: Top 7 INCREDIBLE Travel Destinations of 2019 by Erik Conover

Questions

Depending on the level of your students, you can either watch the whole thing in one shot or pause it after each country and to a quick Tell Back.

For each destination say:

  • What activities can you do there?
  • What foods can you eat?
  • What discoveries did you make?

Have you been to any of the destinations in the video?

Which destination would you choose?

Which destination would you not choose?

Where did you go on vacation?

Where did you go on vacation?

A simple question to start off the new eslcoversation.ca season. Of course not everyone goes on vacation, but usually the summertime presents opportunities for special visits, adventures, road trips and vacations. I love my vacations. My family and I look forward to them all year. And then, when they are over, we talk about them all year.

There is so much more that happens other than the vacation. No television (less of it anyway), we spend our days together, we eat special food, do activities we have never done before–It is a total break in the routine.

Hiking in Vermont

That’s why this week’s theme will be devoted to summer, vacations and routine-breakers.

Warm up

Do a quick Mind Map of the vocabulary associated with vacations.

The Discussion

My colleague Larry Pitts has an absolutely fabulous site chalked full of open-ended questions. I think this is the perfect place to start our vacation discussion.

Click on the image to go to the site.

The next posts will feature a video or perhaps an article, but for today, the good ol’ Q&A will do the trick.

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Do you have a job or a mission?

Do you have a job or a mission?

Level: mid-intermediate and advanced

Celeste Headlee, a trained opera singer turned radio show host, has some rather interest insight to share about the difference between a job and a mission. She also has a lot to say about how we get stuck focusing on our education and job expectations and miss the larger picture. But if you think she gives the same old spiel about finding your passion, being brave and embracing your true calling, you would be wrong. She knows we all have mortgages, rent, food, and stuff to pay for. And she also knows that finding your passion is complicated, changing, and doesn’t always match the needs of the market. Thankfully, she is not going to tell you to quit your job or sit at the top of a mountain to meditate.

This is the third post on this series on jobs and careers. So far we have gone through some basic vocabulary and explored what jobs are out there and then saw some fun ways to go about choosing. In this post, we will take a more analytical approach and explore the skills connected to jobs. We are going to exercise our mental flexibility and examine the components of various jobs or fields and see how they can apply to other jobs and fields.

Pre discussion

  • What do you think is the difference between a job and a mission?
  • How many job-related skills can you name? (e.g. teacher: public speaking, content design, presentation design, audience analysis, etc.)

The Video: TED Don’t find a job, find a mission

Discussion questions

  • Do a Mind Map or recap of all the main points of the talk (see our list)
  • What do you do? What are the skills involved in your job?
  • Do you like your job? What do you like and don’t like?
  • What things do you look for when looking for work?
  • If you were to do something completely different, what would it be?
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Profession: super hero