Archive for June, 2010

proud of my son

June 30, 2010

Five years old and already studying math at university!

I taught him about addition and subtraction and gave him a few examples two days ago.  He has since been asking for more ‘Su-hak’ – Korean for ‘math’.

Here, a coworker tells him to study harder or he will get a spanking.  Okay, she isn’t threatening him- she is holding some trim for the cubicle-frame.  I am not sure why she is doing that, though.

In Australia, she is a qualified teacher and offered some suggestions on how a five-year-old understood mathematical concepts.  Specifically, she told me I should use examples rather than abstract symbols, like ‘+’ and ‘-‘.  Thanks, currently unnamed coworker!

At home, he insisted on washing the dishes.  After I mopped a litre of two of water off the floor, I thanked him.


Oh, I’m usually proud of my son, but typically choose not to waste your time blabbering on about it.


Busan Kotesol interview videos

June 28, 2010

I mentioned in the previous post, that Tim had interviewed some people at the conference.  Here are links to those videos.

Ashley of Busan EFM

David of Ten Magazine

Yeonu of PUFS

Here are some other videos Tim made regarding KOTESOL in general, not just our mini-conference.

Busan Kotesol Mini-conference

June 26, 2010

The weather cooperated well with our plans for a conference – it was miserable and raining all day.  One might as well go to a conference as stare at the rain.

Here are some pics I took.  Click to embiggen.

Starting at the top left: two representatives manned the ATEK desk in the hallway.  I think Greg is being interviewed by EFM Busan English radio.  The Oxford representative and his books.  EFM (again, maybe) interviews two volunteers – from Japan and studying at Dongseo University. A representative from Cambridge publishing.

Second row: Costco kept everyone fed.  We placed them in a poor location but they gave us a great supply of food. David from Ten Magazine showing gift cups come with a subscription.  Peadar prepares his lecture on comics in the classroom.  Jeff LeBow interviews Greg from ATEK.

Bottom row: Busan-Gyeongnam KOTESOL President dramatically demands the jury issue a not-guilty verdict.  I guess ‘Foxy’ leaves the computer on sometimes.  Lyndon and a volunteer clean up.  After the conference, Lyndon went to his evening job and waited tables at Pasta Vanita.

I may post commentary about the conference later.  I was involved in registration, so I only saw one presentation.  I wasn’t thrilled with it, to be honest, but it was on a subject that I have worked on for several years myself, so I probably wasn’t the target audience.

Added Later: The presentation, on making student videos as a class project, was clear and well-thought out.  There were a few ideas that I will incorporate into my current student video diary program, a program I have run and refined over six or seven semesters.  However, the presenter’s class and facilities are quite different from my own.  It was a good presentation, but did not have a lot of meat in it for me.


We had hoped for sixty or more attendees and we had more than eighty so it was a clear success.  The next conference will be even better!

A few links



Ten Magazine

online vs in-class teaching

June 25, 2010

The National Bureau of Economic research has published an article comparing live teaching and online teaching.*

Students in a large introductory microeconomics course at a major research university were randomly assigned to live lectures versus watching these same lectures in an internet setting, where all other factors (e.g., instruction, supplemental materials) were the same. Counter to the conclusions drawn by a recent U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis of non-experimental analyses of internet instruction in higher education, we find modest evidence that live-only instruction dominates internet instruction. These results are particularly strong for Hispanic students, male students, and lower-achieving students.

My problem with the study is that it compares the blandest-but-neccessary form of live teaching with the absolutely blandest form of online teaching.  When teaching a large group, lectures are almost the only low-tech way to go.

-there was a movie years ago that displayed a lecture hall.  In the first lecture, I think everyone was there. In the second lecture, the professor was absent and an audio system delivered his canned lecture.  In the third lecture, no one was there: at the front of the class was a big, professional looking audio tape player and at each student desk there was a small mini-cassette recorder.-

Online lessons do not need to, and should not, resemble in-class lessons.  I am still uncertain what a good online lesson needs to go or even how it can be measured.  Still, I can make some reasonable suggestions and form a reasonable picture.

First, the audio, visual and written components remain important but but are no longer the entire content of the lesson.  Before I go into the other components, I feel these basics can be improved and want to offer a suggestion.  E-book content: The text could be read anywhere and done so while listening to the audio as most reader devices include mp3 players.  The thing is, this is not a groundbreaking or particularly original thought.  I would, at a minimum, compare a live lecture to an online lecture, downloadable text and downloadable audio.  The study above is comparing what I presume is excellent live-lecture delivery (good acoustics, the opportunity for questions and interaction, good sight-lines…) and crippled internet delivery  (the mere video).

We might as well compare my bike to a car that can only use first gear and is limited to the carrying capacity of my bike.  My bike would look pretty good but even I would admit cars are not so limited.

Next, what else can be offered online?  To be fair, the study is only comparing lecture delivery – perhaps both groups could access other material online.

  • Sample tests can easily be placed there – both to prepare the students and to let the prof know if he taught the stuff he thought he taught.
  • Peer review has great potential online.  Students write essays, or post the notes they took during the lecture, and classmates -and the prof- can look them over to see what they missed or misheard.
  • Links from the lecture is another obvious thing to add.  Case studies, journal articles, popular press reports and other content could be added.
  • The biggest problem with supplemental material online is the urge to add bells and whistles (this may even be a literal complaint – we don’t always need sound effects in educational software.  Sound effects that continue beyond a second quickly seem too long). Cute graphics and gifs have their place, but can be easily overused as can varying fonts and colours in the text.

Again, a lecture is great way to send content one-way, but the internet is all about the  two-way flow of information. The article seems to be comparing my bike to a crippled car or an apple and a piece of watermelon that has been carved into apple shape.

An excellent website for learning Korean is at Sogang.  Here is an excellent and professional website that does teaching right.  I would say it is insufficient in itself, but that’s true of any part of the learning experience.

via Freakonomics.


* “live teaching and online teaching” – that looks weird.  I wanted “live teaching and online learning” but teaching and learning aren’t really synonyms.  This really fits the heart of my complaint with the article.

“Green” cars? Maybe, with a good paint job.

June 22, 2010

I have always felt the Jaguar looked good in a dark green.  It’s a beautiful car – and by the total lack of mention of a specific model or year, you can accurately judge my knowledge of cars.

In the Joongang Ilbo, I learned about Korea’s first Electric bus.

The bus has an average speed of 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) and can run 120 kilometers (75 miles) on a fully charged battery.

The 50-seat bus uses three 100-kilowatt driving motors that power a 402-horsepower internal combustion engine.

Hyundai said the bus satisfies all the requirements set by the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs for a transportation vehicle with “zero” emission.

“Zero emission.”  I guess that is true, while the bus is in use.  Does the Ministry of L, T and M Affairs think the batteries are charged by magic, though?  Although I can’t be bothered to check on the facts (I’m a blogger, what do facts matter?), I suspect that most of Korea’s electricity comes from hydro-electric and nuclear, with few fossil-fuel powered generators.  Alright, lets investigate for one minute:

Hmm, mostly hydro and nuclear, with about a quarter from Oil and Gas.  Takes a bit of the wind out of my sails.

Still, the power does come partly from fossil fuels, and those fuels are charging a battery; we can expect loses of between a third and a half in charging a battery.  I am unconvinced that the bus will use significantly less fuel than a fuel  powered bus.

I am convinced that few people will see the fuel and CO2 being emitted as it is happening at a distant power plant and not on the street in front of them.  Maybe, this is a good thing in it’s own right.  Now we aren’t spreading poison in high population areas.  That’s good, but it isn’t ‘zero emission’.

Scientific American has an article about the Leaf, an electrically powered car.  I read it before seeing the Hyundae article, so I can’t claim the points above are my own.

In the months after Nissan’s announcement last year that it would soon introduce the Leaf, the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle, the company embarked on a 24-city “zero-emission tour” to show off the technology. The Leaf’s electric motor draws its energy from a battery pack that plugs into an outlet in your garage. It has no engine, no gas tank and no tailpipe. And during the time the car is on the road, it is truly a zero-emission machine. But at night, in your garage, that battery pack must refill the energy lost to the day’s driving with fresh electrons culled from a nearby power plant. And zero emission it ain’t.

You can see, for instance, that I used, “isn’t” instead of “ain’t”.  Still, if I link to the original, it can’t be plagiarism.

Moon Bears

June 22, 2010

Via Robert Neff at the Marmot, I found a bit of an update on Moonbears in Korea.

The article touches on poaching at Jirisan, which I looked into in the old day at Gangwon Notes.

Although I love the idea of having bears in Korea, I can’t see how it can work.  Korea has a high population density and bears are famous wanderers.  They will not stay inside the park borders.

Also, the reports linked to above say there are 19 bears.  That sounds about right.  My understanding is that one needs around fifty or more individuals before one can claim the population is sustainable in the short term, and five hundred or more to be sustainable in the long term.

Laughing ‘with’ and ‘at’

June 19, 2010

After many years living in Korea, I still speak very little Korean.  And I do not use much of my Korean in class.  Still, in one of the first classes of the semester, I typically discuss “Oot-da” and “Bi-oot-da”:  “laugh with” and “laugh at”.

The Guardian has an article about laughter in the classroom that covers similar ground.

Language learners quickly absorb the message that their teacher welcomes spontaneous laughter within the classroom (provided it is of the supportive ‘laughing with’ and not of the destructive ‘laughing at’ kind).

There is further useful discussion of humour and laughter in the classroom but this point seemed overly simple:

In the early days of each course, when they meet their class for the first time, language teachers convey many hidden messages through their body language, their overall demeanour and the manner in which they address their students. One clear message (usually implicit) relates to the kind of atmosphere they wish to foster in their classroom.

In order to develop a spirit of informality within their classes such teachers attempt to reduce the social distance between themselves and their students by behaving in friendly and approachable ways. They smilingly encourage students to speak and applaud their efforts, being supportive when errors are made.

I feel this is true particularly for the university students I teach, but not so much for the younger students, who already see us as a break from real classes and real learning.  At Elementary schools, I feel it is important to do the opposite in the first few classes- one needs to make very clear that this class is a serious one, a real one.

I try, without much success on my  part, to be strict and serious at the beginning and loosen up through the class. – By this I mean the beginning of each class and the beginning of each semester.  The end of class should always be more active and fun than the beginning; this is true for the end and beginning of the semester as well.

I described myself as not having a lot of success in this regard.  I loosen the discipline too quickly and sometimes have trouble at the end of semester because of it.

Have fun and laugh in class, but don’t lose control of it.

Via: Becoming a better EFL teacher.

Cycling around the country

June 18, 2010

This is something I want to do, and soon.  I have some time off in July but my wife doesn’t and I am not sure about arrangements to care for the little guy so I may not be able to do it this year.

Trevor Anderson managed it last year and was mostly satisfied – after the fact, at least.  This quote reminds me of how I felt when I rode across part of Canada:

“I wasn’t really even happy with my trip when I got back. I returned to Gwangju and I thought it was kind of stupid. But now I when I look back and think about it I’m glad I did it and I’m thankful for all the things I saw along the way,” Anderson said.

Busan KOTESOL Summer Conference

June 18, 2010

Updated: I had posted a picture of text that included personal information – I have removed it and tried to replace it.  Safari is showing me a ‘failed photo’ image though.  No luck – refer to the link for further information.


On June 26, the Busan Gyeongnam branch of KOTESOL will hold a mini conference.  It is worth going to on it’s own merits, but also, you could meet me at the door there.

Click to embiggen or follow the link below.

More information can be found here. At that link, I found a PDF with this information (and more):

KOTESOL is holding the first annual Busan KOTESOL Summer Conference on June 26th at Pusan University of Foreign Studies. This event is open to all educators, both Korean and expatriate, and aims to develop and enhance networks among professionals in the Busan area. The conference also offers teachers an opportunity to develop their professional skills and understanding of how technology can be used in the classroom. The conference is aimed at both public and private sector educators.

KOTESOL is the Korea-based affiliate of TESOL International, a non-profit association of professional EFL/ESL teachers and educators.

At the last meeting I attended – I missed one to do farm work – the plan was to print about 100 copies of the conference book.  The book will contain  abstracts and further information about the presentations.  I mention this because pre-registration will almost certainly guarantee you one – the rest will be handed out on a  first-come, first serve basis.

traveling in Busan

June 17, 2010

I’ve heard many air-defense drill sirens, but this is the first time I’d seen students hiding during them.

The photo kinda fits – the imaginary pilots are traveling somewhere, right?

As previously promised, I rode my bike to work on Wednesday – and nearly collapsed in class, I felt so dizzy and tired.  The route was surprisingly good – I was on a bike path for 11km along the Nakdong River and for a few km along a drainage ditch or sewage ditch or river wannabe – anyway, it had a good bike path.  Later, near the university, I found this sidewalk – for ants, maybe?

While driving to work a month ago, I ran a red light.  Today, I photographed the light.

See it?  No, how about now?

No?  Now?

If Vanderbilt is looking for ways to improve transportation (see previous post), I suggest clearing the view of the traffic lights.