Why we should be afraid of the big bad wolf: Sugata Mitra and the neoliberal takeover in sheep’s clothing

Why we should be afraid of the big bad wolf: Sugata Mitra and the neoliberal takeover in sheep’s clothing

The proliferation of blog posts that have followed in the wake of Sugata Mitra’s keynote speech at IATEFL Harrogate last Saturday morning is almost as remarkable as the fact that such a controversial figure was given the opportunity to deliver his barely concealed sales pitch to such a large and captive audience without having to submit to the usual plenary speaker protocol of then facing a more rigorous Q&A session. Even more astounding, though, was the ecstatic outpouring that greeted the end of Mitra’s talk: the mobbing, the autograph hunting, the eulogies. Which part of his message were people not getting, I fretted to myself? The answer, it seems on reflection, was pretty much all of it.

SOLE – does it work with adult language learners?

SOLE – does it work with adult language learners?

When Sugatra Mitra introduced the ELT world to his concept of the SOLE (self-organised learning environment) at IATEFL 2014, half of the audience stood up and walked out while the other half were still in the auditorium giving him a standing ovation. It was an engaging and thought-provoking talk which was followed by many blog posts and tweets accusing Mitra of having a neo-liberal agenda, of being an idealist and not an educator and anti-teacher. Intrigued, Varinder Unlu, Director of Studies at International House London, decided to actually try it out with adult learners and see what the results were.

Apple’s electric car and the death of language teaching as we know it

Apple’s electric car and the death of language teaching as we know it

When I was four, going on five, a TV show called Knight Rider premiered in the UK. I loved it and remained a fan for most of my childhood (OK, I admit it; I’m still a fan). There was The Hoff, of course  –  all leather jackets, open shirt buttons and swagger  –  but the real star of the show was K.I.T.T  – Knight Industries Two Thousand  –  the ‘advanced, artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car’. Over thirty years later Apple and Google are in a head-to-head race to bring K.I.T.T’s spiritual successor  –  the driverless car  –  to market. And, as a little-known and hard-to-spot side effect, the ramifications for the teaching of languages, especially English, could be huge.