Technology – With or Without you?

<![CDATA[A great week for me (September 14-20)  as this was the first time I was participating in an online course on the Moodle platform. The course was  organised by SEETA (South Eastern Europe Teachers Associations)

The topic was “Teaching without Technology”  with Scott Thornbury as the tutor and, by the end of the week, about 100 registered participants. The course was announced via email to prospective participants – I received my own notification through Windows Outlook courtesy of TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, the Northern Greece Chapter of TESOL International.

The course was posted on Twitter and retweeted several times by friends and colleagues on my PLN (Personal Learning Network) as well as by  Scott Thornbury himself (who is also part of my PLN ).

On Facebook where I posted it as an announcement to my teacher friends, a couple  queried the fact that a course on this topic would be taking place online but quite a few others decided to disregard these remarks and registered as well!

Scott Thornbury is the creator of the DOGME movement – “not an approach” as he hastens to add, and rightly so, lest he should appear to be replicating similar approaches, and most specifically early CLT, throwing people off deep ends or the famous “bus ticket” approach to CLT favoured by C. Candlin &  M.Breen (1980).

More on DOGME for those interested in the Yahoo discussion group with the title “Dogme – a pedagogy of bare essentials”.

This discussion promised interesting and sure enough, Gavin Dudeney appeared on the register as a student. Some held their breath since a day or two before the course start, Gavin had written a rather provocative but quite funny post with the title “A Passion for War(craft)” a parable of the effects of denying students access to technology, so we all waited with bated breath fearing bloodshed and a continuation of the constant jabs Scott and Gavin direct at each other on Twitter.

A short break to listen to a favourite song by U2, read the first few lines of the lyrics and do some imaginative prediction…


“See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you
With or without you
With or without you”

Well,  in the end, no stones or other materials were thrown about or were made to block our vision and no thorns twisted in anyone’s side but a lot of great discussions were generated, all thanks to Scott who prompted, probed and moderated the course with great finesse managing  to avoid major clashes with any of the course participants.

From the word go it was clear that we were debating DOGME vs technology and Scott queried us all closely on the issue of using technologies in our classes. A variety of viewpoints, applications and even actual lessons ( one which stands out in my memory is one described by Karenne Sylvester, self-declared Dogmeist (I suppose some sort of suffix was needed) were discussed by the participants and it soon became obvious that most people – including the tutor – were in favour of a principled use of technologies “for a defined cause”, a great phrase by Michele Ben in one of her posts.

The discussion is all there for anyone to see and even now to add comments and continue it – unmoderated now of course, but a great read and with lots of participants who seem keen to keep it going.

So, With or Without Technology?

All the links to technological miracles in my post should indicate my own personal attitude – but I can also bawl out  “With or Without you” to my students if technology fails me,  or just can’t find that CD in good time for my lesson. Though listening to U2  and watching them on You Tube is not quite the same experience, is it?

I can put up my students’ errors on the chalkboard or whiteboard but giving the class a soundfile of their spoken output recorded through some programme like Audacity (an open source application) is a completely different experience and engages them at a completely different level.

And if I am using this programme and I have asked them to write a new verse to the song they like, then I can also record them singing the song and their own new lyrics and give this memory bit a  much longer life.

But sometimes it’s also lots of fun NOT to use a storyboard application from the web but to give my learners bits of card and paper for an improvisation activity or post-its stuck on their back for a fun guessing game.

Who decides?

This was mentioned during the SEETA discussions although not perhaps to the extent it could have been developed – the question on who makes the decisions. And the assumptions on both sides seem to indicate that given any opportunity to choose, the learners would choose technology (according to some) or without technology according to others. I am not so sure about that.

Perhaps I am unaware of good research but I am hesitant about research which asks learners questions of this kind – who are the learners and how they are asked is often problematic. I think we have to be honest and say that we have to make some choices and some decisions, and if we are learner focused we may ask our learners how they feel about them and whether they liked a method, technique or approach – something which Karenne attempted by showing us a video recording of one of her students who very articulately described dogme and his understanding of it….

Whether his fluency is because of dogme or because of other factors is not something which was very clear to me, but I fully support her openness to her learners regarding the methods she uses and the objectives and thinking behind the way she teaches her learners.

Discussion open and comments welcome.

Some further reading

Breen,M. & Candlin, C. (1980). The essentials of a communicative curriculum in language teaching. Applied Linguistics, 1/2, 89-112.

Dogme – a Teacher’s View from the British Council – BBC website Thornbury, S. (2008).

The Dogma of Dogme – Karenne Sylvester’s blog post which contains lots more good links

P.S. For the benefit of those of my trainees who were not able to participate, I saved the discussion pages in pdf format and if interested in reading it but unwilling to register to SEETA as a participant, you can email me for a copy.]]>

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18 replies

  1. Great post Marisa, love the -U2 vid and wow, thanks for including me in this.

    I’d like to answer the question about Philip’s fluency: Yes- it is because of dogme /student centered teaching… 6 months, 1 year, 1.5yrs ago Philip could not have communicated so naturally and if we were using a course book I highly doubt we’d have reached this range of vocabulary either…

    One of the things that I liked so much on watching it once I got home was how it not only showed Philip’s own thoughts on dogme and the way he is being taught but that the example itself also was dogmeic – materials light, even to the point where conversation scaffolded his learning and he was able to use that word, scaffold, naturally after it emerged within the context of the conversation.

    Still, it is a question that gets asked regarding the dogme method – whether or not it is the cause of the level/fluency improvement and.. to be honest a frustrating one because people don’t hold the course books up to the same light 🙂

    Anyway, it’s actually because of technology that I’ll finally be able to start proving this stuff (and rather my self-declared dogme-tech approach) 🙂 – am set to record new students in October and then will continue to do so periodically – so sometime next year will have the hard and irrefutable data…

    Naja, I also wanted to say something about the anticipated “war” with Gavin and Scott in the same room – they did well, I think – listened well to each other’s opins and all that.

    Overall the forum was a really great experience and I was glad to have Scott’s final word – a nice extension allowing a bit of tech, if used right, in dogme. Or maybe that’s just the interpretation I have cause it’s what I want. LOL.

    Oooh… and do you think I could have a copy of the pdfs by email -that you’ve offered your trainees- too?

    Will save me making them and actually would love to sit with a cup of coffee and go through some of the longer posts which I’d only skimmed through cause they were long.

    Ta, muchly


  2. Karenne,

    I admire your faith in dogme but permit me to say that there are more issues here than just the method, you yourself being a crucial factor.

    I love your interpretation of Dogme and how you apply it to your own teaching situation to fit your own students as well as your own teaching style and persona… 🙂

    Thanks ever so much for commenting and thanks for allowing me the use of the link to your student’s interview on video!

    You’re a great sport and a great sharer and I suspect you could teach the socks off anyone, whatever method or approach you decided to adopt!!!


  3. Marisa,

    It was a good week – Scott and I met up in real life and had a boxing match (won’t tell you who won!). Joking aside, Scott and I worked very closely together at Net Languages ( for many years and actually agree about most things in life.

    We just have a tincy wincy disagreement about technologies in the classroom occasionally…


  4. I too really enjoyed the course Marisa, and really enjoyed reading your review. Is the “bus ticket” expression yours or have you heard other people describing Mike Breen and Chris Candlin’s article in that way? I was the one who put that link up on the forum and have always thought it never got the response it deserved in mainstream ELT teacher training and would love to see any other reactions to it. Does anyone else see a close relationship between the ideas expressed in that article, which was written 30 years ago, and Dogme principles? Mark Andrews Budapest

  5. Gavin,

    Scott’s dietary newsfeed is full of healthy good stuff. I hope you are keeping equally fit!


    Indeed it was a good week and I did not in fact expect anyone to misbehave (although I was secretly hopeful of a good old ELT tiff!)

    And although I felt the conclusion was foregone, more or less, it was a very positive experience and I learnt a lot, mostly unexpected things, but there you are, that adds value, doesn’t it.

    Thanks for taking time to comment – just take care of your vitamin intake please.


  6. Hi Mark,

    Actually “the bus ticket approach” is not my own phrase but a well established term related to Breen & Candlin’s strong view of CLT.

    I think Scott himself mentioned something about it and, to be honest, if you think about it, there is not much of a difference there – off-the-deep-end, negotiable syllabuses, it all comes from the same pool of values and beliefs.

    I actually met both Mike Breen and Chris Candlin some years ago – invited by my school for a 1-week workshop. Of the two, I would cast my vote for Mike Breen. Chris’ heart is in the right place but whether anyone can understand what he is saying or writing is another matter altogether…


    Thanks for stopping by and making this comment.


  7. thanks for that Marisa, yeah Mike was one of my tutors in his last year at Lancaster in 1991/2 on the MA in ELT.That’s when I first read the article but I find myself coming back to it over and over again. Chris Candlin had already left by then. If you have any references where “the bus ticket approach” is mentioned could you let me know please, cos I like to work with this article with my methodology students. Does it have any negative connotations when it is used? Agree with you that Dogme and negotiated syllabuses are rooted in the same process-oriented, constructivist educational philosopy. Thanks for the quick reply! Mark

  8. Promise to look, Mark. I am sure it’s in my notes somewhere; first heard this from Keith Johnson, my tutor on my MA in App Ling at Reading Uni. I’m sure I have a reference somewhere but have to go through stuff.

  9. I too enjoyed the course, Marisa, as I have reading about it in this post. I was pleased to be mentioned but didn’t remember using the phrase you attributed to me so have had a quick search of the forum. It looks like it originated in a post by Michele Ben to whom all credit should therefore go! 🙂


  10. Thanks, Marisa, for sharing your experience and the information about the online course and discussion.
    I believe Dogme methodology and philophy is interesting. I apply (without knowing about it) some of the principles in my one-to-one classes, which are textbook free but I use material I find online based on the students’ individual interests. I consider that what produces a good effect in language acquisition is a combination of teaching methods according to the students’ needs.

  11. Thank you very much Marisa for writing up such an interesting post. I feel the ensuing comments are just as noteworthy and are fascinating to read.

    I have heard a lot about dogme but I confess, I don’t know if I teach in a “dogme” way or not. If something comes up naturally in a class, which is not connected to the topic, then as long as everyone is engaged in the discussion, I will definitely let it “go with the flow”.

  12. Thank you all, Carol, Marisa and Janet, for your comments and for following this discussion.

    Marisa and Janet, you may be secret or undeclared Dogmeists yet! Going with the flow is certainly part of it and it is the sign of a good teacher not to stick to the lesson plan when their class is clearly keen to draw them into another direction.

    I do think that to do this, experience, awareness of a wide range of materials, techniques and a very strong ability to analyse language are necessary and helpful; novice/inexperienced teachers have a hard time straying too far away from what they intended to do, so may be this is indeed a stage in a teacher’s development – being able to improvise like this!

    Carol, now that you mentioned Michel, I think you are probably right – ooops – I shall check this out and make the necessary correction to my post! Thanks for pointing this out!

  13. I’ve been reading your blog, haven’t dared to leave a comment so far… I’ve been hearing about Moodle all the time and how useful it can be for further teacher development, it may seem strange but I’ve never participated in such a seminar (I’m really new to this)
    I guess that technology is a must in the classroom nowadays and I am really sad to see that most language schools in Greece do not use it…

  14. Hi Theodora and thanks for popping by and leaving a comment!

    What do you mean you haven’t dared? 🙁

    Maybe you can join the next SEETA course coming up soon – will let know here or in Facebook!

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