Smart Phones

Daniel Navar sent this link:

He commented:

The technocrats think that “Language acquisition is only a smartphone away.” What BS.



18 thoughts on “Smart Phones”

  1. I see this is by Shelley Blake-Plock. He is the mind behind the website “Teach Paperless.” He was actually a Latin teacher who also taught courses on ancient and medieval culture and history. You can tell from this list of “21 Things” that he is a big proponent of tech in the classroom and how it can lead us to a “student centered” future.

    He left teaching Latin after a few years and is now, I believe, a consultant and founder of some techy school or something or other. It always seemed strange to me that he never really talked about language pedagogy on his blog. It was all tech stuff and how to use tech for projects and student centeredness.

    I remember reading once, though, that he had his second year students working with Caesar. I was impressed at the time and e-mailed him for more information. Something like, “Wow! That’s so impressive they are reading real Latin so early! How do you it?” But he never got back to me.

    I now understand that he was putting the velvet glove of tech over the iron fist of old-school Classics pedagogy, which forces students to start reading the Classics waaayyyyy too early (imagine making ESOL students read Shakespeare after two year of English in high school) and which puts a premium on discussing the customs and traditions of ancient Rome (of course all in English).

  2. … he was putting the velvet glove of tech over the iron fist of old-school Classics pedagogy….

    Beautiful image to express the truth of what is going on. To me this image conveys a lot. It suggests to me that when the iron fist of old school pedagogy – not just in Latin – is fitted with a nice new velvet glove (technology), it doesn’t change anything. The focus is on the old, as always.

    And he didn’t get back to you. I had the same experience with the Coalition of Essential Schools. I saw a fundamental disconnect between what Ted Sizer was saying in his Common Principles (many reflect the ideas of Krashen and Arnie Langberg) and what the WL departments in Coalition schools were actually doing with languages. I wrote them, called them, and soon could see that they clearly didn’t really even know who Blaine Rays is. So, pissed, I wrote a whole series of articles about this disconnect between their stated objectives (the Common Principles) and what they were (and still!) are doing in their Coalition School WL classrooms. Those articles can be found here under the category entitled “Coalition of Essential Schools”.

    Honestly James what could Shelley give you as a response? What can the Coalition schools say to Ted Sizer to justify the fact that they don’t align with his tenets? In both cases, a velvet glove has been placed over an iron fist to hide the fact that the fist is iron. But that doesn’t change the fact that when the fist lands on the kids’ heads, it leaves a mark on the heads of most students or, worse, makes them hate Latin.

  3. I think what Shelley is doing is pretty much the same thing that AP teachers do. They claim success on the backs of the really gifted kids – the only ones who can do that kind of reading and scale those heights. Housing it in the new and attractive (velvet!) tech glove, he then manages to draw the attention of ignorant administrators to this tech repackaging. The average kid is left on the side of the road, under the auspices that “Latin is not for everybody”. That is what AP teachers do.

    1. True reading is beautiful fluency. I wouldn’t call what they do “reading.” Rather, it’s “laborious translation.”

      Find the verb, no, that’s not it, nope, nope, yep! that’s got a verb ending
      now what’s the ending?
      yes! 1st, singular–now what does that mean?
      nope, “we” is first plural
      yeah, so it’s “I”
      now where is the direct object?
      and so on and so on…
      the above is a script from all my classes during my first few years of classes

      So it’s not that the AP teachers claim success on the backs of kids who are better than average at reading L2, it’s that they claim success on the backs of kids who have 1) a holier-than-thou interest in grammar and 2) a superb tolerance of bullshit.

      1. I have no idea how Grammar Grinderz teach German, Latin, Russian and other mega-inflected languages. The gramamr is so mind-bendingly complex it defies explanation. In Spanisha nd French to a great extent you just styick SP/FR words intot he sentence slots where English ones went and it works. Not in Cherman once you get past 3-word sentences. If you want to say “I went to the store and bought a sausage with Mom yesterday” you say

        “Ich bin gestern ins Geschaeft mit meiner Mutter gegangen und habe eine Wirst gekauft”

        literally “I am yesterday to the store with my Mother gone and have a sausage bought.”

        How do you possibly explain the zillion rules to make this sound right in Cherman?

        When I was in high school I took Cherman cos I was a native speaker and lazy (I STILL regret not having properly learned French!). The teacher had entire lessons on stuff like predicative word order rules (which are insane in Cherman). in Gr11 (last year lang was mandatory) she had 30 kids in class, in gr 12 she had 4. Most fo the kids were egg-heads and got As…and couldn’t speak or write. I, a native speaker, could speak, read and write fluently…and I could not get an A because I couldn’t tell you what the imperfect ablative direct object subjunctive bla bla word for “the” in Cherman was so my worksheet marks were low.


        Yeah – even if you teach at a school that has mostly 4%ers that’s what it looks like! I’m amazed how much even modern language folks try to cling to this.

  4. Daniel,

    The article talks about not having desks in the classroom in the near future.

    How ” à propos! “. I am about to ask my principal if she would let me get rid of my desks for the second semester.

    In my situation, eliminating desks would help a lot. Students wouldn’t be able to hide their cell phones under their desks. They wouldn’t be writing unless I assign writing, in which case they would use a white board or a clip board.

    I know some of you already have that setting and I m wondering if that is helping you at all.

    1. Sabrina,

      I haven’t had desks in my room for a couple of years, and I am quite happy with the situation. Here are some reasons:
      – As you noted, there are fewer places for students to hide things and no place to lay their heads.
      – It removes a barrier between me and student. (Yes, I genuinely perceive desks as a barrier to communication and relationship)
      – It makes the room more versatile because of greater flexibility in arrangement
      – It makes transitioning from one grouping to another faster and easier*

      *Just as an example: I have been playing games that involve language input with my students during our extension period (a rotating schedule that adds half an hour to each period once every two weeks). We can get the room ready for play in about a minute and everything put back in place in under two minutes. When I had desks, that would have been a longer and more laborious process, and I couldn’t have gotten enough clear space to play without a lot of stacking.

      (We have carpet that gets vacuumed every day and shampooed once a year.)

        1. Sometimes. I have chairs. They aren’t as comfortable as Michele’s; I’ll have to work on that. I also have mini white boards for students when they have to write, but many of them just use their binders or a book.

  5. Lol – sometimes I think that my students would be better served without desks – at least it would keep them from sleeping. Then I remember how some of them (boys that aren’t academic specifically) need the separation from fighting.

    Plus our school has really nasty linoleum floors that really only get cleaned 2X a year. I have to swiffer the floors every few weeks to keep myself from vomiting. Having some furniture in here makes it warmer ironically.

  6. I have really horrible carpet but no desks. I love having no desks. Kids who have trouble writing on their laps (during the short writing times) can grab a mini white board. I always tell them “This is like college classrooms.” It’s a little bit of a stretch, but helps keep the complaints down.

    My chairs have padded seats and backs, and they have arm rests. Those are important, given no desks. I tell kids I want them to be comfortable.

    Like Robert, I love being able to see the cell phones. They don’t really emerge after the first couple of kids are easily caught. We have a system for putting “stuff” in the back of the room on a table to make movement easy, and kids take only a writing utensil and a comp book to the seats. Those go under the chairs for most of the day.

  7. I also have chairs not desks. Carpeted floor. I have the chairs in a double U shape, one U inside the other U, with a space at the bottom of both U’s for entering and exiting the center space. The center is out stage, and I make good use of it while teaching – I can get close to every student with little effort (proximity a lá Fred Jones).

    I have a bucket of clipboard in the center that is easily accessed or moved if we need the stage.

    I have a rolling cart in the middle with my laptop, loud speakers and projector.

    I put down masking tape to help line the chairs up bc they get shuffled about, and it’s lasted until now. Time for new tape.


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