The answer to my question proved complicated, here are my presentation slides from the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham in April 2016, in which I revisited research into the future of the ELT coursebook that I started in 2010.
In my research I found printed coursebooks continue to be widely used, and the take up of digital alternatives has been slower than I predicted in 2010.
Teachers and students: online outside the classroom, offline inside the classroom.
I also found that the publishing sector is struggling to make money from coursebooks and digital alternatives, as governments cut budgets, consumers expect content for free, and the result has been very challenging for people involved in the sector, particularly authors. There are some interesting developments and initiatives, but important pedagogical issues still need to be resolved.
I recently contributed to an article published by Sylvia Guinan’s blog on future trends in digital learning in which I concluded with the quote “follow the money…”. This was interpreted by some readers as meaning that you should focus on doing things that make you money, whereas what I meant was that to understand the behaviour of new businesses active in English Language Teaching (ELT) you often need to look at their financial motivation and how they plan to make money from their efforts.
“Follow the money” was coined in the 1975 film “All the President’s Men” to show how journalists can uncover illegal behaviour by following money trails. But the term is also useful for understanding perfectly legal behaviour, even though some find the idea of big business making big bucks from education distasteful.
So, what are ELT’s money trails, and what do they mean? And why does this matter?
My Guardian Weekly article on the opportunity that mobile devices offer for graded readers is available in today’s issue. In the article I review the OUP “Bookworm” iPhone/iPad apps and discuss the opportunities and challenges that publishers face in making mobile versions of their graded reader titles.
A year ago I posted an article on this site that was critical of the entries for the Duke of Edinburgh’s “President’s Award” for innovation and good design in digital materials for English language learning. I was a judge again this year, and I suppose the answer to my question above is “yes, they are somewhat better, but nowhere near good enough”. The winner was Cambridge English Online’s Phonetics Focus app, which we felt was a great tool for teachers and learners to learn the Phonemic alphabet, with a clear and attractive user interface and visual design. There were some other interesting entries, though we felt a couple were not quite finished enough for us to consider and we have contacted their developers to explain this. Otherwise, we were relieved to see some mobile apps, albeit of variable quality, though surprised to see CDROMS, even for entries that were web-based.
It’s a year since I started Constellata and I have been using this anniversary to reflect further on the growing area of mobile learning.
This is a fast changing area and there are no definitive answers, and my views are likely to change during my company’s second year of trading.