Overview

ABAX is an independent and award-winning publisher of ELT materials with offices in Tokyo, Japan and in San Francisco, California. ABAX texts are in use in universities, colleges, high schools and private language schools around the world.
Read more

Announcements


BREAKING NEWS: Fiction in Action: Whodunit  has won the 2011 ELTons Cambridge ESOL International Award for Innovation!

Last November, Whodunit was awarded The Duke of Edinburgh's English-Speaking Union English Language Award 2010 in an awards ceremony held at Buckingham Palace. Congratulations Adam! Congratulations Marcos!

An eText through Creative Commons!

Fiction in Action: Whodunit. The world's first ELT eText available through Creative Commons. Click on the cover to find out more.

Search

Tuesday
Apr162013

American Plus

American Plus: The format we follow for our texts for the learning of English is American Plus—that is, while American English is the main element in all our texts, we also expose students to other standard variations, increasingly important in a world in which English is more and more the way people from different nations communicate. In other words, we aim our texts at students who wish to learn American English as a tool for communication but as a tool they are likely to use in an international setting where they are likely to be meeting speakers of other varieties of English.

Searching around the web the other day came across the English Plus Movement and saw an admittedly loose parallel of sorts here. In the movement originating letter sent from the Spanish American League Against Discrimination to then Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett, the League stated, "English by itself is not enough. Not English Only, English Plus!" Plug in American English for English and you have much of what we mean by American Plus.

(This short post the first of five over the next five days in a blogathon initiated by Tyson Seburn of 4C.

Tuesday
Oct022012

Autumn. And the conference season begins…

Fall. A season of cooling climes, changing leaves and… conferences. Lots and lots of conferences. First up for us this conference season is the massive Frankfurt Book Fair, October 10-14, where we are again represented by Tony Forrester of ELB Books. You can find ELB Books in the Educational Publishing Pavilion - Hall 4.2, Stand C1445. Check out our two new teacher's resources: The Coursebook and Beyond: Choosing, Using and Teaching Outside the Text by Fiona Copland and Steve Mann, and Teaching in Pursuit of Wow! by Tim Murphey.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Mar252012

Sunday meanderings and the necessary reductionism of descriptive systems...

Maybe it's because of my earlier career (as short as it was) as a biologist, or perhaps it's due to something else. I don't know… the point (well, starting point at least) is, I like and tend to migrate to ecological descriptions of systems—ecological descriptions of history, the city as an ecological system… And of course language learning too can be seen as an ecology of sorts. That is, learning happens within an ecology formed of interactions between individuals and other individuals, their physical and mental states and their environments.

In his paper "Learning Ecologies of Contagion" first published in Languaging (2006) and recently republished as part of his collection, Teaching in Pursuit of Wow! (ABAX, 2012 but not in our online catalogue yet) Tim Murphey refers to learning ecologies. Here his focus is on the emotional interactive part of the ecology. But I'd like to wander off in another direction. What I want to meander towards is the richness of an ecology. Because that's what an ecology is, rich. Rich beyond rich with interaction. Indescribably rich. Indescribably… Which means of course that we do try to describe ecologies. In all sorts of fields. The ecologies of biosystems, Bateson's ecologies of understanding, economics, which tries to describe the ecology of human exchange. But any such descriptions are necessarily reductionist and hugely so. We try to describe a rich sea of interaction in terms of patterns we can discern. And this reductionism has been a huge intellectual boon. In terms of developing a descriptive science, it has worked extremely well—providing insight after insight into our understanding of interaction-rich systems. But they are descriptions to help us to understand a process, not descriptions to apply to the making or directing of a process. And herein lies the folly. In looking at the descriptive models developed we always need the humility of accepting that our descriptions are not complete. When we try to use our reductionist understanding to build a system, we inevitably fail. This in essence was the Austrian economist, Hayek's critique of Soviet-style command economies. And on this point at least he was right.

Top-down attempts to create or recreate biological ecosystems have been equally unsuccessful. The best we can do is tilt a system in a certain direction and stand back and let the interaction take place.

So too with learning ecologies…

Any learning system is rich with interactions. We can try to reduce and describe these. We can look at social interactions in the learning process, we can look at interactive elements in language development, we can look at the neuroscience of learning, and develop descriptions based on all these approaches. What we cannot do is create a successful approach predicated entirely on our inevitably partial understanding of any of these. We can be informed by our descriptive understandings but ultimately what works, works. And it may work because of elements our models don't yet include. A little humility is never a bad thing.

 

Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at freedigitalphotos.net