Exclusive Interview with Nik Peachey about publishing, elearning trends and technology

Nik Peachey
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Today’s interview with Nik Peachey marks a very special occasion in ELT publishing. This article is about teaching & technology in the light of grass roots inspiration, hard work, and ultimately, massive sharing of time, talent, knowledge and creative thinking concepts. It’s really about a movement within ELT. It’s about a new kind of innovation that we must get behind while the impetus is still fresh. As with all movements, they often start with just one person…….sometimes this one person is a writer, thinker, philanthropist, trail blazer, trend-setter, and seriously creative global educator.

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Leader in Educational Technology: Nik Peachey

Innovation: Creative uses of new, cutting-edge technology – Web 3.0

Movement: Independent publishing, crowd-sourcing, peer-to peer support of innovation to drive change and empower those who are making a difference in English Language Teaching.

Occasion: Nik Peachey has launched a significant new project, which involves writing a series of e-books called Digital Classrooms. The first book will be called Digital Classrooms – Online Videos, and will give insights into the hows and whys of teaching through digital media.

Why is this a special occasion?

Well, first of all, we should be celebrating the fact that Nik Peachey has come up with a new way of publishing via his fund-raising Indigo Project. The man who gave us Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers in 2009, a free book that has been downloaded 180,000 times, has been working hard since then against all odds in a world where publishing has never been easy. Nik has raised 1,740 GBP of the 5,000 he needs to begin writing the first book. The WizIQ Virtual Classroom platform has sponsored 250 GBP and I’m personally contributing as a materials reviewer. I also  featured Nik on my ESLbrain blog last year and I remember myself hoping that he’d write more books, so it’s interesting to be featuring him again in 2014 with this exciting publishing news.

What’s that got to do with us?

The heart of ELT cannot survive, change or thrive without our creative thinkers, innovators or writers. We cannot continue to love our profession if it remains lifeless and trapped in bureaucracy. We cannot let false economies kill inspiration.

Our movement and mission should be to support talent, innovation and self-publishing opportunities for educators who care enough to  devote months and years to doing what really matters.

Why does it matter?

It matters because we need to learn so much more about digital technology in education. The ELT landscape is constantly changing, and unless you have time for a lifelong PhD and never go out to earn a living, you will need a curator and thinker to make sense of futuristic trends in meaningful ways. I work online and have been following Nik Peachey’s work since 2009. My work, therefore, is on the cutting-edge and it’s easier for me to keep up than traditional teachers. Yet, that’s not enough. It’s not even about keeping up any more. It’s about stamping one’s creative vision on concepts that are still being shaped and have no fingerprints. It’s about putting our own fingerprints on innovation;  crowd-sourced, practical innovation.

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I asked Nik three questions for this interview and he responded with candour and insight. Here are the questions.

 1) What in Edtech has changed since you wrote your Web 2.0 book for Teachers in 2009?

Well I think a number of things have changed.

With particular reference to the book I published on 2009, quite a few of the sites mentioned in it have disappeared or changed their names, which means the book really does need updating.

Some of the big changes though in EdTech have been the developments in tablet and mobile technology. These should be having a huge impact because they put the technology into the hands of the students. These mobile devices are very powerful tools for creating media, with good quality cameras and microphones for recording video and audio and creating images as well as fantastic tools for accessing and interacting with content. The sad fact at the moment though is that so many students are still being asked to turn those devices off when they enter the classroom. The other great thing about mobile devices is the huge quantity of really creative apps that have appeared and, of course, the number of sites that have evolved to help people create their own apps.

The other thing that’s really exciting about mobile technology is augmented reality and its ability to overlay internet resources and information in a locationally specific way. Because your mobile phone knows exactly where you are it can supply you with information that can inform you or help you learn about whatever it is you are looking at or want to do at any given moment. This also means that you can share and produce content based around your experience of that specific location. I find that really exciting and again this is something which is only just starting to be exploited within education.

Of course, there have been some negative changes and this links back to my first point. A lot of sites and apps have disappeared and this isn’t because they weren’t any good, but because they either didn’t have a solid business plan behind them to sustain them or because we just weren’t prepared to pay for them. Website and app developers are like teachers, writers and everyone else – We all have bills to pay and we all need to eat, so we need to make money to survive. I guess this is one of the big changes for me since my book in 2009. Since publishing my web 2.0 Tools for Teachers it has been read on Scribd more than 180 thousand times and that really is great and something that I’m really proud of and happy to have done, but I haven’t made a penny from that, and the reality is that if I’m going to survive and keep producing work, I need to be able to make money from the work I produce. Equally if I find apps and websites now which I find really useful for my students I’m becoming more willing to pay a modest price to support the creators of those services and ensure that I get a good reliable service.

2) What has inspired you to persevere in e-publishing and educational technology as a freelance educational consultant?

What I really like about e-publishing and in particular blogging, is the immediacy of the process. You can have an idea today and publish it today and by tomorrow you can start reading peoples responses to that idea. For me that’s really fantastic and I get a real buzz from it and learn so much from doing it. Often the responses and the interaction I get as a result of that cause me to modify and rethink my ideas and beliefs, so I continue to learn from what I do.

I also think e-publishing is where the future is. Paper-based books are great and I love them, but the whole process of producing a paper-based book is slow and expensive and quite restrictive. I really believe that e-publishing and digital books can make books cheaper and better and open the whole publishing process up to more people. When you publish an e-book you cut out a number of huge costs, like shipping the books around the world and all the type-setting and printing costs,though sadly this cost saving doesn’t seem to be getting passed on to the consumer yet.

E-books can be interactive and include multimedia and there is no additional cost involved in using colour images. Best of all though, the ability to independently produce a book is now something that almost anyone, with some basic level IT skills and the will and determination, can do and I think that’s hugely liberating.

3) What can teachers expect from your new book and why do they need it?

Well, first and foremost, it will be much cheaper than most teacher development books, probably about 20 – 25% of the usual cost. They can also have some say in what goes into the book. If you go to: http://tricider.com/brainstorming/1JDbP I’ve set up a questionnaire to crowdsource ideas and suggestions and allow teachers to vote for the book content so to some extent they can choose what they want to see in the book.

Of course, some of the things I’ve already decided on so they can expect to get a lot of ideas for activities and the stimulation to come up with their own ideas for how to use and create online video with their students. They’ll get video tutorials embedded into the book to show them how to do the technical stuff and how to use different websites and mobile apps, so they won’t have to waste lots of time wondering which buttons to click when they want to do something. They’ll also get some ideas and insights into how to structure video into learning pathways and combine online learning with face-to-face instruction.

As for why they need it, well I think video is a really exciting medium to help students get engaged and motivated to learn, but for teachers it can be a bit intimidating and labour intensive to create their own materials and to find the right content. I think this book will really help them to find great content and great ideas and activities quickly and give them the confidence and know-how to exploit video with their students.

Thank you Nik for giving us the bigger picture in clear, practical terms.

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Back to the rest of us. Most of us are teachers  who  struggle hard to make ends meet, but who need to feel excited about what we do no matter what.

How much do you invest in your own professional development?

Here’s my own personal story. I decided to work online when I had one toddler, three babies and I was swimming in a sea of nappies. I couldn’t work and I couldn’t  afford to pay for traditional professional development courses. I was , however, determined to find a way to work independently from home. I discovered Nik Peachey’s websites before I even had a facebook account. Every night when I got my babies to sleep I went online reading and learning from Nik’s websites and testing out new web tools.  There was enough content there to keep me reading for years…I’m still reading. By the time I actually got a Facebook account and went online to market my teaching, I was surprised to find myself leading the way in terms of technology within the grass roots of the Facebook  ELT community. I used to wonder how Nik Peachey could produce and share so much as an independent online innovator. Then I started my own blogging and holding my own online classes and webinars. I discovered the love of  sharing creatively, and I discovered the commitment it takes.

I jumped at the chance of contributing to Nik’s campaign as a materials reviewer. The contribution of 50 GBPs is merely a drop in the ocean of my gratitude for five years of inspiration and professional development online.

In fact, the contribution is really a moot point from my own perspective. I will get to study his new work and by reviewing it will delve deeply into the cutting-edge once again, through the kind of action-research that will also get me featured in his book. From Nik’s perspective, what seems little from me, could be a lot if other teachers were to come forward with their stories and contributions. Then the funds would build up and we’d actually finance this amazing and necessary project.

Why do we do things? Why should we do things?

Here are my multiple reasons for contributing as a materials reviewer ( apart from the honour of reviewing a Nik Peachey book or being featured in the book)

materials map

There are also smaller contributions to be made from 2 GBP to 5 GBP. Please look at this link where people can purchase their books in advance for 5 GBP, and so on.

What would YOU like to see in the book?

You can also make requests and contribute ideas for what you’d like to see in the book. Here is the link for you to be part of this big crowd-sourcing puzzle.

We are all Dreamers, Builders and Writers.

There are many more educators in my professional network who are publishing books one way or another. When I have time I also review books on my personal website. Watch out for more reviews from me in 2014.

The movement is just beginning. This is important for the global ELT community. It starts here with Nik Peachey and other ELT leaders like him who respect grass roots and care about education. As a movement, the mindset is all-inclusive and non-competitive. If Nik Peachey had been afraid that people would steal his ideas, he never would have blogged in the first place. Writers in my network support each other. The success of Nik is success for all of us.

Last but not least, appreciation costs little but means a lot.

If you would like to contribute in other ways you can:

a) Comment below with your personal story about how Nik Peachey has influenced you and your work.
b) You can go to his website if you don’t know him yet.
c) You can tell him what you want to see in the book through the above link.
d) You can share this article in your online networks and help it to go VIRAL.
e) You can talk about this with your colleagues.

I really want to hear stories from other teachers. I shared my baby and drowning in nappies story. If I collect enough stories I can write another inspiring article on my own website ;)

Word of mouth is sweet :)

I’ll leave you with this quote from Dr. Seuss in his book “Horton hatches an egg“, which epitomises for me the dedication of professionals such as Nik Peachey.

I meant what I said
And I said what I meant
an elephant’s faithful
One hundred percent

If Nik Peachey is Horton, what is he hatching?

I am an Irish woman living on a beautiful Greek island with my Greek husband and four children, including twins, aged between nine and four. I have been teaching ESL/English for fifteen years, with experience in primary , secondary schools, language, and literacy institutes in Ireland, though the majority of my experience has been in Greece. I studied English literature and History in University before going on to take the Higher Diploma in Education, which is the teaching qualification in Ireland. After moving abroad, circumstances led me into the ESL field, which has entailed continuous professional development and opened up new interests and opportunities. My other main interests are art, writing, poetry, and psychology, which which help me to create fun quality time with my children and add colour to my language lessons. When I’m not teaching online, I’m writing course books, blogging or running my English language Facebook groups.

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