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An introduction to Oil and Gas

Oil rig on the oceanPeter Astley, the series consultant for Oil and Gas 1 and 2, part of the Oxford English for Careers series, gives us an introduction to the oil and gas industry for language learners.

The oil and gas industry has grown from its beginnings in North America and the United Kingdom into an international industry where English is the common language. Although reserves of oil and gas are declining, the world demand for energy is growing. Remaining reserves of hydrocarbons are more difficult to exploit and require challenging engineering and business skills. Countries where oil and gas are found are keen to develop their own industry and the skills and resources of their own people in all the stages of oil and gas development and across the wide range of disciplines and different levels of ability. In this way they can fulfil the aspirations of their own people and improve their long term national economy.

The industry is divided in to two main sections, Upstream and Downstream. The Upstream sector is concerned with extracting reserves and carrying out initial processing to transport the oil and gas to the Downstream sector for further processing, refining, distribution and sales. The Upstream sector is also divided into Offshore and Onshore depending on where the reserves are located.

The industry requires a vast range of skills: scientists and geologists in exploration, engineers and technicians to develop and maintain very expensive capital equipment, production workers, administration personnel and managers, and business specialists managing the complex projects and contracts involved.

In such a specialised industry there are many different disciplines and different levels and so good communication skills are essential. People tend to work in international teams where competency in communicating in English is essential. This is a time when technology is advancing and there is a greater need for qualified people at all levels who in conjunction with their main assignments must plan, design train and enforce high levels of safety and the maximum possible protection of the marine, land and air environment.

With the advance of computer techniques such as technical analysis software, computer aided design and the ability to communicate and work simultaneously in different parts of the world, there are great opportunities for young people to start a satisfying, secure and well paid career in the industry, particularly for those with a good command of the English language.

Are you an ESP teacher? How do you introduce a new topic to your students? Let us know your thoughts and experiences.

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Digital Natives: Fact or Fiction?

Smiling young woman on computer vs frustrated woman on computerZöe Handley, our resident EFL technology guru, considers the notion of the so-called “digital natives / digital immigrants” divide and whether such a divide exists between learners of English as a foreign language and their teachers.

Ever since I became aware that the digital natives / digital immigrants opposition is having a negative effect on teachers’ confidence in their use of technology in language teaching, the topic has frustrated me. In this post, I will explain why.

Where did the terms digital native and digital immigrant originate?

The terms first appeared in Prensky (2001). In this article, Prensky argued that an unsurmountable digital divide has developed between the young who have grown up with technology and older people who have become acquainted with technology later in life; and consequently between students and their teachers. Prensky coined digital natives to refer to the former and digital immigrants to refer to the latter and argued that, as a result of interacting with technology, digital natives “think and process information fundamentally differently” (Prensky, 2001: 1) to digital immigrants.  Digital natives, according to Prensky, process information quickly, enjoy multi-tasking, and enjoy gaming, while digital immigrants process information slowly, working on one thing at a time and do not appreciate less serious approaches to learning. This divide, Prensky argued, is the greatest problem facing education today and teachers must change the way they teach in order to engage their students.

In other literature this generation has been referred to as the Net Generation (Tapscott, 1998) and the Millennials (Howe & Strauss, 2000) and more precisely defined as those born on or after 1982 (Oblinger, 2003).

Prensky’s ideas have since influenced policy-makers and many researchers have adopted them as their point of departure. But, what evidence is there to support the native / immigrant divide?

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Addressing concerns about project work

Nervous woman biting nailsHaving introduced us to, and examined the benefits of, project work in the classroom, Project author, Tom Hutchinson, now considers the primary concerns held by teachers about its use and offers his suggestions for overcoming such concerns.

In previous blog posts, we looked at the benefits of project work, including motivation, relevance and educational values. You are probably wondering by now: what’s the catch? For every benefit there is a price to be paid, and in this section I’ll take a look at some of the main worries that teachers have about project work.

Noise

Teachers are often afraid that the project classroom will be noisier than the traditional classroom and that this will disturb other classes in the school. But project work does not have to be noisy. Students should be spending a lot of the time working quietly on their projects: reading, drawing, writing, and cutting and pasting. In these tasks, students will be working on their own or in groups, but this is not an excuse to make a lot of noise.

The problem is not really one of noise, it is a concern about control. In project work students are working independently – they must, therefore, take on some of the responsibility for managing their learning environment. Part of this responsibility is learning what kind of, and what level of, noise is acceptable. When you introduce project work you also need to encourage and guide the learners towards working quietly and sensibly. Remember that they will enjoy project work and will not want to stop doing it on the basis of it causing too much noise. So it should not be too difficult to get your students to behave sensibly.

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How I got into ‘drama’ by Ken Wilson

Tragedy and comedy drama masksKen Wilson is a full-time author of ELT materials. He wrote Drama and Improvisation for the Resource Books for Teachers series (OUP). For many years, he was artistic director of the English Teaching Theatre, a company which toured the world doing shows for learners of English.

I’ve been involved with ELT long enough for people to describe me as an ‘expert’. Of course, the word has to be modified by a reference to one’s area of expertise, so I’m a ‘drama expert’.

Despite the fact that my presentations at conferences etc are labelled ‘drama workshops‘, I’m not really sure about the use of the word ‘drama’ in an ELT context. It might add a level of complexity to the kind of things that I and other like-minded educators do, which is to suggest simple classroom ideas that can make learning more interesting and engaging.

I usually tell teachers that I’d prefer not to use the word and that the activities I’m going to talk about in my ‘drama’ workshop are simply designed to animate the language their students know. I actually prefer the word ‘animation’ to describe the activities, but of course in most people’s minds, that would sound as if I was talking about using cartoons.

Anyway, I promised to write about how I got involved in ‘drama in ELT’. So how did it happen?

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