major overhaul…

Much has been going on behind scenes at LD HQ over the past year… changes in management, structure and priorities… you know how it is in universities 😉

Well, now a major refurbishment of the online presence is finally getting financial support and workload allocation.

The current LD website hosts some rather old and tired resources, and we’ve just recruited some very keen and able students to help us redesign them, so they speak more effectively to those who use and need them.

Resources on the current website, especially the downloadables, will be simplified into 1-2 page handouts for anyone to browse and use. These will be supplemented with some new instructional modules in moodle, that can be used outside or within subjects across disciplines at UOW.

We’d love your feedback on any of the resources currently on the LD website – we don’t want to ditch things you use and like, but we do want to improve what’s there, and the pathways to them.

So feel free to send comments and suggestions any time over the next couple of months, using the email link at the bottom of the LD website’s information for students page, or the LD FaceBook page, or this blog.


As for the online course flagged earlier (a year ago!), which will explain, promote and support the use of corpus tools, well it’s been played with quite a bit, on various platforms, and a decision as to which to release it on is very close to being made, so there’ll be a final update on that interesting saga by the end of the year, so yay, that’s exciting ! A flyer with all the details will be posted here in due course…


The e-language OOC is coming!


Currently under development and coming soon to an Internet near you is an Open Online Course that introduces students who are using English as a second language to the use of open online resources for continuing language learning.

The course focuses on corpus and concordancing tools, and also shows students how to make good use of other resources that are linked into this blog.

The reason I’m doing this course development is that I worry sometimes that the resources are not being widely or well enough used – there are some amazing resources linked into this blog, that I’ve gathered together after years of exploring what’s available online and making selections that might be most useful to UOW students. But sometimes as we know, there is just too much ‘information’ online, and a person doesn’t know where to start or what to do with it…

So the course is being designed as a structured introduction and solid pathway to using some of the best stuff that can be found on the various pages of this blog. If you are interested to participate in the trial run of the course next session, and to give me feedback on your experience through a couple of short surveys (before and after), I’ll be very happy to hear from you – let me know via


I think all international students will have received an email about this, but in case not, you may be interested to go along to the free ‘master class’ next week being offered on campus. Thursday June 18 at 6pm – register here



how language develops….

Interesting post to The Conversation yesterday by Annabelle Lukin – about language learning. Anyone interested in what language is and how it develops and works will recognise the debate mentioned here I’m sure, and it’s nice to see linguistic theory communicated in an accessible way to the general reader.

Questions of what language is, and how it develops (not only in early childhood, but throughout life, in first or additional languages) are core to our activity in Learning Development at UOW, so it was a pleasure to read this.

The space available in an article for The Conversation  is of course very limited, so it might seem that the argument presented here lacks nuance and understanding of the complexity of arguments by Chomsky and Pinker, but there is actually tremendous depth and sophistication to studies of language development within the SFL framework, and they provide a rich and wonderful counter-narrative to the views that dominate publishing of knowledge about language.

The trouble with so many pronouncements about learning and language is that they so often don’t pay close enough attention to what is actually going on… so, may the discussion of how language learning is a material, social  and contextual experience continue !

Everyone coming into university is experiencing some pretty dramatic changes to their linguistic repertoire and culture – their exposure to and understanding of how ‘knowledge’ is created in specific types of discourse (ways of thinking, talking, writing, doing) becomes more sophisticated and complex, and just different to what was going on in their life before.

And everyone coming into this university from a background in another language and culture is being bombarded with ‘new and different’ on every level of language – from discourse to wording… their repertoire is being challenged every minute of every day, and forced to grow in response to the communication demands of the immediate situations they’re in.

It’s a wonderful, complex, difficult process, that can only be understood by paying very close attention to what’s actually going on linguistically, as we teach and learn, in any discipline 😉

Study, Write, Present…

Following the Digital Literacy program’s start in Week One, the general Academic Literacy workshop program begins at the Learning CoOp in Week Three – check out the programs, and register for any Language focused classes you need HERE

The Academic Literacy classes are free for all students and have been designed to:

  1. explain academic expectations in relation to study, writing and speaking in the university context, and
  2. provide you with strategies to become a more successful student. See below for class descriptions

The Ac Lit program covers topics from study and reading strategies, assignment analysis, paraphrasing and summarising, referencing, oral presentation, report writing, essay writing, argument development, academic style, paragraphing, sentence-level grammar, pronunciation, proofreading and editing.

CoOp flyer


one stop shop

From 2015 students can access a range of learning support services in one place – the Learning Co-Op will be located within the Library (and online). So if you know you need help with some aspect of your academic work, but you’re not sure where to go or what exactly you need, check out the Co-Op and someone there will point you in the right direction, and give you help on the spot, in the one-stop shop.


LD – media & messaging

Learning Development has started using a Facebook Page this year, to help make sure students and other staff know about what goes on to support development of academic language and learning at UOW. Readers are welcome to post comments and questions there (and here on this blog) any time, about anything to do with your ALL (academic language & learning).

What do you think of the header image on the LD Facebook Page? What does it make you think of? How does it represent what happens in work with LD? We’d love your thoughts!


On Writing from Reading

The open course on academic writing from Reading University (mentioned last post) is very traditional (in its conceptualisation theoretically and its linear presentation), but it’s very well put together (clear, simple) and worth visiting, for anyone unsure about the difference between ‘academic’ and non-academic essay writing.

The topics are:

  • week one – what is academic writing?
  • week two – essay structure and organisation
  • week three – using academic language
  • week four – preparing an essay
  • week five – writing an essay

It gives good illustration of the points being made, and they’re all points worth making.

The FutureLearn platform is a recent entrant into the ‘MOOC’ space (massive open online courses), and in many ways (especially graphic design) it is a nicer environment to be in that Coursera etc, but it has a very rigid linear structure, so you can’t jump around and navigate your own way around the course very easily…. it’s very ‘teacherly’ in its presentation. But that suits some people sometimes quite well, especially if the topic is relatively new to you.

The course seems a classic case of the traditional approach to teaching academic writing (especially its way of distinguishing ‘content’, ‘organisation’ and ‘language’), but despite the theoretical critiques going on in my head as I watch, I’m pleased to see the topic being discussed openly for a large audience. The discussions are interesting – especially when students from all over the world post their own ‘essays’ and fail to follow the instructions and example and don’t comment on each others’ work in the way the instructors intended!

online courses

An open online course begins next week (Feb 17) that might be of interest to readers of this blog: A beginner’s guide to writing in English for university study, based at Reading University in the UK. It’s targeting learners who are just unfamiliar with academic writing, and may be way too basic, but I’m going to check it out to see what’s in it anyway, and you can join for free and get feedback on your writing, so don’t hesitate if that’s what you need.

There’s lots of other free courses and resources listed here on this blog too – explore, enjoy 🙂

where’s the proof(reader)?

the lament of all teaching academics (!)… but what if you think you have checked over your writing carefully and you can’t see the errors? …

If you can, always have a friend or someone whose English is better than yours read over your stuff – exchange the favour with others… but when you can’t do that, you should at least always read what you’ve written out loud, as simply doing that can make you hear problems you didn’t see…

Some people even find text-to-speech software like this helpful sometimes… with this kind of software (and there are many examples, just google it – here’s a simple online one), your computer will read your text aloud for you, so it’s even more likely that you’ll  hear a problem that you haven’t noticed…

Text-to-speech software wasn’t designed for error checking or help with pronunciation, but can be used that way, or to hear the same thing said in a range of accents…. an example is WordTalk which:

  • Speaks the text of the Word document;
  • Highlights the text as it goes;
  • Choose to Speak the entire document, paragraph, sentence or just a word;
  • Talking dictionary to help decide which word spelling is most appropriate;
  • Adjust the highlight colours;
  • Change the voice and the speed of the speech;
  • Convert text to speech and save as a .wav or .mp3 file.