Meet the MEC Author (Part 2)


An interview with Russell Whitehead continued:

8) What are your tips for new teachers using MEC?

‘New to teaching or new to MEC? Either way, make it your own – but see what your students want of it. If you really are new to it, get a couple of your students – or some likely people – and sit there with them as they negotiate their way round it, and talk about it with them.’

9) What are your views on blended learning?

‘Well, when I went to school/university/tried to learn various languages independently, the expression “blended learning” didn’t exist. But combining or integrating resources and environments such as libraries, lectures, seminars, informal study groups, etc is what studying has always involved. And it still will, long after every single currently used PC is long defunct and buried in the Ozymandian sand of global warming.

Learning is tied up with crucial interdependencies between the social/interactional and the material. In the three years I spent at Oxford University doing my first degree, I had between 100 and 150 hours of one-to-one or paired tuition. Looking back, it doesn’t sound like much, but it was very powerful. The rest of the time consisted of using the various other resources.

The thing that matters is that those few ‘real’ hours (i.e. face-to-face, real-time and absolutely not replaceable by any IT mediation) were the skeleton that made sense or gave shape to all the rest of it.’

10) What do you think the future holds for ELT teachers and authors?

‘Teachers are no different from anyone else. If your job is very basic and poorly paid, nobody will be bothered to develop the software to replace you. If you’re very highly paid and specialist beyond the ken of software developers, you too will be left alone.

Teachers float around between these two poles. Of course, it depends where you live, and at what level of the socio-economic scale your pedagogic efforts are directed.

Paperless IT-mediated educational material I suppose is likely to prove more helpful to most – it saves money in the end, it’s easier on the planet and so on. But it requires a lot of costly hardware. I hope the rich/poor divide in the world isn’t increased by all this. We need a lot more of the equivalent of the wind-up radio.

English is growing as a lingua franca, and inexorably so. Others will follow.

This takes me to areas where my head starts to hurt. I despise nationalism; but I think globalisation is a nonsensical and transparent veil for pre-Marxian exploitation.

Authors? I suppose we’ll have to write either more and more for children or for increasingly specialised areas.’

Wind-up radio. Is clockwork the future for technology?


Do you have any response to Russell’s comments? What do you think the future holds for English language teachers? Leave a comment.


  • Hi Russell
    In connection with you saying that the term ‘blended learning’ didn’t exist when you were studying, it’s interesting to me to note that it actually didn’t have a high enough profile to come up when we were first deciding what to develop as an online product for Macmillan in 2000. We decided that it was common sense to develop a product – MEC – that did the opposite of what many online learning products were doing; it didn’t throw out print materials and teachers and assume that everyone could learn from an internet-based system alone. It was after MEC came into existence that the description ‘blended learning’ came up in ELT circles to describe its approach. Given the fantastic and inventive use teachers make of MEC, we’re still convinced we made the right decision, even if we didn’t have a name for what we were doing at the time!

    Posted by Fiona MacKenzie on June 05th 2007

Leave a Comment