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Blended Education Model for the Improvement of

ESL Speaking and Listening Skills via Zoom Meetings/Webinars.



Andrés Melo Cousineau


January-March, 2020.






A. Introduction

B. The basic two-pronged project

C. The interconnection to curriculum

D. Other benefits and risks

E. The Question of Motivation

F. The Question of Assessment

G. Other experienced blended-teaching application samples: EF

H. Disrupting the blended model: The Humanities´ original disruptive essence

I. Technology: hardware and software.

J. Sources and bibliography





A. Introduction


As I have been an in-class ESL teacher for many years, one who is also a photographer and permanently up-to-date with technology, I have always been interested in seeing the possibilities related to teaching languages beyond the physical classroom, be it through hybrid, blended or flipped classrooms. In other words, continuing to traverse the ¨brick to click¨ adventure, as they say. Especially in the learning of languages, the use of the internet has become an everyday fantastic possibility. Some of my personal favourites, among many: “Mango” https://mangolanguages.com/ and “Tandem” https://www.tandem.net/ . For a more complete directory see here: http://c4lpt.co.uk/directory-of-learning-performance-tools/learn-a-language-online/

I myself have used the online learning options not only at Coursera, having finished three courses already (including learning Mandarin!), but also several at Udemy (for drone photography) and many more at the amazing The Great Courses (including many directly related to the role of the Humanities in education and cultural understanding). Moreover, I have been lucky to have learned multiple languages in diverse periods of my life and have been able to do so using diverse methodologies and technologies. This has taught me best how to be a better language teacher. A flipped kind of teacher! LOL.

I particular, I see the disruptive possibilities for current ESL classes by using online teaching as a form of emphasizing oral active (speaking) and passive (listening) production given that many students feel that both speaking and listening to English are some of the most difficult skills for them. Just today I heard once again, after having heard so many others,  how a student repeated, “my English is broken”, and at the very same time added seriously,  “but I have a very good teacher”. I am sorry, great teachers do not have students who end up seeing themselves in this way. Learning English thus becomes a source of frustration. But learning is definitely the highest joy available to humans. This is why I told him to tell me how you would say “My English is not broken” in Tibetan, for he was exiled from Tibet. He immediately offered the translation. I told it to repeat it to himself out loud. He got what I was saying to him, and laughed.

So we do need disruption. Disruption is necessary. Technology can be another avenue for such disruption. However, technology on its own can never be disruptive. This is why disruption is generally praised while avoided in reality.  Few  “talk the talk, AND, walk the walk”. As Bates puts it:

“teaching and later distance education, to a force for radical change in our educational systems – but radical change based on the full potential of e-learning is something that still has yet to occur on any significant scale”. (Bates; my emphasis)

And this disruption is not merely progressive or futuristic. True disruption moves beyond technology, Otherwise, we moderns would be the only disruptors in history! It also involves seeing that perhaps the truest education is the recovering of certain forms of understanding which are now lost to us. The original disruption is the disruption of the soul. Coming from the Humanities, one need only think of the original disrupter, Socrates. Everyone knows his name, few read him. And even less so read him in the original Ancient Greek. Learn Ancient Greek, disrupt yourself. Talk the talk, walk the walk.


B. The basic two-pronged project

More specifically, my project is twofold;

First off,  to create a set of more permanent online lessons geared towards understanding why it is in fact so difficult for some students to speak and listen to English, for instance, by focusing on:

a) pragmatic pronunciation and fluency issues such as the “schwa” and issues such as the difference between “stressed-timed” languages and “syllable-timed” ones (or, another way of putting it, focusing on “thought groups”) which I believe are crucial to overcoming the sense of failure many students have in themselves,

b) the use of specific grammatical areas such as “tag questions” or “phrasal verbs” or “past progressive”, and many others, which students “LEARN”, but cannot actually produce in their communicative interactions (what the specialists, and there are tons of specialists, call “acquire”). For instance, you can have a billion apps on “phrasal verbs”, but not a single student be MOTIVATED to learn them. You can complete the sentence: “She is a teacher, isn’t she?” in a textbook or exam, BUT NEVER be able to produce a SINGLE tag question in a conversation.

and finally,

c) communication-focused topics such as c.1) those used in Business English classes —and their conception of realia and real-world assessment— which include “communication”, “presentation and body language”, “leadership”, “ethics”, “multiple intelligences, and many others, or c.2) the fundamental communicative functions which are the core topic of what is known as “Survival English” (“Buying Things”, “Giving Directions”, “Ordering in a Restaurant”, etc.).  The Mango app EXCELS in this regard,

All of these, most of which we have already prepared over the years, would be set up by using screencast software such as “ScreenFlow” for the Mac in combination with other software such as Keynote, PowerPoint, iMovie (see “Technology Section” below.) and linking the finished video vlogs as specific lessons on YouTube to reach a larger audience —not of TESL experts— but of frustrated ESL students.

Secondly, and this is the real concern of this piece of writing, to use technology to engage in 1-to-1 classes (or, very small groups of maximum five such as those used in Business English environments), by means of a video conferencing technology called “Zoom”; a technology which can also be linked to broader Learning Management Systems (LMSs).  In this sense, this second focus is very different from the huge MOOC courses whose audience, by their very nature, is extremely large. In contrast, mine seeks more of a 1-on-1 interaction so that the speaking and listening skills can be focused on an individual case. (or perhaps, in some cases a maximum of five students). But even for larger groups, this would apply as well, if scheduled correctly and using one’s imagination.


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(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics




“One must examine what concerns it, not only on the basis of the conclusion and the premises on which the argument rests, but also on the basis of things said about it. For with the truth, all the given facts harmonize; but with what is false, the truth soon hits a wrong note.


Now, although the good things have been distributed in a threefold manner  ——both those goods said to be external, on the one hand, and those pertaining to the soul and to the body, on the other —— we say that those pertaining to the souls should be the most authoritative and especially good. And we posit as those “goods pertaining to the soul”, the soul’s actions and activities. As a result, the argument would be stated nobly, at least according to this opinion, which is ancient and agreed to by those who philosophize. It would be correct to say that certain actions and activities are the end, for in this way the end belongs among the goods related to soul, not among the external ones.


And that the happy person both lives well and acts well harmonize with the argument, for [happiness] was pretty much said to be a certain kind of living well and good action. It also appears that all the things being sought pertaining to happiness are included in what was said: in the opinion of some, happiness is virtue; of others, prudence; of others, a certain wisdom; in the opinion of still others, it is these or some of these things, together with pleasure or not without pleasure. And others include alongside these the prosperity related to external goods as well. Many of the ancients say some of these things, a few men of high repute say others of them: and it is reasonable that neither of this two group be wholly in error, but rather that they be correct in so respect, at least, or even in some respects.


The argument, then, is in harmony with those who say that [happiness] is virtue or a certain virtue, for an activity in accord with virtue belongs to virtue. But perhaps it makes no small difference whether one supposes the best thing to reside in possession or use, that is, in a characteristic or an activity. For it is possible that, although the characteristic is present, it accomplishes nothing good — for example, in the case of someone who is asleep or has been otherwise hindered. But this is not possible when it comes to the activity: of necessity a person will act, and he will act well.  For just as it is not the noblest and strongest who are crowned with the victory wreath in the Olympic games but rather the competitors (for it is certain of these who win), so also it is those who act correctly who attain the noble and the good things in life.


But their life is also pleasant in itself, for feeling pleasure is among the things related to the soul, and there is pleasure for each person in connection with whatever he is said to be a lover of — for example, a horse is pleasant to the horse lover, a play to the theater lover. In the same manner too the just things are pleasant to the lover of justice, and in general, things in accord with virtue are pleasant to the lover of virtue. Now, things pleasant to the many do battle with one another, because such things are not pleasant by nature; but to the lovers of what is noble, the things pleasant by nature are pleasant. Such are too are the actions in accord with virtue, with the result that they are pleasant both to such people and in themselves. Indeed, the life [of those who love what is noble] has no need of additional pleasure, like a sort of added charm, but possess pleasure in itself. For, in addition, to the point mentioned, he who takes no delight in noble actions is not good either; for no one would say that somebody who does not delight in acting justly is just or who does not delight in liberal actions is liberal, and morally in the other cases as well.  And if this is so, then the actions in accord with virtue would, in themselves, be pleasant. But certainly these actions are good as well as noble; and they will be each of these specially, if in fact the serious person judges nobly about them —and he judges as we said.


Happiness, therefore, is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing; and these are not separated, as the inscription at Delos has it:


Noblest is what is most just, but best is to be healthy;

And most pleasant by nature is for someone to attain what he passionately desires.


For all these are present in the best activities, and we assert that happiness is these activities – or the best among them.


Nonetheless, it manifestly requires external goods in addition, just as we said. For it is impossible or not easy for someone without equipment to do what is noble: many things are done through instruments, as it were —through friends, wealth and political power. Those who are bereft of these (for example, good birth, good children, or beauty) disfigure their blessedness, for a person who is altogether ugly in appearance or of poor birth, or solitary and childless cannot really be characterized as happy; and he is perhaps still less happy, if he should have altogether bad children or friends or, though he did have good ones, they are dead. Just as we said, then, [happiness] seems to require some such external prosperity in addition. This is why some make good fortune equivalent to happiness, and others, virtue. ”

(NE, 1098b9-1099b8; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)



1) Doesn’t modern philosophy have truly much to learn from the procedural points Ar. makes in this, apparently less interesting —“philosophically” speaking—- subsection? Isn’t the modern philosophical outlook, procedural ethics a la Kant in particular, fundamentally biased towards the formal considerations of ethics rather than towards Ar.´s emphasis “on the basis of what is said about it”? Surely what Ar. means is far from Habermas´s Communicative Ethics, isn’t it? Generally speaking, isn’t our philosophical and scientific bias prone to being unable to consider seriously this second element? And particularly, isn’t Political Science, affected most profoundly and dangerously? But then again, WHO is Ar. thinking about when he adds this element? In other words, WHO, more concretely are those who ”say things about it”? Surely he has told us already that the starting point has to involve, to a certain degree, the spoudaios (the serious citizen)? But WHO are the spoudaios, we do not tire of asking: is it primarily the student of the Lyceum? But wouldn’t that be odd? Won’t it most likely be the serious citizen who lives up to the demands of the noble (kalos) and the dutiful respect for the law (nomos)? Isn’t the speaker rather Pericles, or the impressive Diodotus, or Laches, or Nicias, or Ischomachus  (even Thrasymachus already befriended) rather than the student of practical philosophy? But why continue to push this point further? For isn’t it true that we find ourselves involved in a vicious circle nowadays: serious speakers not being taken seriously by the young, and the young not taking serious speakers seriously because academy rarely invites them towards such a respectful prudent recognition? Bluntly, is it any wonder that Lincoln is seen as a racist? But leaving this point aside, what exactly does Ar. mean by telling us that “the truth harmonizes with the given facts, but hits a wrong note with the false”? What truth is he speaking of here, if he does not add ANY details; further, sees NO need to add further details? For surely, that the truth harmonizes seems  to imply some linkage to what is beautifully so, doesn’t it? But how can a relativistic academy in particular even begin to consider this “simple” statement? Isn´t the truth of modern academic theory the one which dictates what in fact harmonizes, or not, with the practical sphere (see quotes by Strauss, Section IV below)? Isn’t Ar., then, ONCE again providing ANY kind of philosophical/theoretical endeavor, with its most original and inescapable limitations? However, isn’t modern academia’s self-understanding quite different? Isn’t the modern university THE leader in the implementation of political perspectives, so that the political leaders in many cases cannot but be seen suspiciously by those who attend these learning settings? But be that as it may; really, don’t we just have to listen to Ar. to SEE which truth he is speaking of, namely, that there are 3 types of hierarchically ordered goods? Isn’t part of this truth, the one that harmonizes with “  the way things are said”,  that among those goods “those pertaining to the soul should be the most authoritative and especially good”? But, then, wouldn’t one have to INVESTIGATE what soul is as Ar. does in the De Anima? But surely he does not even ask us to refer to THAT work here, does he? Besides, what does it mean for Ar. that just simply the WAY we speak of the soul is SUFFICIENT as providing the bedrock of an investigation into the ethical? And by way of contrast, what if we have come to see ourselves as truly soulless, as truly nothing more than complex biological beings? Can a materialistic society, that perceives itself as matter in constant motion, not but see with radical irony such “high-flown” Aristotelian affirmations? Aren’t  WE Aristotelians swimming upstream in this regard? For truly one rarely, if ever, finds the word “soul” being used in philosophical discussions as Ar. uses it, doesn’t one? Isn’t this part of the shock of reading Straussian interpretations for the first time with their constant reference to the soul WITHOUT going into a epistemological/ontological debate of its core importance? And even more dramatically: doesn’t Ar. in one and the same sentence let us see his prudent initial conciliatory note by affirming that this argument is not simply any kind of argument but rather a NOBLE type of argument? Aren’t we faced once again with the intimate relation between ethics, rhetoric and pragmatics? And most dramatically still, does not Ar. HERE seem to equate the ancient WITH those who philosophize? I mean, how further from radical skepticism can one go here? But who exactly are those who have so philosophized? For didn’t just 2 subsection ago Ar. tells us how misguided the presuppositions of Plato were in core themes (against Broadie and Rowe’s  as well as Ostwald’s interpretations that EASILY provide an answer that includes Plato (!)? But then, is he speaking of Anaxagoras? Surely not, for Xenophon speaks of Anaxagoras´s fate, doesn’t he? So WHO then exactly? Hermeneutically letting go almost imprudently of ourselves: isn’t Ar. quietly hinting here to Cicero’s claim that it was Socrates who brought philosophy “back down to the earth”? And finally, don’t we better understand here Strauss´s stunning reference to Plato as being TOO LOUD, in contrast to the masterful rhetorical skills developed by Xenophon? And, thus, isn’t it obvious why Xenophon is not read in academic circles; circles not attuned to the very words of Ar.´s claim at the beginning of this MUCH “less important” subsection?

2)  Besides what is the connection of THIS procedural reference to the very possibility of happiness in humans? If what we have said above is true, then wouldn’t the lack of such procedural understanding imply to a high degree that academy is not perhaps the greatest site for human happiness itself? But wouldn’t this go against the way academics speak of themselves? But leaving this thorny point aside,  how do we KNOW that the person who is happy HARMONIZES with the argument, if we do not know WHO the happy person is, WHAT she does and HOW she lives? And why does Ar., once again, not simply AFFIRM a point but rather pregnantly adds  that happiness is not SUCH and SUCH, but rather, PRETTY MUCH said to be so and so? And what to make about the ensuing list of differing opinions as regards the core element of happiness itself? Is it virtue, or prudence or, wisdom, or an eclectic mix? And why is Ar. again so tentative with regards to the still not developed question of wisdom, qualifying it as he does by saying that it is a “CERTAIN wisdom”? So are there different kinds of wisdom? But then,  which one accords and harmonizes with  the truth? Which one hierarchically orders the whole, so to speak? And those that do not, can we reasonably call them wisdom?  But, how are we to know? How are we to lead our lives without knowing? And fundamentally, how do those that believe it is virtue, get along with those who believe it is wisdom? And those who turn to wisdom, how exactly do they relate to the prudent (primarily remembering Plato’s Third wave of the Republic)? And if the political art as we were told (but later omitted) is the ruling art, then doesn’t it make all the difference if prudence is the ORDERING political virtue par excellence? Moreover, what exactly is the relationship of pleasure to each of these? What is the pleasure of the virtuous, of the prudent, of the wise? And crucially, why clarify the argument by adding “or not without pleasure”? Why exactly is the question of pleasure SO utterly  problematic in relation to the inquiry into the ethical virtues? Briefly, how are altruism and hedonism to get along? CAN they get along? And finally, doesn’t Ar. again seek to provide SOME common ground for the ancient, those who philosophize and those bestowed with high repute? But if those who hold fast to ancient tradition and those who have come to be considered as highly reputable see THEMSELVES as being partially correct, won’t a CRTICAL inquiry into the basis of their most fundamental longings via a rational reconsideration of their primordial framework (to use Taylor’s vocabulary) become ever more difficult? Or, again, is Ar. simply healing a relationship that has gone array between the philosophers of old, and the old who lead the political space in which philosophy alone can be carried out? Doesn´t one have to constantly keep Plato’s Laws in mind here?


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Filosofía política clásica; el modelo socrático y aristotélico como respuesta a las encrucijadas modernas.

El interés principal para esta propuesta de investigación ——como aspirante a su departamento——- es la de hacer una defensa profunda de lo que representa la filosofía política clásica como posible respuesta a la actual crisis del liberalismo moderno occidental. Dicha investigación se enfrentaría conceptualmente a los defensores del proyecto de la modernidad que buscan las condiciones universales para la defensa de nuestras democracias en una teoría comunicativa (Habermas), y a aquellas posturas que buscan hacer explícitas las condiciones fundacionales imaginarias e hipotéticas para una teoría de la justicia (Rawls). Por otra parte, aunque esta investigación ve la importancia del serio y profundo cuestionamiento radical a la razón moderna que plantean las obras de Nietzsche/Heidegger ——–que en su conjunto incluso llegan a cuestionar el proyecto occidental de racionalidad política fundado originariamente por Sócrates—– esta considera que la falta de una reflexión política sostenida permite a los neo-nietzscheanos post-modernistas (Foucault, Derrida) una ilusoria victoria conceptual que permanece incompleta, que es imprudente (en el sentido Aristotélico de phronesis), y que por ende es altamente peligrosa para la salud general de la comunidad política. En contraposición, afirmamos que es en la obra ético-política de Aristóteles que se da la máxima expresión de lo que representa la filosofía política clásica como contrapropuesta. (1)

Dejando de lado las múltiples interpretaciones que puedan haber surgido de Aristóteles, lo cierto es que al centro de la argumentación detrás de esta investigación radica una lectura que se funda en el pensamiento de Leo Strauss (y en particular, de su estudiante Thomas Pangle). En general el reto neo-aristotélico se ve enmarcado dentro de una tradición aún más amplia que se puede comprender hoy en día como la del “movimiento socrático”. Este movimiento de retorno retoma con seriedad el evento socrático ejemplar, a saber, el de la fundación de la reflexión filosófica de lo político por parte de Sócrates. Comprenden ellos que en efecto hay un segundo Sócrates que se ha distanciado de las presuposiciones apolíticas de los pre-socráticos, presuposiciones que llegaron a conformar la postura conceptual del primer Sócrates interesado exclusivamente en la pregunta por la naturaleza (physis). Esto es lo que es conocido como la “segunda navegación” de Sócrates (Fedón, 99c). Strauss lo resume así: “Socrates was the first philosopher who concerned himself chiefly or exclusively, not with the heavenly or divine things, but with the human things”; Strauss (TCaM, 13).  Es por ello que para lograr una real recuperación del reto del pensamiento político clásico se debe recurrir a la ya mencionada perspectiva que ve el debate antiguos-modernos como el conflicto fundamental para las aspiraciones de una verdadera filosofía política que tenga respuestas concretas, prudentes y sabias a nuestras crisis. (2) Sin embargo este retorno comprometido y serio al racionalismo de la filosofía política clásica tiene ya desde su comienzo diversas variantes interpretativas. Esto se puede ver claramente en la triple comprensión que se da de Sócrates por parte de Platón el filósofo dialéctico, por parte de Jenofonte el escritor militar y por parte de Aristófanes el comediante. La evidente tensión entre estas apropiaciones socráticas se ve claramente hoy en día en el contexto filosófico universitario en la medida en que Jenofonte no es considerado, como sí lo era en la antigüedad (por los romanos, por Maquiavelo, por Hobbes y por Shaftesbury), como un pensador digno de un estudio serio, profundo y continuado; sobretodo por la recuperación del valor de la retórica como lenguaje privilegiado de lo político. (3)

Ahora bien, la excepción a esta regla de exclusión silenciosa, es precisamente la propia tradición straussiana. Al recuperar la multiplicidad de lenguajes socráticos, y muy especialmente la obra de Jenofonte, la tradición straussiana gana una interpretación enriquecida de los clásicos, y en particular, de la obra aristotélica. El retorno recuperativo de la filosofía política clásica por parte de la tradición straussiana por lo tanto permite el planteamiento de preguntas olvidadas. Por ello a la base de esta interpretación surge la pregunta fundamental que el discurso filosófico moderno ha relegado al olvido, a saber, la pregunta misma de ¿por qué la filosofía? A la importancia de las preguntas heideggerianas tanto por el sentido del ser como por el “¿qué es la filosofía?”, se enfrenta una pregunta aún más fundamental y originaria en términos políticos. Es decir, el “qué es” de la filosofía sólo se puede comprender cabalmente una vez hayamos realizado una investigación prudente del “por qué” de la necesidad del filosofar dentro de la comunidad política. Leo Strauss ofrece cierta claridad acerca de esta pregunta que funda las posibilidades del saber filosófico una vez se ha liberado de su “amnesia” frente a la filosofía política clásica: “The philosophers, as well as other men who have become aware of the possibility of philosophy, are sooner or later driven to wonder, Why philosophy? Why does human life need philosophy? … To justify philosophy before the tribunal of the political community means to justify it in terms of the political community, that is to say, by means of a kind of argument which appeals, not to philosophers as such, but to citizens as such.” (mi énfasis) (4) Sin duda la academia, en gran medida, no ha escuchado este llamado. (more…)

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One has the feeling that successful ——-yet now much more questioned —— President Santos, as well as newly elected ——-and now much more highly questioned—— Mayor Petro, should urgently and conscientiously be touched by the attitude and the words with which Churchill defeated Chamberlain. As he is said to have said. “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”. For surely, as important as it is to be in the cover of Time Magazine for all of us, it is a thousand-fold more important to be in the time of one´s serious citizens; and surely, as important as it is to have great rhetorical skills for all of us, it is a thousand-fold more important to be with the words of one´s serious citizens. For it is truly not enough to say that terrorism will not triumph, for with each bomb terrorism does, IN FACT, kill. A citizenry must not be afraid of terrorists, though its leaders must be critical enough to understand that each bomb, and each future bomb —–specially given that there had not been bombs for what seemed to us bogotanos an eternity—- will remain with them forever. For it is one thing to be called upon to bring back the peace after almost ceaseless violence, and quite another to be called upon to preserve a peace already much secured. President Santos and Mayor Petro have been called upon, for the most part, to preserve the peace.


NOTE: AGAINST THE ANALYSIS BY THE GOVERNMENT, BY THE OPPOSITION, BY JOURNALISTS AND BY PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF, one should simply read this and TRY to remain silent for a while, even become a bit embarrassed: link

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