Imposing Classroom Poverty               

‘We need not impose poverty, but it must not frighten us, as it is the most favorable condition for spiritual development we can find, if accepted with assent…An object scientifically constructed, offered to a child who has nothing, is taken with passionate interest and awakens mental concentration and meditation.’

– Dr Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, Chapter XVIII, The New Teacher.

As a parent, it would seem strange to be asked by a teacher to carefully search my daughter before class and take away from her any toys or objects that might distract including, say, jackets with zips or buttons or even gloves with tassels. Strange because it seems to me a natural parental instinct to dress and accessorise ones child. It’s normal and humanising and I personally believe my child is more than just an animal.

But as a teacher I feel the need to experiment somewhat radically with a practice of imposing poverty, as Montessori might put it, towards helping students concentrate and also to ask parents to participate in searching for and removing unnecessary and distracting possessions from their children before class.

Assent as Montessori suggests is vital. My in-class rule (and it does help if parents care enough to use their wiles and words to manufacture a degree of assent to this practice before class) is to take any thing obviously distracting a child away from them. I like it when this happens calmly and silently (sometimes there is resistance) and part of assent for me is, albeit after the fact, placing the confiscated object on a nearby table in general view of the child so they feel less robbed and more isolated from their possession [1].

Without distractions, I do indeed find that the children in my class can concentrate better on the different ‘objects’ I present them (whether that ‘object’ is game, an activity or content related artwork contributed by Wenli) and learn with concentration.

But removing distractions completely seems to be impossible. Below are photos of some of the possessions I have recently tabled. Naturally I’d be grateful if parents succeedeed in cleaning out their childs pockets of marbles and parts of plastic toys and suggested the child leave their wristwatch in the family car. But perhaps teachers will always be confiscating the jacket of a child who thinks it’s cool to suddenly wear it covering their face for quick laughs. And who knows from where the child got that chip of wood or that scrap of broken balloon!

[1] In my particular context, the design of the classroom does not assist me with imposing poverty. The children don’t have lockers, for example, just outside the classroom where they can store extra possessions as a matter course – though I wish we had lockers and am comfortable imposing ‘power’ here generally as defined by Michel Foucault (Part IV, Chapter 2, The History of Sexuality).

Xinjiang Dried Apricots

 Just 5 minutes soaking in warm water and I was able to cut up these dried Xinjiang dried apricots (a gift from Wenli) and add them to my bubbling tomato pasta sauce.  
I plan to store the rest of the dried apricots in a sealed glass jar to balance/distribute moisture between them as some are drier than others and in others the sugars in the flesh have crystallised.

Quick Key – Not Just For Multiple Choice Questions

Those familiar with QK will know that it’s a perfect fit for multiple choice questions. But this semester I found a way to use QK in an exam for my college level English students that included both multiple choice questions and open questions (where students write a paragraph or more).

To make QK work for open questions, I needed to create a number of criteria for a single question and associate each criteria with a single QK multiple choice question. For example, question 11 in my exam asked students to write an email and had 5 criteria:

Question 11

  • Criteria 1: Mention your ‘Common acquaintance’. (QK Question 11).
  • Criteria 2: Your ‘Reason for writing’.(QK Question 12).
  • Criteria 3: Be ‘Giving information’ in general (QK Question 13).
  • Criteria 4: Make reference to ‘Attachments’ with more detailed information. (QK Question 14)
    Criteria 5: Write some ‘Final comments’ and ‘Close’.(QK Question 15)

Take a closer look at my exam paper here if you want: Quick Key Mixed Question Type Exam

If the student satisfied a single criteria, I simply marked A on their mark sheet (which I designated as the correct answer when setting up my quiz on the QK website) and if they did not satisfy the criteria I simply marked B. Now obviously open questions require the teacher to fill in the bubble on the student Quick Key bubble sheet themselves, but in my experience this still delivers overall a significant time saving: I read, decide if the answer has satisfied the criteria and then mark either A/B. I mark swiftly this way and when I am done filling in the open questions on the bubble sheet I can scan and collect all the marks (student and teacher chosen) swiftly with my iPhone QK app.

Is this high quality marking? For criteria based marking I think it is. And I am still able to take time out and jot comments in the margins of a students exam paper if I want to!

Qualitative Research e-mail lists mentioned in Richards (2009)

In his appendix of online resources, Richards (2009) presents a selection of e-mail lists (p 171). What follows is a summary of my experience trying to subscribe to the lists. Generally speaking some of the lists mentioned in Richards (2009) no longer exist and others have moved to new online locations or undergone changes in the procedures for sign up. It is also worth considering that what Bob Dick has to say about the Qual-L list as true of all these lists: ‘Qual-L usually carries a very low volume of traffic. Like most mailing lists it has occasional flurries of higher activity and occasional dead patches. For some while now the dead patches have predominated. There may be several months where there is no mail at all. It’s a small list: about 200 subscribers, more or less. But if you have queries about qualitative research, there are some talented subscribers.’ (Dick, B, personal communication, 2 February, 2013)

The ‘Biographical Methods’ and ‘Ethnography in Education’ e-mail lists have moved to a new home hosted by JISCMail.

JISCMail is otherwise known as The [UK] National Academic Mailing List Service and is managed and funded by JISC Advance (See:

Practically speaking there are a few ways to get signed up to these lists but perhaps the most foolproof and manageable way is to:

a. Sign up for a LISTSERV password here:

b. Click to confirm your subscription in the confirmation email sent to you by JISCM@il

c. Login with your email and password to subscribe to ‘Biographical Methods’ over here: [2] [3]

d. While on this same page you can select ETHNOGRAPHY-IN-EDUCATION from the drop-down list. [4]

‘Ethnomethodology/conversation analysis’ and ‘Designed for methods tutors’ at CIOS (Communication Institute for Online Scholarship) still exist.

They still exist [5] but there are some caveats and the subscription method is a little different to that described by Richards (2009).

Here are the caveats:

a. The list system does not allow signup via the CIOS website.

b. The list serve system only accepts signup request emails formatted in Plain Text. Many email applications send emails formatted in HTML by default. So you need to know how to set the format of your email to Plain Text before sending. Here is an article on sending messages in Plain Text using gmail webmail (at present Macquarie University student email accounts are hosted on gmail):

c. Unless you are a paid member (individual or institutional) of CIOS you can only sign up to one list at a time. When I tried to sign up for both I got an email from CIOS stating that “you are not a member of the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship (CIOS) and you are not using Comserve from an institution that is a CIOS institutional affiliate”. Presumably this means Macquarie University is not an institutional member of CIOS.

Here is how to sign up:

a. Ethnomethodology/conversation analysis

Subject: subscribe [6]

Body: Subscribe ethno John Citizen [7]

b. Designed for methods tutors

Subject: subscribe

Body: Subscribe methods John Citizen

The QSR-Forum email list has been replaced by web based QSR Forum.

Sign up here:

Be aware that after signing up you may login but your ability to post questions or even edit your profile is restricted until QSR staff review and approve your subscription.

QUAL-L at Southern Cross University has a new signup procedure.
The procedure is not the same as detailed in Richards (2009) and it is difficult to say what the new procedure is as there appears to be no current information on this list anywhere on the internet.It is unclear whether this list is still active. There exists a web based signup form here:

QUALRS-L at the University of Georgia now have a new signup procedure.
The instructions on the appropriate page at UGA have not been updated since 2009 [8]. That said, the following email commands do work:


Subject: subscribe

Body: subscribe QUALRS-L Joe Citizen

It is also possible to read the UGA QUALRS-L list on the web after signing up for a free username and password:


Richards, Keith. (2009). Trends in Qualitative Research in Language Teaching since 2000. Language Teaching, 42(2), 147-180.


2. Consider the benefits of a Digest rather than Regular subscription. The later will of course send you a message every time a contribution is made!

3. It is worth reading the email titled ‘You are now subscribed to the BIOG-METHODS list’ that you receive by return as it contains instructions on how to use the list including how to contribute to the list rather than simply read it.

4. It’s a long drop-down list, so you might want to type ‘E-T-H’ quickly to get closer to this list option.

5. General information about these lists which CIOS call ‘hotlines’ can be found here:

6. You don’t need to fill in the subject field in your email but if you don’t your email program might warn you there is no subject (annoying).

7. Replace the name John Citizen with your name.

8. See:

Speech Generation

Perhaps not original, but just thought up a mongrel-acronym for how to remember the three physical stages of speech production (Respiration, Phonotation, Articulation). Here it is:

(Pronounced “re-fart”)


Nvivo videos will not import or import without any sound

In much the same way that humans rely on the environment for air, water, food and shelter – Nvivo relies on its software environment (otherwise known as Microsoft Windows) for support. Now to make your Windows computer run faster, Microsoft has chosen to include as part of its software environment only those software resources that are commonly needed. When it comes to audio and video most people using Windows get by with the Codecs that Microsoft has included[1] and even more people never even need consider the word Codec.[2]

But successfully importing even familiar video formats such as .AVI and .MOV into Nvivo is hit and miss unless you take the time to install an extra Codec pack such as the Media Player Codec Pack[3]. It is not enough to rely on the list of supported formats that QSR advertise for Nvivo. As QSR themselves clarify on the Nvivo 10 Help website: “If the required codec is not installed on your computer, you will not be able to import or play the file, even if it is in a supported format.” [4]


  1. Microsoft. The default codecs that are included with Windows Media Player 9 and with Windows Media Player 10  Retrieved 31 January, 2013, from
  2. Wikipedia. (2013). Codec  Retrieved 31 January, 2013, from
  3. cnet (2013). Media Player Codec Pack  Retrieved 31 January, 2013, from;2
  4. QSR International. Media file formats supported by NVivo 10  Retrieved 31 January, 2013, from

The xml file you selected to import does not conform to the EndNote X2, X3, X4 or X5 XML schema.

If you are reading this post, it is just possible that you are using Nvivo from QSR and trying to work out why you can’t import your references after receiving this error:

Nvivo 10 EndNote XML Import Error
The xml file you selected to import does not conform to the EndNote X2, X3, X4 or X5 XML schema.

For me this unhelpful error message was easily fixed. And the answer is not to do with an incompatibility between EndNote X6 and Nvivo 10 as I had originally thought (X6 xml works just as well as X5 with Nvivo 10). The answer is simply that not all references created with EndNote are equal. Just 1 of my 70 references was corrupt and causing Nvivo spit back the above error message at me.

So this is how I fixed my problem. First I exported just 1 of 70 references to an XML file from my EndNote library and tried to import it with Nvivo. Success!
Then I exported 35 of 70 to another xml file and attempted to import it – and so forth in increasing numbers until I hit my 1 bad EndNote reference. EndNote it seems was rejecting my 1 bad reference because it contained crazy cut-and-paste badness. See the whacky character in my cut and paste abstract (below)? Yep! That was the problem. Frustrating problem but simply fixed in the end by removing this bad character (doing this in EndNote didn’t work for me – so I needed to edit the XML file with a text editor).

So, if this post has helped you (I couldn’t find a good answer anywhere!) please take a moment to link back to this post or just comment and say thanks!

Bad Characters in EndNote reference can trip up Nvivo when imported as XML
Bad characters in EndNote reference can trip up Nvivo when imported as XML


Reading academic e-books for free with SpringerLink

I am happy to be able to read International Handbook of English Language Teaching , Cummins, Jim; Davison, Chris , 2007 online for free over at SpringerLink. Simply visit:

Even greater joy is mine to discover that Macquarie University library (MQl) currently subscribe to this…err…I guess we call it ‘database’. With a institutional subscription, naturally, you don’t need to pay in order to download content offline as PDF. MQl offer access to said e-books via the Springer ebook collection and (maybe also) the SpringerLink contemporary (1997 – present)


The Macquarie University e-Reserve offers me a scan of this article:

Adamson, Bob; Davison, Chris. “Innovation in English language teaching in Hong Kong primary schools: one step forward, two steps sideways?” Prospect: The Journal of the Adult Migrant Education Program , 18:1 , 2003 , 27-41

I am grateful, naturally, for the efforts of the Reserve Library team (thanks Chris!) but I prefer the same article free to the world here for Pure Digital Reading.

I found the Pure Digital article linked to above by googling – it seems the journal Prospect is a publication of Macquarie University (MQ) itself and that MQ publishes this free to the world! So looking outside brings me back home on this research sortie.

Pure Digital Reading

Family friend, writer and film director Mojgan Khadem once told me “writing is all about managing your ideas”. And even though I don’t need to write a thesis during my “coursework” Master in Applied Linguistics with Macquarie University (MQ), I am convinced my ability to manage my ideas and learn the discursive formations of Applied Linguistics will be greatly enhanced if I can practice Pure Digital Reading.

Pure Digital Reading? I am, hopefully, coining this phrase. I mean:

  • Reading only digital material that is keyword searchable. Whose words can re-flow and re-size happily on every black mirror (iPhone, iPad, Kindle and Laptop) in my possession. A standard of content not offered (unfortunately) by the MQ e-Reserve. There students like myself receive (not ungratefully) ‘scans’ of articles prepared by the hardworking Library Reserve team. Scans that are for the practitioner of Pure Digital Reading just raw materials that must be further processed with OCR software and hard work. Of course, sometimes it is worth looking outside your own institution for that journal article.
  • Tagging keyword searchable materials with the same purpose in mind as the act of underlining words, phrases or passages from paper books.
  • Annotating content. Not just with comments or notes, but with images, videos, audio notes, hand drawn diagrams, URLS etc. New tools can handle this! iAnnotate PDF reader is my current weapon of choice on the iPad.

And all this in my opinion is far from new-fangled. Infact, the need for Pure Digital Reading is a direct result of the accumulating human record predicament so clearly described by Dr. Vannevar Bush in As We May Think back in 1945. The specialist in any given area of human knowledge – the Master student, the PhD candidate, the Professor – naturally amass and organise their learning. And they used to do this by creating their own private libraries accompanied by index cards full of notes/references and clouds of post-it-notes or white(black)board jottings. But now, I can access my library digitally. Without even leaping out of my chair to pull down a paper book, without flinging open a drawer and flicking past reference cards I can sift and share my thoughts and notes.