Well, we’re 48 hours away from the ELTons awards – and as the excitement mounts, it’s time to take a look at the nominees.
There are five new categories this year, with awards for excellence in course innovation, learner resources, teacher resources, digital innovation and local innovation. Add to these the Macmillan award for innovative writing (not to mention the lifetime achievement award) and you have a substantial shortlist of 36.
At first glance the big names dominate, with large, UK-based publishing houses and international school franchises well-represented. To a certain extent, this reflects both the prestige of the awards and their roots in a desire to showcase the best of UK ELT. As Tony O’Brien, British Council Director in Serbia, puts it: ‘The British Council [initially] wanted to tell the world about UK ELT – and to let UK ELT folk see that we were promoting their interests and talents.’
When I spoke to Scott Thornbury at the weekend, he agreed that the ELTons may have been perceived as somewhat UK-centred at first, but that ‘it seems to have broadened and expanded its audience and catchment area, which is a good thing.’
Indeed, a closer look at this year’s nominees reveals a picture of considerable variety. Independent publishers, start-ups and individual entries can be seen in amongst the big brands, while there are international entries from Bulgaria, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Turkey – not to mention nominees like #ELTchat which operate online.
Michael Carrier, the Council’s Director of English Language Development since 2009, emphasises his desire to forge and strengthen links between the Council’s work outside and inside the UK. ‘I wanted to find new ways for the British Council to share its expertise, and its network of contacts overseas, with the ELT community in the UK,’ he explains. Another key strategy for the UK has been to reach out to the ESOL and EAL communities – sharing and adapting resources developed for ELT overseas.
The ELTons form part of this broad-ranging strategy, with nominations not only recognising entrants from beyond the UK but also from independent providers within the UK.
GORDON WELLS: Sense of vindication
Island Voices Videos, a nominee in the Local Innovation category, is based in the Outer Hebrides; Zurich is closer to London than Stornoway, and author Gordon Wells is aware that work at such a remove can often be cast as ‘small-scale or peripheral.’ Gordon says that ‘to reach the final stage of the ELTons process - a truly worldwide competition - bestows an unaccustomed level of recognition, and gives us a real sense of vindication in what we are trying to do. ’ Acknowledging the support and co-operation of countless members of the community, where English and Gaelic are the daily languages of communication, he describes a ‘dynamic process with more and more people getting creatively involved in generating more and more hand-knitted material, in a spirit of bilingual celebration.’
Finding out about projects of this sort is one of the pleasures of exploring the #ELTons shortlist. And now that you’ve seen the range on offer, would you like to share your tips or hopes for Wednesday’s awards?