This is Hillend Ski Centre, just outside Edinburgh. It is the longest dry ski slope in Europe and it is where I learned to ski.
Bristle isn’t the most pleasant surface to ski on. It especially hurts when you fall over. And if you want to leave the bristle and go off piste, you can forget it. At Hillend Ski Centre, off piste means grass, mud and rabbit poo. Not very appealing at all!
When skiing on snow, there may be more motivation to go off piste than there is at Hillend. Slopes are often crowded. As a result, snow quality can suffer. And sometimes, for the adventurous, things are all just a bit safe.
If the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, then the snow is whiter and more abundant off piste. There are fewer people around and things start to get more exciting.
The same applies in the classroom. For us, the piste might be any of the following:
- The syllabus or curriculum
- Expectations of students, parents, directors of studies, etc.
- The course book
Often, we feel comfortable with the familiarity of the piste. And often, it is where our students expect to be.
But there may be situations when we want to go off piste. Beyond the course book, beautiful things are to be found: art, poetry, social campaigns, natural history clips, online newspapers, video poems and other online materials. Sometimes, the motivation to go off piste is too great.
But pistes exist for a good reason: they are familiar and safe. We can see what is in front of us. We can see what is behind us. Perhaps most importantly, when we leave them, there is no rescue!
Off piste, there are hidden dangers. When we use materials that have not been created specifically for language learners and for language learning, there are all sorts of problems that teachers will have to negotiate. To an extent, the activities on Lessonstream aim to demonstrate principles that we can use to tame the beast. I will be posting about these principles one at a time over the next few months.