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David Richardson

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About David Richardson

  • Birthday 07/27/1954

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    Kalmar, Sweden

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  1. Sorry it's taken me a while to respond - I haven't checked this forum for a couple of weeks. If you go to my portal page: http://www.humsam.hik.se/distans/index.htm and then click on Active Course Sites, you'll find a link to the Toolbox, where I've created links to one or two pages on some of my existing courses which could be of interest to you. I've done a fair bit of English for Technical Purposes, and I've got a great deal of background material on my hard disks. If you'd like some of it, just mail me and I'll send you some of it! My mail address is david.richardson@hik.se
  2. Firstly, I think that 'niche marketing' is more than just important - it's the way that the web is going in general. What is happening is that we're experiencing a return to traditional human values: we believe what we hear from people we see as being like us much more than what 'experts' say. The good thing about these home-produced web sites is that they can reflect much more closely something that real people find useful … so more and more real people find them valuable and visit them. One of my colleagues here has produced a portal site full of links which might be valuable to teachers of English in Sweden (http://www.spraklankportalen.se/). The interesting feature she added was to include a way for registered user (registration is free) to add links - and to write commentaries on the links which are there. In effect she's produced a system for adding to her site, and providing a measure of quality control, leaving her with the kind of monitoring function which John and the other moderators exercise on this site. It's a shame that Maria produced this site only in Swedish. However, 'läs mer' means 'read more' and is the link to click on to come to comments. The site started only about 6 months ago, so it's still being built up, but it looks as if it could develop into something really useful.
  3. … and I'd like to add that I live in the county of Kalmar in Sweden which experienced a sizeable swing to the Social Democrats when much of the rest of the country swung away from them! We've just topped the league for having excellent and responsive healthcare services (which are organised on a county basis here). Our local politicians now want to make the 90-day guarantee (of the maximum time it takes between going to the doctor and beginning specialist treatment, having been diagnosed) into a 45-day guarantee.
  4. The co-pays in the Swedish system are designed to discourage people from calling the doctor for minor ailments they can sort out themselves. There's a very good medical advice line you usually call in the first instance (which costs one local call unit), and they'll either refer you to treatment you can carry out yourself, to a non-prescription medicine from the chemist's, or to a medical centre where you can get qualified medical advice. I've never heard of a case where someone has stayed away from the doctor's because they can't afford the co-pay (i.e. people are all rich enough here to afford it).
  5. Just to add a little to my previous post. After you've paid the co-pay, you don't pay anything else at all. There was a case which got a lot of publicity here recently of a young man who had a chronic, life-threatening and very rare condition which required medicines and other treatment costing just over 1 million SEK per annum. The state continues to pick up the bill for that (which actually means that the costs are spread out fairly equally among all of us). No-one even suggested that he should be left to his own devices …
  6. Let me respond to John's original posting and say something about the situation in Sweden. But first let me extend my condolences to John's wife and John himself - I hope that you're both doing as well as can be expected … Last year I earned about 350,000 SEK and paid about 108,000 SEK in direct taxation. My employer paid slightly less than I did in various types of payroll tax (the Swedish economy is doing very well at the moment, by the way). We are subject to a co-pay of 150 SEK each time we visit a clinic (although people under the age of 18 pay nothing at all). That's about $25. There's a cap of 1800 SEK per annum on that co-pay, so anyone who has a chronic condition quickly gets up to the limit and then pays no more for the rest of the year. If we're referred to a specialist, we pay between 80 SEK and 250 SEK, depending on what kind of specialist it is. That co-pay also counts towards the annual limit. There's a similar 1800 SEK per annum limit on costs for medicines. The state-run Apotek (drugstore/chemists) has an obligation to substitute cheaper generic drugs for any brand-name drug a doctor might prescribe. There's also something called 'guaranteed care', which says that you have to start receiving treatment from a specialist (if the condition warrants it) within 90 days. If your local health authority fails to meet this guarantee, you can seek treatment somewhere else in the country, or the world, and your local health authority is obliged to meet the bill. The health care system is basically excellent, with modern hospitals and properly-trained staff, although the current Conservative government is trying to run it down. (We're electing a Conservative government about once every 15 years at the moment. They get one term to screw things up, and then we have to spend 10 years or so putting things right again.).
  7. We always sing the Internationale on the May Day march - and it amazes Swedes when they hear that there are English words to it too.
  8. I don't know if I mentioned this, but my university is offering the first 'regular' course in Sweden on Kamimo Island, our island on SL in the spring. The course is called Oral Production, and is worth 3 European Credits. It'll be held entirely on Kamimo. You can apply for the course by going to http://www.studera.nu. There's an 'English' link right at the top of the page, and you need to uncheck the box that says something like 'Courses for International Students' in order to be able to find the course. You can read more about Kamimo in general, and about some of the thoughts we've been having about preparing the course on our blog (http://kamimo-islands.blogspot.com/). I'm also going to be in Berlin on 30th November, presenting at On-Line Educa (http://www.online-educa.com/). I'm planning to use the Peer Gynt Rotunda on Kamimo to make the presentation, which means that visiting avatars will be able to attend there. I'll be talking about which kinds of activities I think fit better in an environment like SL and which work better on more conventional video conferencing equipment. If you'd like to be there, the SLURL for Kamimo is on our blog. I'm in Session DES51, from 11.45 to 13.30. I'm on last, so I'm expecting to be there at around 13.00 (CET). We're not sure if the German IT-infrastructure will hold out, so there's a Plan B, for just in case it doesn't. One extra trick will be an attempt to use Veodia via SL (http://www.veodia.com). You can (apparently) link live video to any prim in SL, so I'm going to try to turn the camera on the audience in Berlin and show the avatars what I can see in the room! If it works, this'll be a given for the Oral Production course. We've been running a pilot course called Social English for Doctoral Students this autumn too, with students from Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Italy, and teachers from both the north and south of Sweden, and Missouri. It worked like a dream! Just as Graham says, it's a very interesting feeling sitting around a camp fire on Kamimo, discussing a student with Luisa from Pisa and Mats, who's sitting about 800 kms away, broadcasting the discussion to a room full of people. We're writing the Social English course up right now (our Norwegian project leader is a very competent writer of academic papers - thank the lord!).
  9. We're opening Kamimo Island officially on 21st September, but the Social English for Doctoral Students course kicks off on 19th September (though we're probably going to do most of the first session on the Marratech desktop video-conference system). We've got two Italians, an Estonian, three Swedes, two Norwegians and a Chinese person living in Norway as students … about right for a pilot course. Kamimo Island is looking good - even though I say so myself! (Actually I haven't been involved in all the clever stuff, so I feel free to praise it …). It's got a very Scandinavian feel to it, with the kind of rocks we get up here, and some typical Scandinavian flowers. There's a fjord and a waterfall with a secret cave behind it. I really like the classroom with group tables which float up into the air (with the participants) when the group wants to talk privately (and float down again when it's time to go back to a plenary session). The island's voice-enabled and we were having a planning meeting in there on Wednesday with participants from Pisa (Italy), northern Sweden, southern Sweden and Norway. The audio was absolutely clear, and the difference between having to communicate by typing and being able to just talk to each other was incredible - it's a completely different experience altogether. I was so encouraged by the look and feel of the place that I've proposed a 'regular' university course in there in Spring 2008. It'll be a 3-credit course called Oral Production (that's 'Bologna' credits under the ECTS), which we'll advertise partly in the way that all Swedish university courses are advertised. In other words, it'll be a mainstream course that just happens to be run in Second Life. My bosses have it under consideration at the moment, but it looks fairly certain to run. (The main learning outcomes are going to involve being able to successfully discuss and describe academic and technical issues in English in a variety of forms and contexts). If we get the green light, we'll start in early February 2008. In theory, anyone from anywhere within the Bologna area should be able to apply for the course - the only hindrances are purely practical ones, such as the fact that our admissions system basically only works in Swedish! However, I'm looking at this course as a test case to try to eliminate some of the more illogical barriers to cooperation across Europe. We're only thinking of offering 24 places on the course at the moment, and some of them will almost certainly be nabbed by some people from Molde in Norway and Pisa in Italy. If you're interested, get in touch and we'll see if we can't drive a coach and horses through the various restrictive practices you find in university systems! Swedish university courses are non fee-paying, by the way, so it won't cost you anything, even if you live outside Sweden. You have to supply your own computer, though. As you can probably tell from the tone of this post, I'm pretty excited by this development. I've never been attracted by the idea of teaching environments which require heavy investment in equipment and software to work at all - or which require vast amounts of (EU) funding just to be run as pilots. Thanks to the largesse of Norgesuniversitet, we've got this environment for three years now (and it'll only cost the three of us main partners a total of about $2500/year to keep it after that), so it's nice to be able to contemplate using it. So … if you're interested in exploring it for real, get in touch. We're also working out a system whereby other universities can use the island on an organised basis.
  10. Interesting responses. I trained as a teacher of English in the UK and worked doing that for three years between 1977 and 1980. In other words, my direct experience of the teacher side of the classroom was from the days teaching was seen as a vocation, and we worked per year, rather than per hour. Since 1980, for nearly all of the time, I've been teaching English as a Foreign Language in various places and it saddens me a little to see the damage that's been done to 'my' subject by the demands of the national curriculum. Right now I'm teaching corpus-based (descriptive) grammar to foreigners, whilst UK pupils get prescriptive 'grammar-translation' type grammar thrust upon them. How you intellectually reconcile "underline the adjectives" with the fact that 'adjective' as a concept wasn't invented until long after Greek tutors were teaching Romans Greek is beyond me. It looks like the use of something we can call 'education' as a means of social control to me … My personal conviction is that I'd have been sacked in about 1985 for resisting the national curriculum, if I'd stayed in the UK.
  11. Here's the English-language site of Skolverket (the national agency handling schools): http://www.skolverket.se/sb/d/190 Unfortunately most of the information you really need is only published in Swedish. We have a national curriculum document called Lpo 94 which is the 'law' for schools at the moment (Lpo means 'curriculum for publicly-run schools' and 94 is the year it was adopted in). This sets out the information in detail.
  12. Quite. There was a stand-up comic in the US in the 60's called Murray Roman who had a great routine called "You can't beat people up, *and* have them say 'I love you'!" It's a lesson which needs to be re-learned every decade, it seems.
  13. Jean Walker asked me for a description of the post-secondary education system in Sweden, so I thought I'd start a new topic where we might learn about several other countries too. The system in Sweden is basically fairly simple … but it gets quite complicated too! There's basically a three-stage education system here, with a few add-ons. When children are about 12-15 months old, nearly all of them start at a day nursery. These are nearly all run either by the local council or by cooperatives of parents, and have staff who'll have done a 2-3 year training course at a university-level institution. In my daughter's current day nursery, the staff refer to themselves as 'pedagoger' (teachers). Attendance at day nurseries is voluntary, though, and you have to pay a fee. This fee is currently capped, and we pay 1,260 SEK per month for full-time attendance (8.30 am - 4 pm). That's about $180 or £90 per month. The next stage is also an 'add-on', but is about to be made compulsory: förskola. This is a pre-primary class offered to 6 year-olds and soon 5 year-olds, in which the activities are little more organised towards things like reading and writing (although pupils aren't expected to be able to read and write before they begin the first compulsory stage of school: 'lågstadiet'). After that you get Classes 1 - 9, which are compulsory. You start Class 1 in the August of the year in which you are seven (so a child born in September will start at the age of 6) and finish Class 9 in the year you are 16. This stage is divided up into two parts: Classes 1-6 and Classes 7-9. It's common to progress from one school to another as you go from Class 6 to Class 7. At the moment, you don't start getting grades until Class 8, and you get final grades at the end of Class 9 (in the very last half-hour, usually!). These grades are set by the individual teachers, although there are national tests in Swedish, English and Maths, and eyebrows are raised if the teacher's own grades diverge from these national grades too much. The national tests have no legal status, though. There are plenty of teacher-administered tests at school, but no national examination system. On the strength of the grades you get in Class 9 you are admitted to (non-compulsory) post-secondary 'gymnasium'. Most pupils do a three-year programme at post-secondary level, starting in the year they're 16 and finishing in the year they're 19. Some technical programmes are four years long, though. In general, the entrance requirements follow the strength of demand, rather than academic merits. Thus the entry requirement for the International Social Studies programme my older daughter has just started (which is one of the toughest programmes in this town - mostly delivered in English, rather than Swedish) is much lower than for the Hairdressing programme, since there are far more people who want to follow a course which gives a vocational training in hairdressing. You basically need what would be called 'straight As' in other systems to be admitted. All 'gymnasium' programmes involve core subjects (such as English, Swedish and Maths), although the subjects themselves are studied at a number of levels (from A to D), according to the number of hours in total the pupils have studied. Thus everyone will do Maths at A level, but only people doing specialist science and engineering programmes will study Maths to D level. University entrance requirements specify which level a prospective student needs to have studied at, making it impossible to be admitted to a science degree course with insufficient Maths, for example. ------- Now on to organisation. A few years ago, Sweden introduced a 'friskola' system, which loosely translates as 'free schools'. This allows any organisation or group of people who can get their plan approved by the national Board of Education to start an independent school. You aren't allowed to ask parents to pay school fees - instead the local council is required to pay the school a sum of money equivalent to the sum it pays for each pupil in the local council school. I.e. these schools are independent of local authority control, but the local authority is still obliged to fund them. Nearly all the 'friskolor' are at 'gymnasium' (post-secondary) level, although there are several schools run by religious organisations (causing a lot of soul-searching when segregated Islamic schools are set up with money from Saudi Arabia …) and one or two non-sectarian secondary schools. Strangely enough, the friskolor are nearly always established in the more well-off parts of town, and tend to have a very low number of pupils with special needs, or language difficulties … In Kalmar, the situation is fairly typical. There are three or four friskolor at post-secondary level, but each one has a very particular profile (IT, HGV driving, etc). Profiles are very common even among council schools, though. You'll find 'gymnasium' schools dedicated to ice-hockey, handball, aviation and equestrianism run by local councils. Each of these must follow the national curriculum, though. In a local town, a major local electrical contractor started a post-secondary school which specialises in electrical contracting within its headquarters building. They have about 20 pupils are are extremely well-funded. The overwhelming majority of pupils go to the council schools, though. There are three very large ones in Kalmar, each with its own profile, but with lots of overlaps (Kalmar has 60,000 inhabitants, by the way). Stagnelius (the one my older daughter attends) is a more academic school; Jenny Nyström has a lot of 'aesthetic' subjects like Drama, Art and Photography; whilst Lars Kagg is the school for people wanting a vocational training. However, as I've said, each of these schools follows the core curriculum too. -------- At the end of the entire process, it's once again the individual teachers who decide on what grades the pupils are given. There are national tests again in Swedish, English and Maths which are intended to give guidance, but these have no legal status. Our new Conservative government have pledged to introduce grades at a much earlier stage … but my judgment is that they're just learning how difficult and expensive that is, so they've been a lot quieter about them in the last couple of months.
  14. Quite. I keep hearing the punch line from the Aesop's fable: who's going to bell the cat? The problem is that it's much easier to wear a bracelet than to start trying to change society …
  15. Sorry to jump back - I've only just started reading this thread. You should read The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - it's about the Earth passing through a belt of poisonous gas which apparently eliminates from the Earth all life apart from that of the enlightened (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Poison_Belt). You can read the full text here: http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Arthur_Cona...he_Poison_Belt/ This was written in 1913 …
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