David Kertzner’s Two Cents on Technology in ESP

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

As an ESPer, I listen to David Kertzner when he talks. Why? I expect to learn something. David’s company, Proactive English, is described on its website as “a web-integrated, English language and communication training provider serving multinational corporations in the U.S. and abroad.” In this TESOL Blog post, I would like to focus on David’s article in the most recent ESPIS newsletter. His article is titled My Two Cents on Technology (and includes a photo of David, which will be useful if you want to greet him when you see him at the TESOL annual convention in Toronto in March).

David’s words of wisdom about content

One of the topics that David discusses in his article is content. An extract appears below:

In most workplace ESP situations, textbooks are of decreasing value for users—in my opinion. I would suggest that trainers should orient themselves, instead, to the concept of “mass customization”—the notion that trainers can provide variety and customization in the learning experience (including content delivery) without a corresponding increase in costs. As language trainers, we should see ourselves as sharing a core body of knowledge including the grammar and structure of English, which is basically the same as it has been for a long, long time. The contexts for using the language have certainly changed, sometimes dramatically over the past 20 years, but they also become more predictable for anyone who has had some experience training in corporate or vocational settings.

The trick, as I see it, is selecting appropriate core language content from one’s files, and working such content into contextualized (and reusable) learning activities for the client we are working with. This, in turn, depends on having organized learning files on one’s hard drive much in the same way the file cabinet used to be organized—only easier. Search functions can find well-labeled documents. Tools like Google Drive or other cloud services allow us to share content with those who need it, such as hired teachers, in-house teachers, and anyone else with an interest. The wheel does not need to get reinvented every time.

In his writing above (and from a business perspective), David is essentially teaching us how to make money by using good administrative skills. In other words, he is describing the wise teacher’s way to create customized materials for students at low cost.

An online stopwatch in a Business English class

As a teacher of Business English classes, I also find the low cost factor and easy accessibility of materials described above to be very important in my teaching. Consider the following very simple example. In class, I want my students to be actively involved in the co-creation of our lessons.  In order to achieve such co-creation throughout the entire class, I use an online stopwatch. In this connection, before the start of a class activity, I tend to do the following:

  • I divide the students into pairs or small groups.
  • I explain the activity that the students will do.
  • I ask the students how much time they need to do the activity.

The negotiation process begins when I ask students how much time they need. The students are not only negotiating with me, but they are also negotiating with each other. The negotiations are often less than 30 seconds, but they are enjoyable and sometimes entertaining. When we have reached an agreement on the amount of time, I enter the time limit into the online stopwatch, and the countdown begins.

As David mentions, we do not need to reinvent the wheel. What we need to do is to continue learning as much as possible so that we can more effectively meet the needs of our students and create the kinds of environments that produce good learning experiences.

As for me, I am looking forward to learning how to be a better teacher online! How about you? Check out David’s article!

All the best,


About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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