Wednesday, 4 July 2012

English Revolution! Home of the best free English resources on the web!

We were born to be freelancers, but we are everywhere in chains (of Waterstones booksellers, buying ELT material).

Sister and brother teachers, welcome to English Revolution!

This "Open Source English" website is your chance to change the way you teach, learn or use English. English Revolution! is a pioneering social media project that will give English teachers around the world access to free, high quality language resources - and allow them to capitalise on material produced collaboratively by themselves and others.

English Revolution! is not a company or a commercial activity. It is a platform for professional English language teachers to collectively create and share teaching materials they produce themselves under the Creative Commons (CC) Attribution-ShareAlike licence. (Click here to find out more about Creative Commons.)

By contributing to the materials on this site you will be helping to create a set of "professional", highly-usable language resources that will give full credit to the authors and demonstrate to the world your ability to develop outstanding material. Over time, the resources on this site will mature and grow into a unique body of work that any teacher can use in her or his lessons without worrying about infringing copyright, paying to use the material or just feeling bad because you know shouldn't really be using someone else's work.

All the content on this site is "free" in that it doesn't cost anything to download it and anyone can use it: but it belongs to its authors. However, as a contributor, you agree to allow other people to use, adapt and also make money from your work by incorporating it into their lessons. Publishers and commercial organisations are also able to benefit from the work on this site - but they are not allowed to claim ownership or sell it to other people "as is" (i.e. the rights belong to the authors but if an academic publisher, for example, decided to use or adapt some of the material in a course book they would be free to do so as long as they attribute the authors and English Revolution! as the source).

The model for English Revolution! is the Open Source Movement of computer programming languages (and the wider Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement). Some people are confused by the term "free" in this context, but basically it means "free to use". No-one can homestead or hijack material that is free - but it is still technically the property of its creators (i.e. it's not "in the public domain"; there are some limits as to what people can - and can't - do with it).

Why would you want to produce material other people can use to make money from? Isn't that just stupid? Well, no, actually. And here's why:

Most English teachers already produce material, either professionally as ELT authors or as part of their preparation for classes. However, the number of people who make a good living from writing material for ELT publishers is tiny. (Perhaps, after writing a really cool phrasal verbs exercise, you have wondered if you could be the next Raymond Murphy, author of the epically-bestselling "English Grammar in Use". Sadly, Mr Murphy is an exception: most ELT writers can make something from their work (a fraction of course of what the publishers make), but if you attend a convention of ELT authors there won't be many Ferraris or Porsches outside in the car-park).

The Leveller Manifesto
(from the first English Revolution).
By John Lilburne, William Walwyn,
Thomas Prince, Richard Overton.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In fact, you are more likely to benefit directly from the material you create yourself by charging your students and using it in your lessons . However, you will inevitably also use existing published ELT materials as well as authentic sources, such as newspapers and magazines. Of course, your students (and perhaps the Director if Studies if you work in a school) will appreciate the fact you have created or carefully adapted material, but who else will know? Similarly, if you share the material with other teachers in the staff room, by the time it has been photocopied and re-copied and passed on again, there is little chance that your authorship will be acknowledged. So, even though you spend time and effort to produce really good content for your classes it is unlikely that you will be able to do much with it - unless, of course, you decide to publish it at a later date (in which case, please refer to the paragraph above relating to Mr Murphy and his estimable volume).

But there is an alternative, my friends: English Revolution!

All the material on this site will be written and developed by people who have a vested interest in using high-quality materials: professional English teachers and their students. If you help to produce material here, you will be credited. People will know what you have done. You won't be hiding your light under a bushel (or on a badly-photocopied page where your "(c) John Smith 2007" line has been carefully tipp-exed out). You will be able to use English Revolution! as a reference point for what you have achieved: you can link to it, cite it and generally point your existing and future students towards it (as well as publishers, employers or anyone else you want to show what you can do). Instead of "burying" the material on a website with little traffic (the typical EFL freelancer site, for example) or locking it up behind an unattractive and forbidding pay-wall which will probably only yield minimal returns anyway, you will be able to say loud and proud "I worked on this brilliant resource on English Revolution!" and point to the sections, revisions or extension activities, etc that you contributed.

The Linux Penguin
by Larry Ewing. AlexPlank
 at en.wikipedia [Attribution],
from Wikimedia Commons
Now, here's where the analogy with the Open Source programming movement comes in. OS software benefits from having thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people working on it: it is a huge, collaborative effort that has substantially changed - revolutionised - the online world. (Examples of Open Source code include the operating system Linux and languages such as PHP and Perl which power interactive websites.) Open Source code is free for anyone to download, adapt and use on commercial projects (unlike "proprietary" software, which is generally owned by companies, such as Microsoft). OS programmers make their money by knowing how to use this code and selling their knowledge as consultants to people who require customised solutions (e.g. large corporations and governments). They don't make money by selling or licensing the code (as Microsoft and other companies do) because the code is free: anyone can pick it up, fiddle with it and use it as they wish. However, unless you are a programmer you will find it extremely difficult or even impossible to do much with this code (and if you don't believe me, try downloading a free Content Management System such as Drupal or Joomla and see how far you can get). OS programmers know that although their "tools" are free they of very little use without their expert ability to use them. People who want the benefits of Open Source software need Open Source programmers. This is a virtuous circle: the more widespread OS code becomes, the greater the demand for OS programmers. The other benefit is that since huge numbers of people are working on this code all the time and correcting it, improving it and bringing extra "eyeballs", it evolves over time as bugs are discovered and corrected. (This is the opposite of proprietary software which has to be maintained at ever-increasing cost and loses its value as time goes by.)

The material on English Revolution! will be mainly of interest to people who already teach English for a living. As with OS code, a student is quite welcome to download and use the material to teach themselves - but as we know, eventually someone who is serious about learning English (especially if it's for their job) will contact a teacher. When a teacher visits this site they will initially see it as an Aladdin's cave, an unlocked treasure trove to be picked over and plundered - all for free! And without even the catch of getting some free goodies but being required to take out a premium subscription for the really cool stuff. No: everything on English Revolution! is there for the taking: freeloading teachers of the world, please note - you have nothing to lose but your subscriptions and recurring monthly payments! But the more that teachers come back to the site - and the more they use the material in their own classes - they will gradually realise that they can charge higher fees for lessons and boost their professional careers if they actually help to make the material itself better. This might just mean going online and adding some exercises for a particular business sector or industry (e.g. insurance or animal husbandry); or it could be a group of teachers operating in a particular country who realise that by localising some reading or writing material, they can all benefit from using this content by making it more relevant to their students' particular needs.

Oliver Cromwell (1599 - 1658)
Teaching English: "It's a professional career."
From Wikimedia Commons.
[Public Domain]
Eventually, English Revolution! could become the first place where you look for excellent and 100% free teaching material for general classes as well as a wide range of specialist English courses where there is no real existing material. If you have a student who works in a particular field where there are few English teaching resources available (e.g. biotechnology, derivatives trading, oceanography or manufacturing and testing oil pumps), you can in effect become the world's leading expert in teaching this highly-specialised language. By adapting an existing resource on this site for a specialist course (or a student with very particular needs) you can stamp your authority on the material and declare to the world that you are ready to teach phrasal verbs for international negotiations over fishing rights. Of course, not many people will be interested in that: but the ones who are - potential clients and students - will be able to find you, your material and your professional profile via English Revolution!

Take some of the knowledge, creativity, energy and enthusiasm that you already bring to your English classes and students - and bring it here: upload, rewrite, check, correct, adapt, and extend language material that you and other teachers can use to make money (but which would have little commercial value otherwise - and which few publishers would consider). Suggest an additional activity for a reading comprehension or speaking class that another teacher has posted. Find other professionals who are working in your sector and network with them. Check out opportunities for creating bespoke courses and making contact with teachers you have already collaborated with online by developing unique resources and materials.

Join the Revolution! Change the world of ELT materials for ever! Enjoy the fruit of your labours (and pick someone else's strawberries without feeling guilty!).

Our time has come. This is ENGLISH REVOLUTION! Be part of it!

Robert Dennis
Milan, July 2012

under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


  1. Congratulations Robert for, once again, creating a powerful platform where teachers can collectively support each other on a global scale. I look forward to participating in this grand effort. Cheers my friend,

    Gordon Bagshaw
    Sao Paulo, Brazil.

  2. Hi Gordon,

    Thanks for your support! I'm sure we'll produce some first-rate materials on this site.

    Viva Gordon! Viva English Revolution!

    Robert :)

  3. Congratulations Robert for the establisment of English Revolution! It's a great idea!

    Conchita Gómez
    Valladolid, España