Hacking Tips for English Learners (and their teachers)


Image courtesy of Jamie Zawinski via Wikipedia Commons


Before going any further, I want to draw the line of hacking legality very clearly… Unfortunately, specifically to the issue below, it’s grey and there hasn’t been a legal precedent, just speculation (more here) and I think it’s important that we push such soft boundaries as internet citizens so that they don’t close in on us too fast.  My two cents.



While living in China, if I wanted access to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Linkedin, ANY blog or other such ‘borderline’ sites, I had to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network (services which allow you to browse privately and designating any location as your current coordinates).

Here are my recommendations for mac and windows respectively (12VPN and Witopia).



“Why would I need to do this?” might be the first question… because it’s unavailable.

For example, Netflix is an amazing service that is geo-blocked in many areas (ie France), just as are many youtube videos, Hulu and other great sites.  Quite a shame, don’t you think that in the flat internationalized world of today, we are split into ‘markets’, when things could be so much more open… a desegregation might even discourage illegal sharing of content!

So, say your students install a VPN, then buy a Netflix license from the UK at 5 pounds a month.  While accessing the site, they go through a London VPN portal and immediately have unlimited access to a myriad of series and movies.

As we know from great posts such as Chia’s on “Learning English through TV Series“ or Chiew’s latest interview with Kieran Donaghy where they talk about learning through watching movies, this immersion into authentic English is so important, and  the nice thing about Netflix is that it allows students to have subtitles for most videos, as well as short summaries of each episode as well.

As a learner who swears by immersion and only immersion, I think Chia’s quote in her post above is dead on:  ”After some time, the brain starts to associate the way things are pronounced and the individual words that actually make up the utterance.”  Along the lines of Krashen’s research it needs to be comprehensible input, but that can come pretty quickly when all those neurons are turned on as a learner is paying 100% attention to the latest series that has snagged them.


So… are you going to show your students how to ‘hack’ their way into Netflix?




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--- i'm a learner-teacher, language geek, outdoorsy kind-of-guy --- U might miss the next tweet... Wanna subscribe by email ? ;-)
  • http://twitter.com/seburnt Tyson Seburn

    It absolutely infuriates me when US internet videos are restricted from viewing in Canada. I know I know, copyright blah blah blah. But it’s the internet and it’s a video clip.

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    I know exactly what you mean because it happens even more often here, I fear.

    I think my perspective comes thru in the post… and really this is one of the coolest discussions to be had in class— copyright, piracy, censorship, and the thing that’s most interesting about it is all that grey gushy space to discuss because there are so many situations where “what is right” can really go either way.

    Cheers, Ty. -b

  • http://www.scoop.it/t/teacher-development-ideas/p/2170188980/hacking-tips-for-english-learners-and-their-teachers Hacking Tips for English Learners (and their teachers) | teacher development ideas | Scoop.it

    [...]   [...]

  • Phil Wade

    Proxies all the way Brad. I went through one every week or so in China. It too the powers that be a few days or weeks to find and block the latest ones. I still find it amazing though that so many of my students still use FB and Twitter. Whether what they write is really their own ideas is another thing. A bit like the hoards of employees I used to see in some companies being paid to write good comments about products in the customer review boxes.

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Cheers, Phil. Fake customer reviews, huh… wow. Very true that we can’t always be sure about what we read on the net, eh ;-) [kinda like real life, tho in a lot of ways, isn't it!]

    Brad Patterson
    Social Media Manager at Edulang

  • @mattledding

    Hi Brad,

    Hacking has two different meanings…

    1. among geeks, a hack is often making something do something it isn’t really supposed to, like MacGuyvery stuff like programming javascript templates with a google spreadsheet, or pressing “-” on the ceramic hotplate in the kitchen to go to the highest setting instead of pressing “+” 9 times.

    2. to break into something, like a security code, which the “MacGuyver hackers” would call cracking. A proxy, and location spoofing to use services that are locally acceptable somewhere else seems kind of halfway in between the two things.

    You are right that it opens up more questions than it answers. Where is the real connection happening if the whole world is connected? There is a certain ambiguity with “here” now. For example:

    If I as a Canadian living in Spain give a skype class to someone from France living in Korea, where/to who do/can/should I/we pay taxes? (Get into small groups. Discuss.)

  • http://twitter.com/seburnt Tyson Seburn

    I love your geographical tax concerns here, Matt. ;)

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    I’m a fan of this geographical tax issue too, and yet, it’s a real one, and for my case, I know that sometimes you can end up paying taxes and social security in more than one place!

    Cracks, yep. And I agree, feels like this kind-of-hack is somewhere in between. Always a pleasure bumping inta ya, Matt!