A lot has been said about the magic of books, and for one expatriate Canadian, it was a book on magic that made all the difference. Sean MacFarlane is a magician-cum-English teacher who is taking his hobby and adapting it for use in the classroom. It was a general dislike of certain English assessment items that spurred his hobby. 'We had to do these book reviews once a month, and I really hated them,' Mr MacFarlane says. 'Then I found this book on magic in the library and decided to review that. After that I visited the town library and took out all the magic books.' Once bitten by the bug he began collecting props and practising the tricks on his friends. 'I met a professional card cheat when I was 14, and I got to see what really smooth sleight of hand was supposed to look like.' He has honed his skills ever since, and rather than use them for evil - he swears he has not been tempted to try them out in a casino - he has instead chosen to entertain and educate. While he has used magic to spice up his everyday teaching for some time, Mr MacFarlane is now - in conjunction with his employer, English for Asia - developing a curriculum that uses it as an aide. 'It's a communicative art,' he says. A typical lesson will start off with the students being taught in English how to do a trick. 'Then I'll elicit some vocabulary from them and get them to use those words to put together a magic show they can present to the class,' he says. English for Asia director Adam Giles sees it as good way of developing students' confidence. 'It's the kind of thing that when the students see him doing it they're really captured and intrigued. Giving them an assignment based around magic gives them something to learn in English without feeling like they're actually learning,' Mr Giles says. The curriculum is still in development and the company is in the process of market-testing the concept. 'If we get a good response to the first couple of classes, then he'll train up another couple of teachers and we'll see how it goes from there,' Mr Giles says. But work needs to be done to convince grade-obsessed Hong Kong parents that the course's results are more than just illusory. 'We need to be able to show tangible results,' Mr Giles says, adding that he would not mind learning some of the tricks himself. 'Personally, I'd like to know how he turns the small coin into the really big one,' he says.