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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Week 11: Integrating ICT in my EFL Classroom



The experience of creating something especially designed for my students, based on their needs and context was exciting and very demanding.
In order to provide a solution to one of the several issues that we have to face in our EUS classes in Amazonas, I decided to design a complementary space where students could interact with the target language and also can go deeper in their grammar instruction. This is the origin of “Grammar Express for you” a wiki, especially designed to offer Amazonas’ students the opportunity of having extra tutoring in some grammatical aspects that they do not understand very well and that cannot be properly covered in the face to face sessions for the little time we have.  Basically, it contains the most important aspects that are described in the instructional material but presented in a funny and interactive way, so students can complement what it is presented in their books.

Although, this site has not been used yet, I am expecting to use it to see if the model that I adopted is compatible with my students’ expectations. Although, this site has not been used yet, and that introducing technology in this context can be a little bit challenging because students do not use computers frequently, for most of them computer access is limited, the Internet service in the region is not very fast, and they have very basic computer skills; I do really hope that this can be the proper means to offer students extra counseling without waiting to travel to clarify their doubts.

This wiki includes several technological tools like videos, websites, readings and other exercises that can improve students’ reading skills in the subject, and why not? May be they get interested in studying English as a foreign language and do not limit their studies to ESP courses that we offer in their career.
Despite the hard work it takes to design a wiki, plan its pages, adapt the content to my student’s needs, and deciding which could be the best methods to foster their learning autonomy, I do really hope that this site can accomplish its purpose and it serves students as a window to go beyond their classrooms and they can experience something a little bit different form what they are used to do. 

Week 10: Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and e-moderation

Image taken from: www.canstockphoto.com

Virtual environments are around us all the time, because there are available in every artifact of daily use likecell phones, cameras, tablets, computers, etc, that allow us to surf on the net whenever and wherever we want to do so.
When talking about learning environments it can be a little bit complicated to define exactly which those special spaces are, some people say that they are spaces designed with pedagogical purposes only, for example: blogs, online books, Wikipedia, etc., others claim that virtual environments are special platforms  designed to deliver instruction such as: wiziq, blackboard collaborates, moodle, etc.
However, some authors like Dillenbourg P., Schneider D., and Synteta, P (2002) explain in their article Virtual Learning Environments, which virtual learning environments are not “restricted to well-structured information spaces” and “The representation of the learning environment ranges from text-based interfaces”, and what makes a web page a virtual learning environment  is the social interaction about the information. So basically, all the elements to create a virtual learning environment are already in the web, but it is the teacher the one who puts everything together to give it a pedagogical purpose.
Image taken from: zosteralearning.com
It is then when the teacher plays his/her role as a moderator. The moderator is the one who set the goals for every virtual activity and the one who decides which resources are going to be used and how they are going to be used as well. Besides, he/she is the one who decides the type of interaction that is going to be among students- medium- professor, and should be able to overcome any issue that could appear in the last minute. If the moderator has no idea of what his/her role is the learning potential of any activity can be lost.

Despite the fact that, there are several specialized platforms designed to provide the proper tools to teach on the web, is the moderator who creates the perfect environment in order to let the learning process occur. Then, it can be said that it is the teacher who transforms the web sites into teaching tools.

Here there is another description of VLE: 



References: 
Dillenbourg P., Schneider D., and Synteta, P (2002). Virtual Learning Environments. In A. Dimitracopoulou (Ed). Proceedings of the 3rd Hellenic Conference Information and Communication Technologies in Education. [Online] Available at http://edutice.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/19/07/01/PDF/Dillernbourg-Pierre-2002a.pdf

Week 9: Web –based Lessons, e- portfolios and e- assessment.

Image taken from: cesar-ictintefl.blogspot.com
Web- based lessons have proven to be a good alternative for online classes, as they can include a huge number of resources that help teachers to improve their classes. This also represent an excellent alternative for ESL/EFL teachers who want to use authentic material in their lessons, because the web offers a wide variety of resources that allow students to access to multiple sources of information and to experience a real contact with the language that was very difficult to access before.
Despite the fact that web –based lesson may seem appropriate for distance classes, they can also be included in regular classes as a complement for regular classes and even when institutions offer computer labs facilities, it can be included in class, for preparing projects, watching videos or just to complement what it is taught in class.
Some people may think that traditional classes are more effective than the web based ones, and even may say that teachers use this type of lessons just to teach in a very lazy way. But the fact is that web lessons require more planning and revision than regular classes because teachers need to:
·         Check the content and the means before using it.
  •          Set the goals for the activity.
  •          Define the skill that the teacher wants to work on.
  •         Decide the resource that is going to be used in the class.
  •         Design the follow- up activities.
  •          Check internet access and website availability.

·         Prepare a backup plan in case that there is any trouble with the connection.
  •          Try the activity before the class begins.
  •          Be aware of any technological trouble that students may have.
  •          Be able to give students advice about any technological problem they have.

   Image taken from: ahscte.weebly.com
Besides, it is very important that teacher monitor as frequently as possible what students are doing and how they are performing the task assigned.
But not only web based lessons can help teachers to make innovations in teaching, there are also other web based alternatives that can make assessment process easier for students, that is the case of e- portfolios and e- assessment, which have made the evaluation more friendly.
e- portaflios are students’ collection of works on the web, that help them not only to keep an easy to access record of their work, but also let them to correct or improve them at any time. This is a great assessment tool, not only because of its accessibility, but also because it helps students to develop their creativity and also encourage them to find something new to add to their work to make it better. Besides, according to Luitel (n.d), portfolios may offer a kind of authentic evaluation as it allows teachers to assess students from a wider perspective so it offers a better picture of what is going on in students’ minds as it shows not only results, but also the process that they went through to learn.               
Finally, it is the e-assessment which consists on a set of online tools that let teachers to prepare different kinds of evaluation, including portfolios and online tests, which are suitable especially for distance education.
Online education alternatives are now just a click, and they have come to show us that everything is possible nowadays if it is well planned.

References:

Luitel, B (s.f) Authentic and Portfolio Assessment. Curtin University of Technology.Disponible:http://au.geocities.com/bcluitel/assessment.htm

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Week 8: Social media or social networks?

Image taken from: treuemax.com 
Like with other educational innovations the use of social networks, communities of practice and personal learning networks are questioned by some people and loved and defended by others.
It seems that although some teachers include technologies in their classes they simply do not dare to step forward by interacting with students in such a personal space, like the ones they have in social networks.
Wikipedia, defines Social media as “the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks”, according to this definition it is possible to think if social media is designed to share information and we as teachers do share information when teaching  why cannot include it in our practice? Actually, there are lots of teachers who share the same opinion that Pulkit (2014), who states that teachers should see social media as “an opportunity to build a more meaningful education system for teachers and student”.  
However, I think that it is important to make a clear distinction between the use of social media and social networks, not only to overcome our fear,  but also to decide in a properly way ( according to our context) which social tools could be used in our classes.
Basically, we can say that in one hand, social media is the macro term used to describe all those elements in which people can interact to exchange ideas and create new information. On the other hand social networks are those platforms specially designed to build social relations with people who share the same interests, origin and even real- life connections to share impressions or information about daily life issues. So, social networks will be then one of the different forms of social media. The following illustration represents the different types of social media according to the classification made by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010):



A lot of interesting activities in second language teaching can be done using any of the resources previously mentioned by developing communities of practice. However, there are some issues that can influence the acceptance of including these media in classes. For instance, some people do not like social networks at all, others just do not want to mix their academic and professional life with their personal one, and some are just afraid of being stalked or being cyber bullied, so it can be a little bit complicated to integrate social networks in educational activities.  Nevertheless, there are other resources that do not require sharing too much personal information and that can be used with educational purposes as practice communities like wikis and blogs just to mention some. The idea of integrating this kind of tools is to make teachers and students comfortable with sharing information and offer them at the same time the opportunity of choosing the media they consider the safest for their privacy.

Here there is a video related to the use of social networks in adult education:

video

video taken form youtube


References:
Pukit, (2014) The Barriers To Using Social Media In Education (Part 1 of 2) (online article) Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/social-media-in-education-2/
Kaplan Andreas M., Haenlein Michael (2010). "Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media". Business Horizons 53 (1). p.61 doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Week 7: Videos and other useful Web 2.0 tools. Are they suitable for all kind of students?

Image taken from: www.textalibrarian.com  

As technology evolves every day, there are multiple choices in technological tools that can be used in the classroom. In fact, it is amazing just to take a look to the different options that we have to make new things in our classroom that we did not even know they existed. But are all these resources suitable for all the students?
Some teachers are always looking for improvement in language teaching and how to include technology in their practice. In fact, Dunn (2011) presents a list of 100 web 2.0 tools proposed by different teachers from all around the world to develop activities in ELT. Some of them are used to create videos that can be uploaded in the internet like: ANIMOTO, PIVOT STICK FIGURE ANIMATOR, SCREENCAST, XTRANORMAL, SLIDESHARK, YOUTUBE,  USTREAM.TV, VIMEO, among others. This list gives us an idea of the huge variety of tools that we can access to create new things with our students.
Image taken from: www.appappeal.com
However, there are several aspects that should be analyzed before choosing one of these resources to work in our classes. The idea of using web 2.0 tools in our classes is to offer our students the opportunity of doing some collaborative work, but before planning an activity that can use one of these tools, teachers should take into account student’s needs, age, they type of English that is taught (EGP, ESP or EAP, for instance), the context of the students and the purpose of the activity.  The use of these resources should be meaningful, useful and at the same time collaborative, so learners can get the real benefit of using it. In this line Pim (2013) states that “Technological use is clearly ‘situated’, dependent on context and predicated on the notion that what works in one context may not be entirely replicable in another. However, creative practitioners will always be able to see the potential for an idea and are particularly adept at customising approaches to meet the individual needs of their learners”.

Although some teachers include technologies in their practice, they tend to be very traditional because they like to use those tools that they know very well without stopping to think if there are others resources that can be very useful for educational purposes and can fit better student’s context and needs. When choosing a web 2.0 tool and designing an activity it is important to know that not all the classes are the same and that the class effectiveness may vary depending on each group, so careful planning should be the cornerstone of including technology in our classes. 

Here there are some videos that are used to teach English through videos: 












References:
Dunn, J. (2011) The 100 Best Web 2.0 Classroom Tools Chosen By You. (online) Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/best-web-tools/ 
Pim, C. (2013) Emerging technologies, emerging minds: digital innovations within the primary sector. In G. Motteram (Ed.) Innovations in learning technologies for English language teaching. (pp. 16-42)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 6: Podcasts and their use in ELT

Image taken from: podcast-marketing.com
As new generations have grown up under the development of technology, it is very common that students nowadays know how to use most of the available technological resources in the web for different purposes, but are they really useful for them? How can we integrate them in our classrooms?
Nowadays with the common use of social networks, people have the chance and the means to create videos and even mp3 audio and shared it on the web. One of the multiple tools for getting your own radio style talk and share it to the world is the podcast.
To define what a podcast is Van order (2013) explains that  “a podcast is a digital audio file (usually MP3 or AAC) made available for download on the internet through an RSS 2.0 feed.” Starack (n.d) explain that the word “podcasting” is a portmanteau combining the words “broadcasting” and “iPod” and  Merriam Webster defines Podcast: a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.  So we can say that it I program that was designed to produce and use mp3 files in an i-pod. Then it is not a coincidence that I learnt about their existence by using a i-pod, and consequently, when referring to podcasts the first word that came to my mind was “i-pod”, because in those devices you could easily upload podcasts.
Image taken from: nkilkenny.wordpress.com
To be honest, I have never used them before and I preferred working with videos when I wanted to prepare a special activity for my EFL students. However, after reading a little bit more about the different types of podcasts in The Instructional Innovations Blog I must confess that my perception about them has dramatically changed.
I did not have idea of how powerful and useful tools podcasts can be in ELT. Basically, they offer teachers the opportunity to record their own material, so they can have what they really need. This represents some kind of evolution in the material designing area, as we can prepare different activities with different purposes and using authentic and contextualized material in our classrooms.
  According to what it is described in The Instructional Innovations Blog, there are four types of podcasts (audio casts, video podcasts, enhanced casts and screencasts) with different characteristics that may be very useful in virtual environments, but also may offer some innovation to the traditional ones. For instance, with the traditional and best known audio cast we can create new listening comprehension activities by our own or even ask students to create their own recordings for several purposes. Video podcasts could substitute traditional role plays or just design new types of evaluation. Enhanced casts and screen casts could be a great option for that shy student, who hates cameras or speaking in public. So basically you may combine the activities that better fits your class context and real situation. 
Moreover, apart from being very easy to use it let us to empower students with the use of new resources for other purposes different from just having fun.
Here there is an example of a podcast:


And here there is a video realted to the use of podcasting in the classroom:
References: 


 Starak, (n.d) What is a Podcast? [Online] http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/230/what-is-a-podcast
Van Order, J. (2013) How to Podcast? [Online] http://www.howtopodcasttutorial.com/what-is-a-podcast.htm



Week 5: Wikis


The evolution of the web form 1.0 to 2.0 brought amazing changes in the way people work, communicate and get informed. A new society has developed from the use of these collaborative tools that allow people to communicate and work together without being in the same place.
 Among these popular tools the wiki is the medium in which people’s creativity and collaboration play the most important role in order to build up new things together in a fast and easy way.
According to Cunningham (cited in LeBar, 2014) a wiki is a website that can be edited by its users and it is this specific feature that makes wikis so special. Because it can be adapted to different needs in different areas and everybody can work at the same time. Imagine how much information is being uploaded and corrected straight from the source, and how fast this new information can get to other users.
Image taken from: paje.wikispaces.com
Wikipedia is one of the most popular examples of a wiki with educational purposes. It is amazing to see the numbers of collaborators that work on it nowadays and the amount of unexpected information that you can find in there. But, how can we include wikis in EFL teaching? Only to find information about a specific topic or is it possible that our students create and share their own information?
Well as the most relevant characteristics of the wikis is that they are collaborative, communicative and foster discussions, these elements make them perfect to be used in language teaching because it represents an opportunity for students to interact in a foreign language even after classes in an asynchronous way and a lot of authentic material can be included on it.
Image taken from: admonconocimientoivetteor.blogspot.com
Moreover, the use of wikis in EFL classes can develop that digital literacy that is so needed nowadays, because wikis can be fed with almost all kind of technological resources that exist. However, it is extremely necessary to train students in the use of the wiki and other resources to avoid possible frustrations during the work. As any other pedagogical activity the use of the wiki should be well planned and designed with a specific purpose, otherwise all the potential of this tool can be meaningless.
In my opinion, wikis can fit any pedagogical purpose that we want to give them. If we want to give our students external support or coaching after classes we can do it through a wiki, we can also let them to create something through web based projects using a wiki, this would be very interesting as everybody has a different background with different experiences, they will have something new to present for the rest of the class.
The following video can give us an idea about the use of wikis:


References:
LeBar, Z. (2014) What are Wikis, and Why Should You Use Them? [Online]http://computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/what-are-wikis-and-why-should-you-use-them--cms-19540

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Week 4: Blogging

Image taken from: http://primarytech.global2.vic.edu.au/

The use of blogs in EFL teaching is very common today because of the multiple choices that it offers to teachers and students to develop language skills as it integrates external resources like videos, images, other web sites, podcasts and other elements that can foster students’ creativity and autonomy to design their own spaces. 
Besides, blogs can facilitate the development of collaborative skills as it is very interactive, students can interact among themselves and with others who do not belong to the same school environment by exchanging ideas and impressions about different topics.  In this line, Stanley (2006) (cited en Blackstone, Spiri y Naganuma, 2007) states that “(Blogs are) a way of opening up the classroom walls and showing the wider world what is happening... thus creating a small language learning community”, which means that several language skills such as reading, listening and writing can be developed when students access to the blog. 
Also, it can be said that this tool has the five main characteristics that makes language learning through the Internet ALIVE: (Warschauer, et al. 2000) because:


  •    It is authentic because the topics published in the blog are based on real topics and the opinions expressed by the readers are sincere. It is not a mechanical answer that has been previously studied to answer an exam, for instance.
  •     It is literate, as students have to research to support their opinions and also computer skills are required to publish something correctly in a blog.
  •     It is interactive as a lot of people can communicate in the same discussion, even if they do not belong to the class.
  •     It has vitality because it can be designed according to the author likes. It is not a simple and common layout for everybody.
  •      It empowers students by developing writing skills and digital literacy.

The previously described features make the blog one of the easy to use tool in foreign language teaching because of their designs and the different uses we can give them, moreover it can be used at any level and it can be adapted to any activity you want to do.
From the educational and communicative point of view, blogs are interactive electronic media, in which teachers may integrate a wide range of resources that encourage students to express their opinions freely in a second language, without being intimidated by constraints of time or immediate fluidity. Thanks to this kind of tools, learners have the opportunity of organizing their ideas before publish them and edit them when necessary.
However, it is also important to teach students that the blog is not only a tool to develop class activities but also a one of the different types of communication media that exists nowadays, so when someone publish something in a blog is becoming an author and therefore it is important to express thoughts and opinions in a clear an responsible way
Here you have a video that explain the use of the blog in education:








References:
Blackstone, B., Spiri, J. y Naganuma, N. (2007) Blogs in English Language Teaching and Learning:  Pedagogical uses and Student Responses. [Online document]. Retrieved from: 


Washchauer, M., Shetzer, H. y Meloni, C. (2000) Internet for English Teaching. Virginia. USA. Ed. TESOL. (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) 

Week 3: The Web evolution: Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0

Image taken from:http://blog.wordsandpictures.net/ 
Communication has always been one of the most important issues for humankind. Every attempt to improve the way we communicate has been supported through history so we have had several ways of interacting in written or spoken form by means as the newspapers, the phones, cellphones, and computers and recently with the appearance of the internet as means of communication.  
Consequently, our way of interacting with other people has changed through the years, and it has certainly affected the way in which we live today and definitely it will affect our future as well.
The launching of web 1.0 gave us the opportunity of somehow have accesses to a new kind of information that will be always available for you if you just had and internet connection. However, this format only gave the chance to few people to communicate things. Let’s say that users could only read the information presented without having any chance of replying or making a comment or just adding extra information about a certain topic.
Later on, a new way of communicating and interacting with people changed our lives; the launching of web 2.0 allowed the interaction of people all around the world without restrictions of distance, languages or schedules. Social networks, digital newspapers, blogs, podcasts, and other means of communication in the web are they new forms of getting information that we are used to nowadays.
Nowadays, another type of web has come to change our world once again. Now we are talking about the web 3.0. Innovation here is featured by the fact that the internet has become mobile and now is accessible almost everywhere by the use of other tools different from the computer. Smart phones, tablets, smart TV, are just some of the multiple smart devices that we have today, but it seems that more is coming as the hyperconectivity where almost all products will be interconnected and we will be surrounded by information all the time.
So far, the evolution of the web interaction has benefit language learners and teacher as new resources are applied to language teaching and they can have contact with real language, native speakers and ever learners with a different L1, so there is a rich interaction in the web that let students acquire new vocabulary and even have new experiences that can’t be offered in the classroom.
All these improvements in communication have certainly influenced the way people learn today as well. The new technologies offer a wide variety of means and options for learning some of them are:
Videos
Tutorials
Learning platforms
Virtual colleges
Webminars
Online masters, among others.

However, it seems that some institutions and teachers do not seem to understand well how to include these technologies in the daily practice in the classroom and consequently, they feel threatened and do not accept the inclusion of these elements in their environments. But, beyond criticizing these people it is necessary to analyze the inclusion of technology in the classroom in order to make it worthy and not to build a society dependent of technology. In my opinion, we as teachers must balance and combine in an appropriate form technology and traditional education in order to provide students with the necessary tools to live in our new societies without losing our human touch.  

Here there is a video that explains the evolution of the web

Week 2: My ELT context description


At the moment, I am teaching ESP at the school of education at Universidad Central de Venezuela in Puerto Ayacucho,  Amazonas state. The school of education has other teaching centers in different regions of the country where this career is offered in a distance modality called EUS (Estudios Univesitarios Supervisados. Students have to study the subject by their own using the instructional material offered by the department of Foreign Languages, and I travel to Amazonas every two weeks in order to meet the students to clarify doubts and assess students’ progress.
I try to incorporate some technological resources in the classes, but it is a little bit complicated as some of them have very basic computer skills and just have an e- mail account which I use as a means of communication to send them extra material.  

People don’t use computer frequently because computer access is limited and the Internet service in the region is not very fast. Some of the students can access the internet at home or at work or in a cyber, but, there are others who live in the Indian communities, and these students don’t have a frequent access to computers or internet unless they travel to the city. The university offers students very basic facilities like the classrooms and a library. At the moment they are working on updating and improving the computer lab in order to offer the students free internet access. As soon as their computer lab is ready I plan to train my students to use other resources in class different from the e- mail.


Week 2: Basic concepts of ICT in education

In our modern and vibrant world new forms of learning have changed the way in which we used to learn. Today teachers do not have the absolute knowledge to teach students, and students do not depend only on books to learn, ICT has played an important role in education changing all the old paradigms that we knew. It offered a new alternative to become literates and even brought a new kind of literacy with it. However, a lot of people do not seem to understand how technology has contributed to improve education, making it more realistic and somehow more accessible at any time when you have the resources.
The use of technology is so important now that the Unesco considers it one of the main competences students must develop in school, so teachers have to be prepared to assume the role of technological mentors and therefore, as teachers it is necessary to know some basic concepts that we think we know, but we tend to confuse and if we are the pattern to be followed, we should be very clear when we talk about:
 
Image taken from: http://www.schoolanduniversity.com
  • E-learning: e-learning refers to the use of internet or wireless technologies to deliver a broad array of training solutions. eLearners access the learning from a computers via the internet or an intranet, or through a hand held device like a palm pilot.
  • Distance education: distance education describes the effort of providing access to learning for those who are geographically distant. The instructional delivery included an instructor who was physically located in a different place from the learner, as well as possibly providing the instruction at disparate times.
  • Online or virtual learning: Online learning is described by most authors as access to learning experiences via the use of some technology. According to Benson (2002) (cited in Moore, Dickson-Deane and Galyen (2011) online learning is a newer or improved version of distance learning.
Image taken from:http://www.jfyboston.org/ 
  • Blended learning: it is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path and or pace. 
  • Mobile learning: mobile learning includes the use of mobile phones, MP3 players, personal digital assistants (PDA’S) and so on. Recent research has suggested that m-learning works well in environments where access to these kinds of technologies is more formal and accepted or where lifestyles demand more flexible solutions to training and learning. 
    Image taken from: http://learninginhand.com/
The previously described concepts represent modalities, types of education and tools that have certain characteristics which fit specific needs. It is important to know what they are to be able to choose the right tools and the best modality according to the purpose of the class.
The use of technology in education is not just a fashion or a teacher substitute, it is a tool that helps us improve what we do.

References.

Bailey, J., Ellis, S., Scheider, C., Vander Ark, T. (2013) Blended Learning implementation guide. Create conditions for success plan, implement, and improve. Foundation for excellence in education. [Online document] Retrieved from:  http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/CSD6190.pdf
Moore, J., Dickson-Deane, C. and Galyen, K. (2011) e-Learning, online learning, and distance learning environments: Are they the same?  Internet and Higher Education 14 (2011) 129–135 [online magazine] Retrieved from:  https://scholar.vt.edu/access/content/group/5deb92b5-10f3-49db-adeb-7294847f1ebc/e-Learning%20Scott%20Midkiff.pdf
The Herridge Group (2003). e- learning, a definition. [Online document] Retrieved from:  http://www.herridgegroup.com/pdfs/eLearning%20a%20Definition.pdf