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Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 6: Podcasts and their use in ELT

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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.
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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:

 Starak, (n.d) What is a Podcast? [Online]
Van Order, J. (2013) How to Podcast? [Online]

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.
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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.
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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:

LeBar, Z. (2014) What are Wikis, and Why Should You Use Them? [Online]