Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Week 10 - Recap

Looking back at the course from its end, the only thing left is to wrap it up.  Its highest value lies, in my opinion, in the fact that essentially  it is a methodology course presenting the pedagogical rationale for the use of selected  web  tools as well as modelling  their practical application  in a meaningful and creative way.  All the ones we have been introduced  enhance  English language teaching and each will have its special place in my  future lesson planning and conducting. 

Since people are increasingly  using technology both in their professional and private lives,  in education it  is not a choice any more but  a necessity.  However, it  has  only limited or counter impact if there is no good methodology behind it and a good teacher to apply it.  Smart technologies need smart people.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Week 9 - Reflexion

Looking back at what we have learned and tried during the course,  I can divide the benefits into three categories. 

The first one would be the topics and tools I have already explored, mastered and used more or less successfully  in my teaching like blogs, WebQuests, interactive power points, some online tools and learning styles.  Still, the opportunity to  match how I have put them in practice against the course's goals and standards was invaluable experience because of  the acknowledgment it  received . 

The second one would be the methodologies and tools I have only  heard of  and read about but never had the chance or time to try out like some of the skill  building websites, rubrics  and PBL.  The pedagogical rationale  and motivating tasks provided detailed insight, precise guidance and clear direction how to apply them in  my work and consequently improve it.

And the third one would be the completely new concepts for me like ABCD objectives and  social bookmarking as well as new tools like Nicenet, Snapgrades and especially ANVILL. These opened new doors for me and  provided new sources of inspiration how  to start implementing them  in my lessons and reach a new level of  language teaching.

It is difficult to choose from these and decide which one was most important and precious.  Each of them will find their own way in my teaching, very likely as a combination of more than one. After finishing the course, I will go on carrying out my mission of finding new and  functional  ways how to use computers as effective and creative tools in teaching English as a foreign language and education in general with this course being  a  significant and indispensable part of it.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Week 8 - ANVILL

I wonder if other participants  will agree with me when I say that ANVILL - A National Virtual Language Lab - is one of the course's highlights. Focusing on oral and aural language skills, it provides what other learning platforms miss: the opportunity to include speaking practice in a language online distance course in the form of asynchronous communication with no other external programmes for sound recording and editing.  With tools such as Voiceboard and especially  Tcast, teachers can record and embed audio and video files commenting on the lessons, posing questions or telling stories. We were presented this speech-based toolbox by Jeff Magoto, one of its creators.

Of all the useful and creative ideas how to use ANVILL he shared with us, the one I particularly liked was 'Jigsaw possibilities'. After watching a short movie, students are to discuss and determine whether they have seen the same slides and find the differences out.  The reason why I like it is the fact that it lends itself to communicative language teaching. Providing an authentic  and realistic situation for communication, a meaning focused task and exposing students to language in use, it creates the desire and motive for communication and students 'have a dynamic chance to see how much they're able to accomplish... and learning can't help but occur' (Jeff Magoto).

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Week 7: Implementing the Change - Production

This week we have started with the project of digital storytelling.  As planned, one class has been working on the remake of 'The Canterville Ghost' by Oscar Wilde and the other on the new episode of Angela Anaconda. The only difference will be in the setting and the puppets. 

So far, I am in two minds about two things.  First of all, two lessons for creating and recording the story will definitely not be enough. Grouping only took up lots of time because I wanted the groups to be heterogeneous with more and less able students distributed equally in order to promote peer learning, and the students had their own preferences which I also wanted to take into consideration. Secondly, I  wonder if the task is too open- ended.  I divided the task into three parts: the beginning when they are to describe their characters by using the stem sentences and the following two parts - the middle (plot) and the end (resolution) - which are open-ended.  I deliberately chose not to guide them through these two parts in order to foster their creativity, but I wonder if their level of English is high enough to write the plot and resolution and present it in the form of a dialogue between the characters.

Up to now,  both classes have been divided into five groups of five or six members, roles have been taken, the puppets and three settings for Angela Anaconda have been made out of shoe boxes  -  the classroom, pizzeria and house (the setting and puppets for 'The Canterville Ghost' are to be made tomorrow), the characters have been presented and some stories have started to unravel.

The first problem will be solved with no difficulty at all - I will add another lesson for completing the project. As regards the second dilemma, it remains to be seen if my students will be able to create coherent stories in good English. I have decided not to interfere much in their work for two reasons. First of all,  this is the first time we are all doing something like this and we need to gain experience how this kind of activity  works out for us. Secondly, the focus of this activity will not be on the language accuracy but rather on students' ability to use the language they have already acquired to come up with something new, and, hopefully,  colourful,  interesting and exciting.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Week 6: Implementing the Change - Planning

Before starting to implement a change, it's always good to - plan.

To be continued...

Friday, 6 May 2011

Week 5: Internet-based Projects

Using the web for searching is one of the simplest and most usual activities our  students undertake. But progressing from working with  individual pages to using the internet over a series of lessons takes them to the next level, to online project work.
 There are four main reasons why teachers should include these in their teaching:

  1. They are the simplest and easiest ways to introduce technology into teaching in terms of specialist technical knowledge.  It is true that it  takes time, good methodology and creativity to plan and design them, but sometimes all it takes is just search the web to check if some appropriate ones already exist.

  1. More often than not, they are  planned as group activities  therefore  excellent for communication and collaboration between students and for provoking  interaction and cooperative learning.

  1. Apart from improving students' language skills and competencies, they can be used for other purposes as well and teach other subjects providing 'real world'  look and authentic tasks  and motivate students as a result.

  1. Since students are not required to only  find the information but to process, transform and apply them as well, these projects encourage  critical thinking.

Above all, they are fun both to create and conduct.

Adapted from How to Teach English with Technology
by Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Week 4: Choosing and Using Websites for Reading

Using the internet  to improve our students' reading skills might pose a dilemma for teachers between choosing authentic or tailored, ELT websites.   If in two minds which ones to search for , I would  again refer to Grade the task rather than the material strategy for reading as well.  A well designed task will allow our learners to deal with authentic texts and websites and benefit from them.

According to the number of computers and the internet connections, the activities can be organized in the following ways:

  • classroom with no computer and no internet connection - texts can be printed and then copied for all students to read; although maybe not the cheapest option, at least it  brings in the authentic and varied reading materials

  • one computer classroom - if connecting the computer to a video beam (or interactive whiteboard where available), texts can be projected allowing greater visibility; another idea is computer rota with students, divided in small groups, taking turns in working on the computers, while other groups do some other, offline reading (or writing, speaking...) tasks

  • ICT classroom or lab with computers connected to the internet - authentic texts and web sites can be incorporated in regular teaching and building of reading (and other) skills

Some teachers  think that it is impossible to enhance reading skills with young learners by using the internet because they fear how much of the given text the kids will understand and if they will be frustrated by not understanding every single word. Choosing the right websites can go some way  towards raising children's comfort levels and these websites should meet the following criteria: simple, short and clearly presented texts, lots of multimedia and visuals - pictures, sounds, video..., a group of non-linguistic data like charts, graphs, lists... or  having been  written specially with this audience in mind.

Thanks to our two most productive providers of such websites, Khaled and Robert, we  need  not worry for the next couple of years :)