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