Thursday, May 24, 2012

Week 7: Autonomy and The One-computer classroom

This week I learned strategies to promote student´s autonomy and how to deal with a one-computer classroom for the benefit of learners. In our discussion forum, almost all of us have agreed that autonomy is not a concrete state that is learned in a single step but it is rather an ongoing process along the way of education. We also learned that the first step towards this transformation is assisting students in their own awareness of autonomy. Our education system has traditionally been very authoritarian and leaving a small space for students to develop their own interests and leaning goals in a manner that is consistent with their potentials and capacities. It is also true that this change of approach should also start with the educator. We as teachers need to see the possibility of teaching modification to enable a more autonomous learning environment. The promotion of this new aptitude towards leaning should come from the teacher’s trustful guidance and counseling and it may be expressed in the early stages by assigning seemly simple tasks like cleaning the tables, boards and any other classroom chore to initiate or promote mutual interdependency and autonomy. Others see independency when students engage in real world tasks like giving an address or explaining something in a second language, I do agree with this as well. As I see it is like a symbiosis between the teacher and students where the first lay out a propitious space for the others to develop their skills and abilities. This in turn, will benefit the teacher as to a sustainable teaching environment. 

Regarding the topic of the one-computer classroom, it may surprise some that there are still many places in the education world where technology is rare or of difficult access. We learned lots of ideas on how to promote learning with technology with such a shortage of resources. I particularly liked the combination of the Jigsaw group technique to work with a computer as a workstation and the colorary collaborative learning environment that results from this procedure. It is incredible the amount of ideas we learned this week for using just one computer. 

As for my final project, I chose and I was selected as a peer-reviewer of the first draft which is due next week. I have already started to type the first part of it. Last week I assigned a task to use a web-based tool to improve reading pronunciation. This week I sent a massive e-mail with a survey hoping to get some insights from my online students about their experience with the new voice recording tool. I am looking forward to seeing the results of that survey by this weekend.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Week 6: Engaging Presentations

Week 6 was another week full of treasures in terms of teaching ideas. Before, I thought of PowerPoint as a “One Way Only” presentation application, but, fortunately this old idea has been vanished. I learned that what seemed to be a boring, static, sleep-provoking media can be turned into an inspiring, moving, and motivating tool for engaging students during presentations. The benefits of using PPT in large classes were clearly discussed and we learned a lot from those teachers who deal with populated classrooms. Creating my first interactive presentation was an exciting experience; I learned new features like linkings, Conceptest, jumps, etc. As someone who runs a hybrid course, I need to learn more on how to deliver an interactive slide show for distance learning. PPT fits perfectly well for delivering content and language matters. This week we could also learn about PPT alternatives; for example, I tried an online-delivered presentation using Google Docs and some teachers in my course used Prezi for their purposes. We were fulfilled with the benefits of using such applications and for having learned about 36 interaction strategies.

As for my final project, week 6 represented the implementation phase. So, I have already assigned a small-scale project in which my students will make a recording of their readings using a web-based tool for it. This will be due in one week from today. They have to previously use a listening and speaking application to practice their pronunciation before doing the recording as a way to make comparisons, corrections, and improvements. The final product is the recording itself, but there is a whole process behind this scene. They have also been provided a rubric for self-evaluation; something I learned in this WebSkills training as well. I am very confident that this project will produce good results and my students will finally be able to modulate better English reading pronunciation thanks to technology.

There is a lot to be digested, processed and put into practice from this wonderful course. It will require time and dedication but I am sure we will learn more along the way. There is not destination point in technology training, there are just learning stop-overs in this journey.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Week 5: at the top of the stairs

This week was very rewarding in terms of learning new teaching strategies using web tools. PBLs, WebQuests and Rubrics made my day as a teacher. What a wonderful combination of topics! At the beginning they seemed a bit unrelated but after reading the material from the University of Oregon, everything fell into its right place. They are very interrelated indeed, and actually, I think from now on rubrics will be on the top of my teaching toolbox. I have gained lots of insights about PBL and WebQuests, and I have managed to pile up and share a lot of interesting links through Diigo and Delicious. However, I believe I will feel more confident after I make one or both of them in practical terms. They require lots of planning and “high order thinking” too. Being “inquiry-based”, the teacher should know what kind of topics will raise students interests the best. Not everything goes for a Webquest; only real-world questions or controversies work well. Timing is also a factor to consider when creating these digital tools but once you have gotten one you are able to recycle it or make small adaptations for future classes.  I have not dipped my toes into PBLs but, by the readings, it is another super strategy for learning and teaching. I was thinking: What else could we learn after week 5? I feel like I have already completed a PhD.

Regarding my final project, I have decided to work on oral production for beginners. A technological tool that I plan to use is Voicethread and Acapela. I worked on my rubric this week for that purpose. I am still taking small steps to learn how to square everything in this project. But we have a map on hand and that´s helpful.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What´s the problem?

Following the steps of the final project, on week 4 I had to find an issue in my class that could be solved with technology. I have already implemented some tech upgrading on my class by being in transit into blended learning which has been fantastic. However, new solutions bring new problems as well. Among the many old issues that still need to be focused on is the lack of opportunity to exercise student´s oral production (speaking) skills. There has always been very little chance to practice it in class since most of my previous classes were absorbed by “silent reading” and even if they tried reading aloud they would read the material as “Spanglish” not having a clue of the right pronunciation of words in English. Unfortunately, I could not help much on that regard. It would be time consuming to diagnose and make corrections on each one. 

Fortunately, however, I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel. Technology is offering new opportunities for teachers to tackle this type of problem. There are a couple of web tools out there that could help motivation and improvement of speaking skills. Therefore, this will be the issue I will work on:
  •  ·         How to improve speaking skills using a web 2.0 tool.

I also would love to work on tutorial videos for my online classes but I would rather concentrate on ONE issue at a time. Let´s see.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Reading and Writing with my shadow?

Learn in isolation?
This week I have learned a lot about reading and writing. The articles written by Krajka and Mei-Ya Liang were really thought-provoking and very illuminating.  They provided proofed-tested strategies to be implemented for promoting the development of Reading and Writing skills. There is no doubt that the guidance they provided will be useful for many years to come. I think that Krajka’s writing prompts are particularly valuable means to boost that skill. Who will not feel tempted to write about a special character in history or contemporary times? These articles, however, were written when the technology was not as versatile as today´s in the sense that, even though the made use of internet as a resource of authentic material, the focus of learning was still individualistic. Of course my perception could be wrong and by no means am I saying the strategies they proposed are incorrect, it is only that they need to be adapted to today´s technology possibilities to promote a more social learning environment.  As a teacher who has been in the field for a while now, I have felt the wind of change with respect to using web tools 2.0 to promote reading and writing. There is a world-wide tendency to favor strategies and web tools to foster collaborative learning. New terms like “Collaborative writing” and “crowd sourced books”, “social reading” or “social annotation” are trendy in many tech forums and other popular articles these days. Need an example? Search for these newly coined words to get a sense of what I mean.  If you check Breaking news English you will see a good example. These exercises are great and I think they were meant to be printed off for the use of the student, so they were designed for “the individual learner” and there´s nothing wrong with that, but it could be adapted to be used for a group. How much more learning could merged individuals learn? I hope to get my idea across. Any comments?  
Crowd-sourced learning?

On the other hand, I learned lots about writing lesson plans from a very outstanding School software :D  Yeap. I really liked it that its layouts included all the cards to be played. For example, each lesson included Institutional Standards, language level, objective, strategy, activities, technology standards, age, etc. Everything perfectly combined to get an expected result. I suspected of this equation combination before. Lesson plans involve more than just the learning objective. I wish I could have a software like that!! How they did it? 

To wrap up, after my immersion with readings and web pages during week 4th , I came up with two teaching/learning paths to choose:  Should  I  take “in isolation” boosting or “crowd fostering” for reading and writing on my students? The answer my friend is blowing …in student´s learning styles and needs as well.  Or else? What do you think?