Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Final Reflection about my Experience in the ICT in TEFL course (Session 13)

Final Reflection about my Experience in the ICT in TEFL course.
     I am going to start by saying that this has been a unique experience. Taking this subject has taught me that learning about technology definitely widens our minds. There are so many things that technology has to offer that when you are introduced into that world for the first time, the experience is absolutely overwhelming. I am happy and I may give a list of all the reasons why.  I think we have been shown  the tip of the iceberg.  Now it is up to us to follow the path to becoming a 22nd century teacher or to continue to look at the other side and do nothing to change our reality.
     From now on, we have no excuses to become better educators, plan our classes looking ahead and seeing the positive of the experiences to come. I am just imagining what technological artifacts we will be using in ten or twenty years. A little frightening, but not that much to stop me from keeping on exploring.
   I am exhausted but at the same time very satisfied
   Thank you  my partners  for always being there with a helping hand to support me every time I wanted to give up.
   Thank you professor for taking us on a ride to this wonderful experience. I will never forget you! 

Fostering Maritime English Learning via a Wiki... (Session 12)

Fostering Maritime English Learning via a Wiki for a Knowledge Bowl Competition.

     Knowledge bowl competitions, according to record, started to be organized in the early  fifties. These competitions were organized between schools and colleges. Their popularity increased so much that they were broadcasted on radio and later shown on television. (Wikipedia, 2011)
     Knowledge bowl is basically a game of questions and answers about diverse topics.         
     Participants are expected to master knowledge in a broad range of academic subjects if they want to reach the final rounds. (Wikipedia, 2011)
     Why the interest for organizing events of this kind ?
     Research (Metzger, 2007; Parke, 2003)  has shown that organizing and participating in these activities really brings many positive experiences and advantages to those involved. On one hand, teachers may monitor and measure their students retention of material related to their subjects, they may also encourage their students to develop certain degree of autonomy just by asking them to prepare themselves for the competition,  and also to cultivate their confidence in their academic abilities and personal responsibility. On the other hand, students feel really engaged and motivated to learn because they have the chance to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a positive setting.
    For the diversed reasons explained above among others is that I have decided to organize a quiz bowl competition with UMC students who are taking the subject English VII as a way of motivating them to improve their knowledge concerning Maritime English.
     For the planning of the event I have decided to create a wiki which will be the means for all participants to  be in contact.  All participants: teachers and students will be informed, and invited to join in the wiki, they will be allowed  participate in the construction and design  of it. This tool will also be a platform for students to have the opportunity to practice their maritime English skills and share their knowledge  with their peers.
     The event will be organized in the UMC campus and all the students taking the subject English VII may have the same chance to participate. Of course, they will be informed about all the rules and procedures to be a potential contestants. Their participation will depend on them.
     I am very positive about this activity. I have been doing research about events like this and the results have been great. Students get really engaged with learning when preparing for the competition, they really enjoy all the process.  Something I considered very innovative is using a wiki for the organization of the event and for facilitating the students’ practice and preparation for the final activity.  

References: Reference page.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Web-based lessons (Session 11)

Web-based lessons
     According to the  World Education Literacy Division (2005) “A web lesson is  a lesson that  incorporates a web site or many web sites. This can be conducted entirely online or  it can be a traditional classroom lesson with an online component”.
     Some advantages of this kind of lessons is that they bring several opportunities for  teachers and students to exploit their  creativity, which means, they may get inspired to create original resources and acitivities,  and therefore   facilite the class development and success.
     Another positive feature regarding this kind of lessons  is the benefits  they provide to different learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic,  given the varied formats in which the information (material) is presented.
     The most important matter regarding web-based lessons is the priority they must give to educational goals.  This should actually include  specific  steps, description of how and when  the websites will be used in the course of the whole activity.

Web-based lesson
Maritime English use  in different  contexts.
Participants: UMC Maritime Engineering students who are in semester VII.
ü  Exercise  listening comprehension skills.
ü  Raise awarenesss of the importance of  oral communication skills  in    
           the maritime  contexts.

ü  Summarize  and report information after watching and listening a  
Material: Computers with internet ccess.

     Search  online video sites such as YouTube, Teacher Tube, or any other  for videos  about different speaking situations which require the use of maritime English.  ( in  any  maritime context).  Select  about six or eight videos  in which people are talking or discussing subjects related to the maritime context. Videos may include people with different English accents or different English levels.
     Have students form pairs or trios and assign a video to each.  Students  will watch and listen to the videos , take notes of  information they may think is important.  The teacher  may provide students with a short list of questions  that may serve as pre-listening activity to give them certain context.
    Students will prepare a 5-minute oral presentation to explain the teacher and their partners ,through a summary,  about the different speaking situations shown in the videos.   They must relate the videos to their current  and future situation.
   A debate may be started  to discuss about the advantages of knowing and  speaking maritime English. This would be a   way of encouraging students to raise certain  awareness in regards with the importance of communicating in such specific context as it is the maritime one.  They really need to have command of this specialized language.

References: See reference page

Notions about Second Life (Session 10)

Second Life

     The first time I heard about second life was two years ago. I heard  about it from my two nephews who are now 22 years old.  When they told me about that  ,according to them,  “amazing virtual world”  my reaction was rather the one of an skeptical individual.  I just thought of it as a teenage geek  game.  I never imagined at that time that I was going to be living  the second life experience.  Now, here I am trying and rehearsing  how to change my appearance, my outfit , how to sit down, take a picture and even fly.
      Some curious information, well!  I think not so curious I found about second life is that a lot of people see it as a way to open up and and behave the way they would never do in real life. Some guy said “the best part of it is that at the end of the day your actions and choices stay with your second life character, not you”.  This is due to fact that second life can somehow give one the benefit of  anonymity.
     I was a little worried about how to handle this new experience, but then I also read that there are some groups to help newcomers. Cool! 
    And something that really attracted my attention was finding out that there is a hybrid mashup of second life and moodle, which is called Soodle.  This soodle platform  “provides a range of tools for supporting learning and teaching to the immersive virtual world”. (The Instructional Technologist’s blog, 2009).
     The benefits of this second life word for educators and students  are wide a lot. Collaborative projects can be started and developed, simulations impossible to be  made  due to factors such as budget matters in educational institutions can be feasible, field trips to  far away places: Can you imagine visiting second life NASA? Superb!    
     Well! I will continue to try on second life. Who knows if in the future I become, as they say,  one of those avatar teachers who own buildings and condos, married  to a gorgeous  avatar girl and living in second life Antartida,

                                                            A picture of my first Avatar

References: See reference page

Monday, July 18, 2011

Virtual Learning Environments (Session 9)

Virtual Learning Environments
     Nowadays  that science and  technology  have contributed with the advance of many fields of  society , we teachers can not deny the fact that changes in education  have been ocurring, and they  are just around the corner.  We can not think of the teaching-learning process   as it was thought of  ten or twenty years ago. Technology has undoudtedly  made this important process happen beyond   the limits  of the physical infrastructure.  Now learning environments are not only physical : a building, four walls and a roof, but virtual: with no physical  boundaries.    
     A virtual learning environment  (VLE)  is “ a system that creates an environment designed to facilitate teachers in the management of educational courses for their students, especially a system using computer hardware and software, which might  involve both face to face and  distance learning” ( Wikipedia, 2011)
     It has been stated   that these environments were originally created   for distance education, however, with the passing of time, they started to be  used to support and complement traditional face to face  classroom activities: blended learning.
   There are certain  elements a VLA should implement. Some of them are:
ü  The syllabus for the course.
ü  Administrative  information.
ü  Students registration.
ü  Basic teaching material.
ü  Additional resources such as links to spaces on the Internet.
ü  Assessment.  Among others    (Wikipedia, 2011)

    Once  all these elements have been incorporated ,  It is the job of the teacher to exploit all them fully to get the most advantages of them.                                   
   According to Dillenbourg  (2000),  VLE  own certain characteristics, which may make them  achieve the goals they have been created for.                     Some  of these characteristics   are: students are not only active, but also actors, they co-contruct the virtual space. This means that they are not restricted to consuming web information, they become information producers as well.    VLE are not restricted to distance education , they also enrich classroom activities. They integrate heterogeneous technologies and multiple pedagogical approaches.  
    In the TEFL field, VLE are seen as very effective platforms. These virtual environments are considered as   useful and successful as face to face ones.  They may actually complement each other.
     At Univesidad Maritima del Caribe there is this online platform “Sistema de Aprendizaje Interactivo  a Distancia” (SAID)  created in MOODLE which has brought a lot of benefits to the campus in regards to physical space, time contraints, and resource economy.
     This platform has been created aiming at the design and offering  of intructional modules, subjects and programs  to be developed under the distance learning mode.
     UMC teachers who may want to instruct using  the SAID platform must take a six-month course (diplomado)  to learn how to work  with it.
     I was offered the opportunity to take this course and the experience was really worth it.  I was taught how to use all MOODLE predetermined  tools   such as: forums, tasks, questionnaires, lessons, and how to design and administer  instructional modules.
     Right now, I am using this SAID  platform   not only to instruct and assist distance learners who are taking the module Instrumental English II for  the   three-year major  Transporte Acuatico, but also to complement my face to face classes. This is somehow a new experience for my students, and believe me they are as amazed as me to see and realize  how productive and supportive for their learning  such a platform like this can be.

Link to UMC Virtual Room

References: See reference page

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Communities of Practice/ Social Networks (Session 8)

     Communities of Practice.
Lave and Wenger (1998) state that “communities of practice (CoP) involve people sharing common concerns, sets of problems, or the same interests in a topic. they share information and experiences and because of this process of sharing, all the members of the community learn from each other and have the opportunity to develop themselves both personally and professionally”.
     These organizational groups are characterized by having as many objectives as members in their circles. They give participants great opportunities to share their best practices and experiences on specific domains, or fields of knowledge.

     Communities of practice are meant to be of great importance for establishments such as non-profit associations, business corporations, educational institutions and even government organizations because they : connect people who, otherwise, would not have the time to interact; enable dialogue and discussion between their participants; stimulate learning; introduce collaborative process, help people organize and generate learning. (Wenger, Mc. Dermott & Snyder, 2002).

     In field of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), CoPs have been gainig ground. Teachers and researchers in this area have started to take action and decided to assemble these types of communities given the lot of opportunities they offer for interaction and knowledge sharing. EFL teachers and researchers have realized that a great way to be exposed to the latest and newest information regarding their jobs is by interacting with their colleagues. This interaction, of course, can be possible through a community of practice.
     In Latin-America and Venezuela CoPs regarding the English language teaching field such as Webheads in action, Avealmec, VenELT, ELTnet, among others are well known by those doing research in the EFL/ESL teaching field and those really interested in sharing their experiences and expertise related to those fields. Interesting, exciting and sometimes divisive topics are discussed and participants contribute with their knowledge and expertise to state their view points and clarify doubts. In particular case of Webheads in action, educators meet to discuss about the emerging communications technologies, a very important area which really complements the ELT field.

Social Networks
     A social network is “a social structure made up of individuals which are connected by interdependency such as friendship, other relationships, common interests, knowledge and even status”. (Wikipedia, 2011).
A very popular social networking service worldwide is Facebook. This service was originally created with the only purpose of helping students of Harvard University get to know each other better. However, nowadays Facebook has expanded so much to the point of having 750 million active users worldwide. (Wikipedia, 2011)
     Facebook as social networking service owes its popularity to the fact that it is a very friendly- and- easy- to- use platform, which means any user does not need to be an expert in software or technology to use it. This platform provides users with a wide range of possibilities to interact and socialize. Facebook users can create their personal profiles with pictures, create lists of personal interests, communicate with friends, relatives, and other users, create and join interest groups, among other services.
     The first time I signed in and tried with Facebook, I was really excited thinking of the lot of possibilities this platform was offering me to meet new people and socialize. I could not believe about its popularity. I realized how popular Facebook was when I started to contact many of my childhood friends, high school and college classmates, who I had lost track of due to many reasons. It was an amazing experience.
     I may say that this social network service has helped me a lot both personally and professionally in the way that it has offered me the opportunity of meeting and interacting with people, teachers and researchers from other countries. We have changed valuable information regarding our profession and more. In addition, The greatest benefit that Facebook has given me is the numerous opportunities to practice my English with people from all over the word, and also know a little more about their cultures. This is definitely not an artificial means to practice English, but a real one.

Facebook link