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

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Video Created with Window Movie Maker (Session 7)

Videos in the EFL class. (Session 7)

My First Movie Maker Video

Videos in the TEFL Classroom
I have always believed that one of the most motivating resources for the language classes are videos.  The experience of watching a video (a film, a music video,  a documentary) always awakes a lot of mixed feelings in  those who see  and listen to them . 
 Videos are often created with  varied purposes  and one of those purposes  is expressing and communicating  ideas, feelings, messages   that may not  be clearly expressed  with just words .
The actractive aspect of videos, in my opinion,  is  that they can trigger imagination.  I just imagine that our mind functions like a video camera, and our memories are recording of our experiences.
Research (Canning-Wilson, 2000) has revealed    that  students like learning language through the use of videos.  Those studies suggest that learners really enjoy  action, entertainment films .  So why not taking advantages of them for our classes?.
But videos should not be used in the classroom just for the sake of amusing our students. They should be implemented with a  pedagogical purpose of course.  And we teachers must be clear about setting our objectives before using  them  .  There are some questions that language  teachers should answer before using videos in the classroom. For instance,  How the language learner will benefit from watching videos, or how students and teachers can develop language skills based on videos (Canning-Wilson, 2000).
Once we are clear about the purpose of using a video which may be  the hardest part , we should then  devote ourselves to the design of the video material to fulfill our teaching goals. Videos are great tools to mainly teach and test listening skills. But the other skills  are not kept out of the benefits of them.    I have indeed seen and used videos to teach English micro-skills such as grammar, vocabulary and even intonation.
The various  times I have used  videos in my English classes , They have been borrowed  from the internet. YOUTUBE, I think , is a great source of videos. Many of them show really authentic situations.  What I have done so far  is downloding them to my computer with  RealPlayer program and keeping them in a video bank for future uses.   Some partners at work  also use videos a lot and we sometimes  interchange them.
Now I am really happy because  creating my own videos using the Window Movie Maker program is now an option.  This program is so friendly and easy to use that  I am just thinking of the possibility of having my current students create their own presentation videos before this semester ends.   Hopefully, that will  be a very meaningful  English learning  experience for them.
References: See reference page

Saturday, June 4, 2011

PODCAST (session 6)

One of the advantages of using the Internet is that it gives us wide possibilities to easily access genuine resources and material. Such resources can have a big value in the EFL class as they may be used for many purposes, for instance, developing great and interactive classes with activities such as debating, discussions of topics, work projects among other motivating tasks.

A device that has become a great source of authentic material to use in listening activities is the podcast. Podcasts have a number of advantages because of their authenticity and suitability. Language teachers may create them to suit their class needs.
Podcast is a blended word formed by the combination of the I-Pod (audio player) and broadcast from TV and radio. It is a computer radio file. The most common file is MP3. (Sharma & Barrett, 2007)

For downloading a podcast we need a broad band internet connection. And, though they take authenticity (real life) to the class, to create one is not a task for an elementary computer user(Sharma & Barrett, 2007). Fundamental items of equipment are required. Two of those items are a sound card and a microphone.

Podcast formats vary. They may be presentations, monologues, interviews, dialogues, etc. As it has been stated before, teachers may choose their formats based on their class needs.

In the TEFL field there may be a lot of reasons to use podcast. First, podcasts provide listening practice that is tailored to the learner’s needs. Second, they can benefit learners who are more aural than visual in their learning styles. Next, they can provide with models of pronunciation and accent for those who do not have opportunities for foreign language exposure, among other reasons.

The experience of creating a podcast in the ICT in TEFL course has been somehow daunting . Authorities that support the use of technology in education are right when they say that creating such type of file is not a task for elementary computer users. Actually, just looking at the panel of programs such as audacity and the like may be a little intimidating. One may start thinking that this is a task for a sound engineer. However, once we start experimenting with the features of the program, we find out that creating a podcast is not that difficult. I indeed got excited to the point of wanting to create my own sound files for my ESP classes. Of course, I am still in the process of experimentation with the panel of audacity.

My first Podcast

My Podbean blog

WIKIS (session 5)

The use of technology in the TEFL field offers a lot of opportunities for learning progress and improvement . To work with tools like computers and the internet ; for instance, may become a motivating learning experience as students may feel excited, stimulated and inspired if they realize the advantages and benefits of using such tools in their learning and practice of the target language.

Language learners may also feel stimulated when working with authentic material and participating in collaborative tasks. In this sense, a very useful tool that allows students to participate in collaborative learning tasks is “WIKI”.

A wiki is a “website on which pages can be constructed and edited by its creator as well as by its users”. (Sharma and Barrettt, 2007). Wikis have many uses in the language learning field . When students are learning a foreign language, they actually need a context that gives them the possibility to interact and use what they have learned. Therefore, participating in the process of creating and editing a wiki may be that perfect context.

According to Sharma and Barrett (2007) some of the benefits that wikis offer to the language learning are that they propose opportunities for learners to create bonds between them which may facilitate their learning. Wikis also make learners develop a sense of responsibility and respect when they realize that they are creating a project and that they are the authors of it.

In addition, teachers benefit from using wikis as these tools can facilitate some teaching tasks such as monitoring students progress, keep a record of how students are doing, observe what difficulties they may be encountering, among others .

The use of wikis in education, and specifically in the TEFL field has become the latest trend among teachers who love using technology in their jobs. Personally, I think that this technological instrument possesses great features and offers a number of possibilities that may contribute with the effectiveness of the teaching /learning process. At this regards, based on the premise that working cooperatively and collaboratively really contributes with meaningful learning, then wikis (because of their features and devices) will continue to be very efficient teaching/ learning tools.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Blogs and Blogging (Session 4)

One of the advantages of the Web 2.0 applications is that they propitiate and make possible interaction between their users.
As a teacher I particularly think that interaction and cooperation between learners make the learning process more meaningful. Now if this interaction and cooperation is done via technology, there may be a high possibility of learning success.
Blogging is actually the basic activity of updating a blog with information and make it available on the web. (Sharp Colmer & Thomas, 2005). This of course cannot be done without the web 2.0.
Blogs have become very popular web tools as they can be used for a variety of purposes. They may serve as personal diaries to keep a record of actions. They can be used for business and trade. They can also focus on particular subjects in which people with same interests can share and interchange ideas.
In the TEFL contexts blogs have countless uses. They indeed complement and harmonize the foreign or second language teaching/learning process by promoting the interaction, cooperation and collaboration among all those involved.

Reference: Sharp Colmer & Thomas T.,(2005) "The Senior's Guide to Internet".

WEBS 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 (Session 3)

Features of Webs 1.0, 2,0, 3,0

Web 1.0
Users only hace access to the information as rceptors.
Users do not have possibility to edit, participate in contents.
Pages include only text, and a few images.
The used format is HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language.
There is not interaction between users.

Web 2.0

Facilitates sharing information.
It allows users to interact and collaborate with each other.
Pages are dYnamic as they integrate multimedia resources: videos, sound, etc.
The used format are Java, Script, PHP.
Allows users to create their own contents.

Web 3.0

It is called a semantic web because it is a combination of the different systems of social networkings.
It will be conceived for the machines to understand people and process the information posted on the web.

E-Portfolio (Session 2)

Technology has undoubtedly invaded every aspect of our lives. Lots of people spend hours in front of computers, talking on cell phones, using all kinds of machines. Now activities such as going shopping, having fun, meeting people, etc . can be done via internet.
A latest trend is posting one’s portfolio on the web. This kind of portfolio is called “E-portfolio”. This is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user. It may include texts, electronic files, images, blog entries among other features. (L. Malita & Vanna, 2010).
In the educational field portfolios are very helpful as they provide with evidence of the students’ progress and achievements. Students can reflect on their learning and become more aware of their strengths and needs.
These useful tools vary in use. They can be developmental, reflective and representational. Every type serving different purposes.

Reference: L.Malita & Vanna,B. (2010) Digital Story Telling for Employability.

E-Learning (Session 2)

U.M.C. Web page

The development of technology has made it possible to take the teaching-learning process to a higher level. Now, there are different systems which have contributed directly to the education growth. One of these systems is E-Learning. It comprises all forms of electronically supported learning based not only on the web, but other technological devices such as cell phones, video cameras, multimedia gadgets, etc. (Wikipedia, 2010).
E-learning has played a paramount role in the TEFL field as it has certainly served as a solid and varied platform which facilitates all the practices involved in the second language teaching and learning. Learners do not require to go to an enclose building or room to learn a second language. They can do it with just any new technological application in their computers, I phones, Blackberries and the like.
At present, Educational institutions worldwide have experienced the need for updating their syllabuses with the aim to implement e-learning systems in their infrastructures. Authorities in the education field have been stating that e-learning may be the cornerstone to solve many of the problems occurring in education. For instance, spread education and fight the disadvantages caused by physical space.

E-Learning / TEFL Context

U.M.C. web page

At Universidad Nacional Experimental Marítima del Caribe (UMC) there is a technological platform serving the UMcista population. The UMC has a web site which everybody can access to look for detailed information about the university. This university has also three computers labs and three OPSU rooms. These facilities provide both students and teachers with certain preparation in the ICT areas. Though the internet access is limited since many web sites and pages are blocked, students and teachers can do research on the web.
A curious and sad fact is that all the activities developed in the Computers labs have not connection with the learning of languages. The computers labs are only used to teach students about computer programs, software, hardware and all that computer technicality.

Reference: Wikipedia (2010) E-Learning "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ E- learning.

Digital Literacy (Session 1)

Digital Literacy

If we turn back in time a hundred years or more, we will be surprised to find out that society’s conception of a person being literate was very different from today’s conception . Literacy in the past had more to do with reading and writing the languages used by certain intellectual circles. A person, who could read and write in Latin; for instance, was considered well-educated and therefore literate.
It is amazing to see how this conception about literacy has changed. We have witnessed the emergence and development of technology in the last 20 years. This evolution of technology and the control that it has upon our lives has undoubtedly changed our perceptions and conception of our reality. Now we have new and different needs.
In this sense, it is pertinent to ask what it means to be literate in the 21th century. Many authors (Asko, 1998; Frechette, 2002; Ogle and Klemp, 2007) argue that being literate in this era is related to developing critical thinking and having a continuum learning to be able to develop knowledge for participating actively in society (Ogle & Klemp, 2007). However, in this technological era developing “Digital Literacy” has become a real need.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2001), digital literacy is “sophisticated set of competencies pervading workplace, community and social life”. Moreover, “It is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and create information using digital technology”. (Wikipedia, 2010 in Reynolds, 2010). It is a fact that to be digitally literate, knowledge and understanding of high technology and its use is required. It is also a reality that people who are digitally literate can communicate and work more efficiently nowadays.
In regards with education, It is well-known that schools and universities worldwide have been planning and updating their syllabuses with the implementation of computer related areas. Now more educational courses are being offered online. Hence the necessity of teachers to prepare in the tech. areas and become digitally literate to satisfy the learning needs of today’s students.
I may say that it has been a long and intricate way for me to get certain command on the use of technology to catch up with my students. That does not mean that I am a hundred per cent digitally literate. Actually, I am far away from being that teacher who is at the forefront in the use of technology. Nevertheless, I have always been open to this wonderful field. Something undeniable is that technology is always changing and new ways of communication and information have appeared. So we teachers can not deny the fact that technology is there to be used, consumed and get the most benefits of. So why not doing it ?

Reference: Frechette, D. (2002) Developing Media Literacy in Cyberspace.


This tool has been created with the main purpose of providing followers with basic and "easy to consume" information about some of the benefits we can get from using technology to develop the teaching-learning process. Here you will find some blogging about technology and education-related topics such as: Digital Literacy, E-learnig, E-portfolios among others and all of them have been related to the TEFL field.
You are invited to post your comments on the topics you think are useful and interesting.