Thursday, December 1, 2011

Week 10: Final Reflection

I still remember the first week when we introduced ourselves. My quote was "When it gets dark enough, you can see the stars." –Lee Salk, psychologist. I meant every single word because using technology in the classroom or outside it for self-paced study was something totally new to me. I enjoyed every glance at the different tools. There were moments I felt I was not going to be able to cope with all the activities and the expectative, but I pushed myself to keep on trying.

I have learned about many tools such as Jupiter Grades, Nicenet,  Delicious, Webquests, Rubrics, Wikiclass, etc. I have also visited wonderful sites suggested by our instructor or other participants. I am already using some of them and my short-term goal is to use them in a more extensive way. 

I enjoyed the discussions with our visitors that also brought new ideas and support to what we were doing. I just regret not having more time.

All the topics we had were really useful. My favorite ones were the Bloom’s Taxonomy and the ABCD Learning Objectives Framework. The last one helped me focus on what I was doing for my project. Something I would have liked to learn more about is the use of social network in the teaching-learning process considering that nowadays most people, especially young ones, are into the use of Facebook, Twitter, and others.

The moment to say thanks has come, and I am grateful with god for making of my life a melting pot of experiences, the University of Oregon for offering a course like the one we took, Robert Elliott for his support and guidance, The Embassy of Bolivia for giving my institution the chance to take this course, my English language school for choosing me among other sixty teachers for this online class, my family, specially my son, for all the support and patience I got, and my students for their work on the new experience my project provided. If it weren’t for this course I would not have gotten any better in the LoTi  Framework Level.

I hope not to say good bye but rather see you on line! It is Christmas Season already. I wish you a Merry Christmas to all of you! Good luck!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week 9: Project Report and Learning Styles

We had worked so hard reading, analyzing our students’ needs, planning a technological related change to meet our students’ needs and finally last November 25 we sent our reports. No doubt we have been working so hard, and we have done it from heart.
This has been a very hectic week, just like the others, but full of joy because I could report what I did with my students and every word reminded me the different weeks and little steps I took toward this final report of my project, “Using Technology to Enhance Listening Skills.” However, this is not the end. I feel it is the beginning of a new way to see the teaching and learning process. It is a commitment to continue this entrepreneur to be better professionals focused on our students’ needs.
I have read some of my coursemates’ blogs and I could perceive that we share a similar feeling. We can’t help being sad because this course is about to get to an end, and it is hard for some of us to say good-bye. The most important, I have learned a lot from everyone, and I will always remember them.
This week we discussed about Learning Styles and the way we could use technology to address them. At first, I thought it was going to be the easiest discussion ever, but the reality proved I was wrong. After reading different articles, I could see that there are different authors that classify the learning styles different ways. What’s more, after reading an article by Barbara Prashnig, Director of the Creative Learning Company in Auckland, I knew that Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences are not exactly the same. I think it is important to know more about these two concepts to approach out students’ needs and abilities better.
Getting ready for our last week, I just wonder if the discussions on Nicenet or the information in our Wiki class will still be available for us to keep on reading after the end of the next week when our class is officially over. Whatever happens, I have learned a lot!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 8: Draft, Teaching with Online Tools, and Creating an Online Course

Few days remain before we hand in our final projects. It seems to be the last week when we started to work on this online course. I feel the time has passed so fast and I have not even noticed that because I was so engaged in the different activities we have had since we began classes. Each activity was as interesting or even more than the previous ones.
After choosing a partner with whom we were going to work on this peer-reading task, we finally handed in our drafts. When writing it I could notice many things have changed in the way I used to conduct my classes and the way I have integrated internet as a technological tool to be used outside the classroom. To share drafts and read a partner’s draft were really fruitful because we also learn from other person’s experience and sometimes we notice we face similar realities in our classrooms. So, reading a partner’s draft was like having worked on two projects.
We were so happy to have Jeff in our discussions and we learned about Anvill. This is a wonderful tool that would fit my students’ needs, especially of the ones who are in the intermediate, upper intermediate, or advanced program of English as a Foreign Language. The tool we use depends on our objectives and our students needs. I feel that Nicenet is a good option if I want my students to practice their reading and writing as well as have some discussions. Blogger is a perfect tool for writing and reflection. Google sites is great if we want to share files with students. In the discussions, I learned about other tools as well. Now our next task is to get familiar with those tools like Anvill or others that are designed to foster students’ independent learning.
Our task was to create an online course site or an exercise. I created my Nicenet class. It is called “Distance Course”, and it was meant to reinforce the activities we have to readapt with my Listening & Speaking class. This is the class with which I worked for my project and this past week we were announced it was either going to be closed or reduced the length of time to fifteen days out of twenty days a regular class has due to administrative policies. So, to have a more efficient use of the class time, some of those activities may be removed outside the classroom. An online course can be also planned more carefully and used from the very beginning with a new class since the one I have now is about to get to the end.
Working on activities like these ones were really useful and our real task is to be able to use them in our classes and extend those activities to all our classes considering our students’ needs and background.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 7: Learner autonomy, one-computer lesson, one computer options, and finding a partner

Just as the other weeks, this one has been a lot productive considering that we learn many things as well as we keep on implementing our projects.
Independent learning is something that is not easy to foster if emotional aspects such as beliefs, attitude, and motivations are not taken into account, and to talk about independent learners first we need to talk about independent teachers. How independent do we think we are? I was wondering what makes me independent or autonomous. I feel that being autonomous represents a huge responsibility with oneself and the others because it represents commitment. This is commitment to improve, to be updated, to continually research, and reflect. If I as a teacher do not foster that commitment and wisely use the knowledge I have, I think I fail.
 It is a good thing we have these courses that let us not only learn or share different experiences with other teachers around the world, but also reflect on what we do, and we as teachers know that we learn more from our mistakes.
Using a computer in the classroom is another issue we worked on; I wish I had a computer in my classroom or a computer lab in the language school where I work. Actually, there is one but it is for the exclusive use to administer the TOEFL exam. Students or teachers do not have access to this lab. This reality has an explanation. The administrative staff does not think computers are necessary; besides, computers represent an extra expense they are not willing to support. What is more, if a clear project to use computers in the classroom is not presented or explained, and there are individual efforts to use a lap top or data display in the classroom, I do not think the situation will change a bit. On the other hand, if I do not know how to use a computer in the classroom, having one will be useless.
For my lesson plan I thought of the use of a power point presentation with a link to a site addressing the topic we have in our guide book: Spiritual Renewal, Mt. Athos. The computer is thought to be used to work on the project activity to encourage students to create an ad inviting people to visit this place after describing the magnificent scenery.

My peer-reading partner is Vinicious. I am willing to work on our next task and learn a lot from this sharing experience. Every week is as wonderful as the previous ones.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week 6: Teaching large classes, PPT, and Project implement

After reading some posts on Nicenet and some blogs, I could see that for some teachers a concern is to handle large groups. I liked reading the articles about teaching large classes and having activities such as Think-Pair-Share and Think-Pair-Square activities. Also, role playing is a good activity to have students participate actively in the classroom. My favorite article was “Teaching Naked: Why Removing Technology from your Classroom Will Improve Student Learning” because it suggests emailing as a way to keep in touch with students with assignments and announcements that can be done more effectively through messaging outside the class, so we use our class time more effectively. It also suggests that the teacher and the students have a more personal Face-to-Face interrelation in classes. It helps me focus my project’s objective and activities.
Creating an interactive PPT took me some time. It is divided in four main blocks to aid the class with a technological tool: presentation, vocabulary, listening, and project. Each block is separated by a blank slide which is meant to focus the students’ attention on the teacher to summarize what has been done before moving on the next activity. It was a good activity since it is the first time I created one that is interactive with hyperlinks to different parts of the document and a web link. I have tried this presentation with some students outside class, and they found it interesting.
I teach two classes this term, and I was not sure with which group I should work. I have been planning similar activities with both groups, but I finally focused my project and the report on one of them.
Since the objective of my project is to work on motivating activities to enhance students’ listening skills outside of class for self-paced study and extension of class activities, I have used two activities so far. The first one was on this site: Learning Languages. It was meant to talk about their learning a foreign language regarding our project’s activities. The second activity reinforces a topic we have in our guide book “Feng Shui”. Get Rich Quick | Space Lift: Feng Shui Your Home Ep. 3
What I have done: I had a previous activity in the classroom to explain the activity and the procedure. Then, I emailed the students the links and instructions telling them what to do as well as some follow up questions to be sent back before our class. Finally, we shared, discussed, and worked on some post listening and post-viewing activities in the classroom. The activity about Feng Shui will continue next week; the class will work on the project.
My concern… so far, most students have participated on both activities, and they enjoyed the task. However, not the hundred percent of students got engaged in the activity. I think they still believe that their learning is surrounded by walls and happens only when they attend to classes and participate in the classroom activities.
Just like the other weeks, this one was full of learning by doing.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Week 5: Assessment, Rubrics, PBL, and WebQuest

After working this whole week on the different given task, there is the final reflection on what has been done. This week has been as productive as the others; I feel I have learned a lot and had the chance to be introduced to different tools I did not even know existed.
Rubrics are an important part of the learning process because they evaluate and highlight the strengths of the students and make us aware of the aspects that need to be reinforced. What is more, students are aware of what we expect them to do. Moreover, they can evaluate themselves as well as their peers in a more objective way. RubiStar resembles a magic wand in this magic world of Building Teacher Skills though the Interactive Web. I have been touring different sites and tools since the first week of this course, and this one is just great.
Assessment is the perfect complement to project-based learning (PBL). If students work on activities that are appealing to them, they will not only learn but they will also enjoy the activity because that will be meaningful to them.
Narrowing my students’ needs and trying to focus on one did not seem an easy thing to do. However, considering that my class studies English as a Foreign Language, and they are exposed to the language for a very short amount of time, one of the most important needs they have is to have outside classroom activities to enhance their listening skills. Considering this, there are some sites I have considered to be used as guided activities, and I intend to use them first as homework and then for further discussion in classes.
I think WebQuests are also a wonderful tool to work with. It is a tool to be considered for some activities such as PBL, especially with young learners and adults.
A productive week again, but as our discussion goes on and tasks come, we are getting ready for hands-on our projects. We are on the way to fulfill this course’s goals which is to understand and use appropriate technology to enhance our students learning environments and outcomes for our students.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 4: CALL, my students' needs, and Lesson Plan

This week we briefly reminded all the participants of the characteristics of our class and that helped me focus on the needs of my class which are the needs of my institution as I said on my post. Learning English as a Foreign Language becomes a bit harder since students are not too exposed to the language and they lack of “authentic” material. However, that is something that can be overcome with the help of technology brought to the classroom or outside it considering the fact that nowadays most students are a step further with their web search and use of technology. They have become expert people working with internet in their houses and using different kinds of social network. What they need is to narrow they search and we are there to guide them find what is necessary for them to enhance their learning skills.

Using CALL to enhance our students reading and writing skills is important since students need more guided activities and opportunities to use the language in different contexts, such as e-mailing or being an e-pal. Not only that, but they can also read what is going on in the world and analyze and compare what they find out to their own reality. This is definitely an activity not to be done in a week, but it is the beginning of a new search and a new way to view things in the Teaching – Learning process.

Considering all the previous facts, we have also planned a class taking our students' needs into account and have suggested some sites that can be beneficial for our students. In my case, My Lesson Plan was designed in a way I think can be helpful for my students. I have suggested some sites to enhance my students’ reading and writing skills outside the classroom with a specific activity based on the lesson and objectives that were designed. I am looking forward to receiving your feedback because I think that one who observes something without being part of it will be more objective than one who is involved in a reality.

Best Regards,

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 3. Reflections

After a two-week vacation, this week has been hectic trying to keep up with the week’s tasks. Working 13 hours a day, it has been a bit harder to try to check all suggested sites and follow the discussions. However, I would say that the different tasks were a lot useful and fruitful.
About oral/aural skills, I have to admit I felt a bit skeptical at the very beginning with the pitch software. However, after reading the different discussions and reading materials, I can see how important the application of CALL is. Before that, voice analyzes software sounded like science fiction to me because we have never experimented with such tools, at least in my city. What is more, since English is taught in my country, Bolivia, as a foreign language, the most difficult skills to enhance have been listening and speaking. So, CALL applications seem to be the answer to our concerns. It still needs a lot of reflection and investigation to see how this can be used by our students.
Trying to enhance my students’ listening skills, I have visited some sites where there are dialogues and students can work on the activities. These activities can be done in and outside the classroom as long as there is an Internet connection. I am now experimenting with one of those activities outside the classroom, and next week, I will have some results and feedback from my students.
Reading a project report, gave some ideas about where I am, and what I am expected to do. It make me think that I am running out of time and still have to think about activities to be done in my classes that show a technology change, enhances students’ skills and meets their needs.
When I posted my comment to nicenet, my subject was “Delicious made my life sweeter” and that is totally true. Before using Delicious, I used to save some interesting links in a Word Document. Sometimes it was useless because I used to forget the document and the file. Funny, right!
Little by little, I think we are on our way to our final project and technology chances in our classrooms and lesson plans to enhance our students' language skills.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Week 2: Reflections

 There have been four tasks to work on this week. One of them has to do with the discussion and the reading materials about search engines. I have found visiting the different sites endless but useful because there are sites I will definitely use to plan my classes or suggest my students to use them. It was productive to check the different sites and think about the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Using NoodleTools is definitely not an activity to be done in a week, but enough to know that there is something else beyond Google, which was my main search engine before. I don’t mean I will stop using it though. I like IDEA, and iSeek helped me a lot with the second task, which was about sharing and learning to write objectives following the ABCD style since it narrowed my search.
I have found reading the posts with leaning objectives really absorbing and creating objectives for my class has been a challenging experience since I had to analyze the difference among the four components of Heinich’s ABCD model of writing objectives: Audience, Behavior, Condition, and Degree. I think that following this style will be useful to plan my classes better not only because I will be focused on my objectives, but also because this will help me create objectives that will fit my students’ needs and help them get a higher hierarchy on the Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain. As a teacher my purpose is to have students learn, use, and master the new language they learn.
Describing one of my classes has made me more aware of my students’ reality and their environment. It keeps me thinking about the possible technology changes that can be implemented and how we can access to them. It’s the beginning of a long way.
I also had the chance to use NoodleTools, Nicenet, Wikiclass, and Jupiter’s grades. All of them had been unknown by me before I took this course and I consider them amazing. I especially liked Jupiter’s grades because it gives a lot of information to parents and students about a person’s performance. It is just wonderful, especially for those parents who cannot go to school for many reasons and cannot keep track of their children’s performance. I would like to know how safe it is, and how I can up load my class’s information.
Week two has been a lot productive, just as the first week. It is true that we never end up learning.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Week 1: Reflections

I consider that using blogs in the English classroom is an important tool that can enhance students’ learning. Nowadays, the technology is becoming more and more common and we should take advantage of the benefits it provides us. What’s more, it gives students the chance to have additional practice and use the language in a real situation sharing information and opinions with peers as well as other people.
Using blogs in an EFL class will be a challenge that I am willing to overcome since this is the first time I post a note and use a blog. I think it will be interesting for all students, and especially for those who tend to be shy in a face to face class. Posting notes will let students gain confidence and have a positive feedback.

At the very beginning, creating a blog seemed to be very hard. I felt like a startled little girl in a huge amusement park without knowing where to go or how to start. However, if people can read this note and add comments to it, it means I’ve succeeded.