Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Week 10 Reflections

Hi guys! I guess this is wrap! I decided to do my final post just like my first one by using Vocaroo to record a voice message.I didn`t rehearse anything, so I was just speaking from inside with ideas that came to mind without thinking too much. I hope you enjoy it!

And remember guys, this is just the beginning for all of us!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week 9 Reflections

"Take your seats"

I chose this picture because it perfectly represents the topic discussed this week. The teacher asks students to take their seats but not everyone is happy about it. The teacher has a circular shape, the seats also have a circular shape, and only the students who have a circular shape are happy about it. All the other students who have a different shape are unhappy. But why are they unhappy? That`s because they don`t fit the system, only the ones who fit the system will adapt and succeed. The teacher has his own teaching style and brings with him a series of beliefs, practices and approaches that only a few students actually relate to.
In the readings assigned this week, we were once again introduced to Gardner`s theory of multiple intelligences. The texts discusses the importance of varying activities and teaching approaches in order to cater to a larger audience, and the same applies to the use of technology in class.
Teachers tend to do very similar activities most of the time and it is no coincidence that those activities are usually inspired by their own learning styles. The group of students who learn differently will often unplug and will be mistakenly taken as rebellious, lazy, dumb or uninterested students. Educated teachers will often vary their teaching styles so as to "plug" those students and engage them effectively. The teacher who is not aware of such variety of intelligences or learning styles, will usually resort to more popular practices, like visual lessons. It is true that most students learn easily through visual resources, but there might be others who learn more effectively by listening, moving around, discussing, writing, etc. Consequently, variation can be a garantee that lessons will appeal to a larger audience.
Since the future has come and more and more students are now having access to technology, it is quite natural that this philosophy should apply to activities that involve the use of technology, electronic devices and the internet. Creativity is very important when planning lessons and a lot of different plans displayed in this week`s texts show that many activities can be adapted to different styles.
If the teacher in the picture above knew about multiple intelligence and learning styles, he would provide a seat that would comfortably accomodate each one of the shapes, or in other words, each one of the students.
I would like to wrap up this post with a fantastic video taken from Youtube (worth watching!!!) which talks about all intelligences and technology-related activities that can be used to accomodate such intelligences:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weeks 7 & 8 Reflections

Hi dear group, week 8 is on its way to reaching an end and there is so much going on! A keyword that keeps constantly coming to my mind is : DIVERSITY. The more I learn about different tools and the more I see teachers experimenting with them the more i realize that one of the greatest benefits they can offer is diversity and the possibility to reach different people with different goals and needs. If I go 20 years in the past and reflect about how I learned English, it is not difficult to conclude that resources were very limited. If we wanted to practice reading or learn vocabulary, all we could do is visit the library and pick a book or magazine; if we wanted to have extra practice on listening, cassette tapes or VHS tapes were available; if I wanted to improve my writing skills, all I could do was hand in some extra compositions.
Now, when I enter classroom and look at the reality around me and all the technology-related advances that had taken place, I do get the impression that we are navigating a se of endless options and resources. The language learning experience nowadays is very rich and distance learning is being taken to a whole new level. The past two weeks we have been bombarded with amazing sites, tools and resources to improve our teaching. What is amazing is that each teacher here naturally picks a specific resource that he thinks might work better with their groups and posts the ideas and sometimes the products so that we can all get a taste of them.

Week 7 was dedicated to learning autonomy and what we see now is this vast number of ways students and teachers can work in situations that are not face-to-face. Learners , now can actually learn from their homes and still get the interaction portion of the class by accessing blogs, live chats, recording videos or audio files or via e-mail. It is amazing to notice how humans are creative and soon find strategies and techniques to incorporate those novelties into their classes. Now that web 2.0 is out there, teachers are able to create a lot of materials suitable to their realities and have students work on them independently because lots of these exercises can come with answer keys.
Unfortunately not all teachers can count on a school lab or a computer for every single student. Sometimes, there is not even an internet connection available and this means that teachers need to have some tricks in the back to overcome such adversities. During week 7 we were able to brainstorm some interesting ideas to use technology in a one computer classroom or even offline activities that could be developed. Very profitable week indeed!

Now in week 8 , we have had the chance to meet Jeff and all about his ANVILL resource. It is one of the many tools available in the web , but what is striking about it is the fact that it is designed by a teacher to be used by another teacher. Because of this, certain aspects can benefit a lot more the students. According to Jeff, the majority of users are language teachers, specially English and spanish ones. Certain tools in ANVILL are great to promote interaction among students as far as the speaking skills are concerned. Not all similar tools allow students to express ideas orally and ANVILL does that. In other words, students can leave recorded comments and work on some activities without having to write anything but rather speaking and improving pronunciation and oral delivery. A live chat room is also another interesting feature to get students talking.
In week 8 we also had the opportunity to learn about sites teachers can use to create their own online or offline exrecises. I tried and I absolutely loved it because we can create crosswords, puzzles, search puzzles and other kinds of very practical written exercises. They might not work for every kind of audience , but in my case, because I teach teens, this tool is totally useful!
A nice lesson I take from this week is that web resources are out there not only for online practice but also offline. Sometimes you do not have to get students connected in class to work on a task, but you, as a teacher, can take advantage of excellent online resources to create your own printed materials. In addition to that, I would like to mention something Jeff said about not using technology in class. I agree with his idea that technology is not to be necessarily used in class, but rather outside! We teachers should maybe remember that some quality time should be spent with students by promoting face-to-face interactions and that technology could aid the students outside class when they are at home and want extra practice or input. I am sure that for every need there will be a tool or web resource available. The options are as diverse as the needs.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Week 6 Reflections

As suggested by Robert, I have started implementing some of my ideas with one of my groups. We had class today and I briefly told them that I had the idea to help them improve their writing skills. My students are supposed to write a paragraph on their tests but they usually get low grades because they lack knowledge in paragraph organization. So, my idea is to work on paragraph outline and raise their awareness of certain elements like topic sentence, supporting ideas , introduction and conclusion.
Today I took the students to the computer lab and firstly did some brainstorming with them using WALLWISHER. I asked them to type a message saying what essential things they thought a typical paragraph should have. It was my first time and their first time using this web tool, so some students had some trouble leaving the message(some didin`t add their names) and I had to help them. Here is the link to our wallwisher:

I could notice that most of them are aware of essential elements a paragraph should have. However I still want to investigate how they use these elements in a paragraph and show them what needs improvement.
So, after the students shared their ideas in WALLWISHER I told them we had an official blog to develop my action plan. Here is the link to our project blog:

I used a metaphor I heard of a long time ago which I thought would be perfect to illustrate the elements of a paragraph: Writing a paragraph is like making a sandwich!
In my first post on the blog, I wrote a short text explaining my metaphor showing that a cheeseburguer would only be considered a cheeseburguer if it had cheese
in it and that, likewise, a paragraph would only be considered a paragraph it some ïngredients" were added.
So, based on the text posted I had my students write a sample paragraph about our hometown, using some pre-determined information that should be included in the paragraph. I didn`t give many directions or details and let them free to write a paragraph the way they thought would be correct. My plan here was to check how they would handle the knowledge they had revised on paragraph writing. Some students were absent today and some of the students who were present had problems uploading their texts. I had to change some settings in my blog account and about 3 students had their paragraphs erased during this process. The bell had rung and they couldn`t stay in class to re-write their paragraphs. So, in the end, I was able to have 4 sample paragraphs posted.
Since my idea is to use the internet to work on some outside class tasks, the absent students and the ones who were unable to post their texts are going to have another opportunity in the future. I cannot force my students to work on extra tasks outside the classroom and I really believe some students are never going to work on them if we do not use some class time to do part of the work. Typical Brazilian adult learners frequently miss classes and hardly ever do their homework. I am pretty sure that some will take this project very seriously but I plan to use some class time every Saturday to work on it so that I can maximize and encourage their engagement.
I am not sure what is going to be the next step but I am sending them an email next week with the links to the project pages and I might give them another task to be done before next Saturday. I might work on paragraph outlines next class because the samples show that they still mess up with paragraph organization. My ultimate goal is to help them improve their skills and with two more lessons, most of them will probably have incorporated some of my tips when writing their paragraphs. My plan is that in each lesson, after they have received some input, they can improve and embellish the same paragraph. I think this way they can have a clear sense of progress and compare their first draft with the last one.
What do you think about it guys? Do you have any tips or suggestions? Do you know any tools or websites that I could use to help me in this project? Any idea is really welcome!
Have a great week dear colleagues!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week 5 Reflections

This week was all about discussing project-based learning and the use of rubrics.
The keyword I selected for my reflections this week was: learner-centered. The world of teaching and learning has gone through a lot of trends and I have perceived that one of the main concerns has been to focus on the student rather than the teacher. Never has the learner gained so much attention like these days and project-based learning in a way is taking the spolight from the teacher to the student. According to the texts for this week and the discussions from teachers and their personal experience has consolidated the idea that projects are extremely motivating and meaningful if used properly. Students have a chance to use language learned for a real purpose rather than an artificially created one. Projects, moreover, engage learners in a whole different level and promote more interaction among then because they have to work together and make decisions together. In a way, students seem to have more control as to what direction they take their learning.
Another thing that in my opinion is giving students a greater share in their learning process is the use of rubrics. Rubrics are an alternative to change a grade that sometimes can be perceived as something too abstract to an assessment that is more concrete and understandable for the student. Rubrics also guide students to the elements that are being grade in whatever task they are working on and it clearly shows them what is expected from that task and once the work is graded they can reflect about it and use the rubric to work in areas that need improvement. Rubistar has proved to be an interesting and useful tool for teachers who want to find alternative ways of assessing students`works. It is adaptable to different realities and teachers can add other elements to the rubric so that it is customized for their groups. Also, a nice point expressed in the material and discussion is that students can interefere in the grading process by participating in the making of the rubric and by letting them grade themselves. That is not applicable to all groups but is a nice alternative in some cases.
Another great discovery this week was in relation to WEBQUESTS. As mentioned before in Nicenet, I thought it had to do with searching the web for information. I guess I was absolutely wrong because it had to do with web projects and tasks related to a theme. I was amazed to check the links Robert had suggested and I liked very much some of the lessons I clicked on. I can totally see myself using it in the future with some of my groups.
In usm, this week`s discussions have openend my mind to the importance the student has gained in class and how we can make lessons more interesting by involving them in the whole process. Students can learn a lot more by being actively engaged rather than passively engaged.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Week 4 Reflections

One small step for a man, a giant leap for a teacher!

That`s how I want to start my week 4 post: A picture of a man walking on the moon and my own version of the worldwide known sentence once said by Neil Armstrong.
The statement I want to make today is how we teachers have been evolving with such fruitful course beautifully conducted by Robert. We have already learned so much by interacting with educators from all over the globe and have read so many interesting texts on how to use technology in the classroom in order to enhance all different skills. This week I have learned a lot about working with listening and reading skills with the help of various websites and different learning tools. I have learned how to get a clear picture of a lesson by writing a carefully thought lesson plan and I am eager to listen from other coursemates what they think about it. I have always been an advocate of lesson plans because it provides us teachers a great opportunity for reflection and growth. I am used to writing a lesson plan for every single lesson I teach, however, by reading the information on lesson plan by the University of Tenessee and checking on the template available this week I could improve my own plans by thinking of other aspects and details. Sometimes reality is very different from the image we create in our minds, and the paths the lesson takes are very different from what had been planned. However, as teachers, we can bettter judge and improve our actions if we can clearly understand what we have done step-by-step.
A good lesson I am going to take from this week`s texts and discussions is that technology has the power to transform an ordinary lesson into something special. Students can engage in forms never though before because they like novelty and using techy devices. However, one thing I won`t forget is that a web tool or site should have a purpose to be used. In other words, the teacher should not use technology for the fun of using technology, but envisioning something higher that could only be achieved because technology is being used. We should really ponder and question when technology is really going to make a difference or when it`s just going to make a task look more beautiful to the eyes.
I do believe that now we are going to become more selective and careful as far as opting for using technology for this or that purpose. Little by little we are becoming more skilled and educated and with the wise and brilliant comments and suggestions made by Robert, we are getting to see the "big picture"which is how web skills can make a difference in learning and teaching.
I have always been a fan of technology and heavy user of the World Wide Web. Years ago, in 2004 I used a tool for the first time with two of my teens groups. It was called FOTOLOG and it was a big hit among young people in Brazil. We could post pictures and people could leave their comments there. Basically, every single teen had a Fotolog account. I used my instincts basically and posted pictures related to the lessons and asked them to post comments and interact a bit in our "class page". I am sure I could have explored more this resource but at that time that was what I thought of doing. It was years before I learned about webtools for education.
I have never erased those pages , so you can just take a look at it :

Then, some year later our school trained us teachers on how to start using the internet in class and we were introduced to several webtools and the final project was to prepare a lesson plan for a class using a webtool discussed in the class.
I chose Vuvox and made a short video story with my students.This time the project was carefully chosen and a plan with steps had to be presented. It was 3 years ago and here is the final product: (students created the script and guided me on how to take the pictures. I just had to to the hard part of editing and posting it online!)

Now I watch it and I feel proud of myself because this was such a personal achievement!

And right now? This is what I call my giant leap moment! It is so because for the first time I am getting formal input and studying several different theories and research findings that will certainly make me a more prepared professional. I am learning things that will add value to my teaching. I feel our rich discussions are so profitable and I am learning how to analyze every step I take when choosing to use the computer in class. Learning how to enhance the skills by means of creative technology is so exciting! I am still insecure about my final project because it is going to be a "big deal", a "big thing"! Well, it is the leap I am talking about, it is my own walk on the moon discovering new planets and new perspectives, a real turning point in my profession!
We are all onboard and we`ll make it, I am sure!!!!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 3 Reflections

I`d like to start my post this week by showing you all a short video I found on Youtube.

It shows how technology, for the past decades, has been present in the educational process and how far it has gone. I remember learning English and at that time the state-of-the-art devices in the classrooms were the cassette players and the VCRs. Nowadays, as a teacher I am taking advantage of DVDs, computers and cellphones to enhance my students`learning experience.
When teaching a language, we teachers are always concerned about balancing the quantity of time devoted to the different skills so that students can develop their fluency in a homogeneous way, aren`t we?. The two texts I read this week mentioned CALL with a focus on listening and speaking and what research and studies have shown as far as effectiveness is concerned. As a matter of fact, one of the interesting facts I learned was that the most often used skill in everyday life is actually listening(40%), followed by speaking(35%), reading(16%)and writing(9%).However, advances in instructional technology have gone further for the least used skills, reading and writing. In fact, the internet is out there, students have instant access to millions of different authentic reading materials and lots of educational softwares can be found in which students can practice language through writing.
Nowadays,fortunately, a lot of softwares and websites dedicate their activities to the other skills, like listening. One of the greatest advances has been the division of the listening into 3 parts: pre, while and post- listening activities. It is very common to find very well-organized and planned pre and post-listening activities in websites like ELLO ( and Randall`s ESL Cyber Listening Lab( Such websites display authentic as well as pre-developed materials and many experts point out advantages and disadvantages regarding their nature. Should listening material be authentic or artificially produced? Students can certainly benefit from produced material by picking up standard pronunciation, articulation and stress, but it seems that authentic material can be more beneficial because you can be exposed to different accents, language variations not learned in books and how speech is actually produced (including all fillings, pauses and speaking strategies). In fact, one very interesting comment I remember is that maybe authentic material can actually be easier to understand if you take some factors into consideration. In pre-produced materials, speakers do not repeat information and do not pause frequently. On the other hand, authentic listening materials may come with natural pauses and repetitions of ideas that may build up to a better comprehension of what is being said. Also, another topic brought up has to do with the use of visual aids. It is believed that a message in a listening activity is easier to grasp if there is an image, like a video of a person gesticulating and using body language to emphasize certain ideas. Today I attended a lecture in my school by an international guest scientist called Janet Zadina (, a brain specialist, and she said "we listen better with our eyes!". Although her talk had the human brain as the main issue, I could totally relate that to what we were studying. I took this picture using my cellphone as she talked about listening and "seeing"at the same time:

As we can see in the slides she used in her presentation, a visual image can help understanding and remembering information up to 55% more than if you were just listening.
In the text that dealt with speaking skills, it informed us that compared to the other three skills , it still has a long road ahead in terms of improvement and advances. To be very honest, I didn`t even know there were certain materials that helped students improve their speaking. One of the big issues is to figure out how students can have real authentic interactions with machines and how these machines can recognize accuracy in one`s speech. They are very effective when correcting and teaching pronunciation, you can even record a sentence and have the computer correct your delivery. However, computers still can`t recognize well variations when speaking and actually respond naturally to anything a student says to the machine, as it would occur in a real face-to-face- conversation. Here is an example of a software intended to work on the student`s speaking abilities:

As you can see, students can record their sentences, but the sentences have to be the ones the computer suggests, you cannot add words to it because the program would not recognize it as being correct.
One thing I have learned: we have come a long way when we look back and I loved the way the first video I suggested you to watch said: "this is just the beginning." I couldn`t agree more with it and I am sure lots of interesting advances will take place in the near future!