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!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week 2 Reflections- part II

Hi my dear colleagues, how are you doing? This was such an intense week, wasn`t it? I have to say I`ve learned a lot with all the discussion throughout the week and I`m pretty sure we are all enjoying every bit of it! Learning about Bloom`s taxonomy and the ABCD method has clearly helped me look at my lesson plans with a different eye. Your actions will always depend on what your aim is and if you have a clear checklist of what needs to be done, you can spot the areas that need more work.
After reading carefully the text "Taxonomy For The Technology Domain" I realized that there is this movement towards standardizing instructional strategies in educational technology. According to the text, there are six different stages in the taxonomy classification. Abilities can go from simple recognition of tools and awareness of basic specific terminology, to mastery in technology-based creation and
the study of technology and its implications in the educational scenario.
As a matter of fact, as I read the description of each level I trying to see in which level I would fit. It was not easy because I kept changing levels according to my judgement on my skills. In the end I concluded I might be in level 4: Technology for Learning. In this stage, the teacher is able to apply existing technology to his or her classroom setting. To be in this stage, the teacher must have knowledge of basic jargon and programs, must be skilled at interacting with other users and must feel comfortable at judging and analysing the use if technology with the students. I can say I feel pretty comfortable being in level 4 although I am pretty sure I am not a whiz! I don`t consider myself in level 5 because I don`t know how to create softwares or materials (I`m not considering recording and posting of Youtube videos or Vocaroo listening files or blogs as creation of materials. But who knows? maybe that is an example of level 5! But since I`m not sure about that I feel more comfortable to say I`m a 4.) and I also don`t feel I`m level 6 because I don`t think I can give a lecture on the implications of technology in the classroom. I still need to learn many concepts and study a great deal of information related to the area.

This past Friday I was lucky enough to participate in a Braz-Tesol (our national and local TESOL association) day seminar and the theme of the event was "Connecting with our learners today". It was so exciting because the approach of the event had to do with what we are studying in our course! I mean, isn`t the use of webtools one of the most effective ways of connecting with our students in the era of digital natives??
I attended some sessions dealing with projects using web tools (and little by little I am going to share some nice tips with you all!)and had the chance to discuss and learn some theory. In one of the sessions, teachers Fábio Ferreira and Makoto Yamamoto showed how reading a book could be fun. Their class had to read the Phantom of the Opera and a brilliant idea they had was to blend technology with the reading experience. What did they do? First, the "phantom"left a message on his cellphone (voice mail) and everyone listened to it. Then, the "phantom" created a VOICETHREAD in which students could log in , leave messages to the "phantom" or ask him some comprehension questions about the story they were reading. The outcome, according to the presenters was fantastic because students really engaged in the activity and felt like reading that book was fun. In Cleide Nascimento and Daniela Lyra`s session, they showed a lot of web projects they worked with their young learners and how parents were pleased to see their kids`production via email and links to different sites. They talked about many tools and one that called my attention was Glogster. Yesterday I opened my account and decided to make a poster summarizing a little of what I learned in the event. In the end of the event we had a plenary talk with José Luis Morales, an ELT specialist, and he talked about engaging students in the 21st century. He emphasized the idea that there should be a partnership between the student and the teacher and one of the most effective ways of doing so is through technology. As teachers, we should realize that students know a lot about tschnology and we can take advantage of that to establish a bond. We should never disregard their knowledge!
So guys, it was a great event for me because I could relate to many of our discussions in the course! Right below you can check a web tool I used called Glogster. Basically, it`s a tool for making posters. It is very easy to use and there are many things you can add to the poster, like videos, pictures and texts. I think they work beautifully for mini-projects. You could ask students to make posters about virtually anything they are learning!
My Glogster is my personal view on the event, based on the sessions I watched and some of the things I discussed with other English teachers. I also added an interview I did using my cellphone. Carla Arena is the one who taught me everything I know about technology and she is actually one of my bosses! She is well-known in the virtual teaching community and she answered a simple question I wanted to ask her! If you have never heard of this tool, I think you are going to love it!! I`m in love with it!
* You can click in "full size"to view the poster in the original size! click on "Glogster" to find it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week 2 Reflections

In Brazil it is very common to find lots of English teachers who don`t have any formal academic background in the area. Sometimes they have a job as an English teacher because they have lived abroad and are quite fluent and it`s an easy way to make some money while they are taking their major in college(and the major is not even necessarily related to languages or education). Expertise usually comes after years of practice and a lot of professional development opportunities, like conferences, workshops and special training sessions. In many countries, you can only get a job as a teacher after you have finished your undergraduate and graduate programs and have acquired deep knowledge in strategic areas, such as methodology, linguistics, psychology and grammar. Well, not in Brazil! I myself started working as a teacher before I reached my 20s, way before I decided to take a major in EFL in college. Because of this reality it is easy to conclude that theorical and academic knowledge are not necessarily the strongest assets among Brazilian teachers. And now you might be asking: what does it all have to do with this week`s input?
In fact, I must say that it is closely related to the texts I read this week. This is actually the first time I have read something about Bloom and his taxonomy and I am really happy because I`m getting genuine opportunities to refine my skills by adding a lot of theory and formal knowledge to my extensive experience in the classroom. By learning more theory I can surely reflect better about my practices and identify areas in which I can improve.
It took me hours of reading to absorb all the information and I had to search for additional sources to have a more complete understanding of the subject. First, I didn`t even know the meaning of the word taxonomy. I went to and read the definition. I also acessed Wikipedia and read some information about Bloom`s taxonomy ( )
After this extra search I understood that taxonomy is a way of classifying and categorizing things and that Bloom , decades ago, tried to categorize learning objectives. The illustration above shows his first classification and the updated version, which ,according to what I read, seems to be more accurate and easier to understand. I have also learned that for each category , there is a list of verbs that are commonly used and reflect the idea behind each of them.
When I started reading all texts I thought that objectives could be broken into pieces and that each piece would be a different stage of the objective. Then, I thought the objective was only achieved when the last stage was reached. However, after a lot of reflection, I realized that the stages are there to show us that the higher categories are only possible if the lower ones were mastered before. And as far as I could understand, these categories co-exhist independently. For example: if my objective in class is to make students remember a certain grammar point, then I would have to ask them to list, name,highlight,search, just to name a few actions (according to Andrew Churches` text "Bloom`s Taxonomy Blooms Digitally". But if my objective is to have students apply content taught,they need to necessarily have mastered the prerequisites which are "remembering" and "understanding", the categories that come before "applying". In pratical terms, I think it is very useful to know about this classification because you will probably achieve your objectives only if the prerequisites have been met. Moreover, according to one of the texts I read which discusses the importance of classifying objectives(, "the type of objectives attempted dictate the selection of instructional methods, media and evaluation used in the lesson."
In sum , I think that having formal academic support, like knowing about the taxonomy chart, can take a lesson plan to the next level in terms of quality and successful achievements.