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!