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 toolsforeducators.com 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.