Phase I, teachers participated in a workshop given in the British Council premises. They became familiar with some ICT tools and learned how to design web-based lessons using Internet. After this, teachers gave a session with some of their students (about 6) showing what they had learned in the British Council lab. Next, teachers had a meeting with the teacher trainer, received feedback and planned the second phase of the project: using ICT with their students in each of their school labs. During this phase, blogs became the ICT tool of choice because of its effectiveness and efficiency to provide students extra-practice in the school lab. Lab sessions were held for an hour (45 minutes) on a weekly basis in the school labs and about 17 students from each school participated in this part of the project. Teachers received technical/pedagogical support from British Council teacher trainer on-line and FtF all along this phase.
I will briefly describe the steps followed to design a web-based lesson using blogs in this pilot project. First, let's start with a definition of blogs.
What’s a blog?
According to Will Richardson (2006): “…a Weblog is an easily created, easily updateable Website that allows an author (or authors) to publish instantly to the Internet from any Internet connection.”
To understand what a blog is and its power as an ICT tool, I will compare it with an EFL printed book. In a blog, the web-based lesson is a single entry where you have the activities you want your students to do whereas a lesson, in a printed book, is comprised of several pages. Activities, in the blog, have hyperlinks that take your students to other websites or exercises you have designed yourself. That is, activities are no presented in a linear fashion as in a printed book. Both the printed book and the blog class can have pictures, illustrations and graphics. The only difference is that in the blog you can choose images from the web (e.g. Google images) or design/edit them yourself (e.g. Photoshop). Furthermore, while in a printed book, lessons are organized in an orderly fashion (lesson 1 to 12), in the class blog lessons can be archived monthly , generally, in a chronological reversed order. Also, students cannot write comments about a lesson in their printed books . In the class blog, students can (interactivity). Only a limited audience have access to the printed book: the student himself/herself, teacher and parents from a certain school. The blog can be accessed by anybody or restricted to other students/teachers/parents from other schools around the world. Books can get lost or deteriorated easily. Blogs do not.
Blogs can be used as reflective journals, class or shared blogs (Richardson, 2006). For this project, we used the class blog.
Where did teachers start their class blogs?
There are several sites that can host a class blog for free: Blogger, Edublog, Motime, Wordpress among others. For the project we are about to describe, we chose Blogger. These were the steps teachers followed to set up a Blogger account:
1. They got a Blogger account
2. Once they had their account, they clicked on “New post” in the dashboard and explored how they could add content to blogs. The only IT skills they needed to use Blogger were those required for e-mailing.
3. After exploring and learning how to post entries, they got ready to design their web-based lesson! To design the first web-based lessons, they needed the teacher trainer technical support. To do this the teacher trainer devoted about 3 hours per teacher on a weekly basis. Two hours FtF and one on-line.
Which IT skills teachers needed to design their web-based lessons in a blog?
For this project, the class blog was chosen to post the teachers' web-based lessons. To do that, they needed the following Basic IT skills: searching, uploading, using authoring software
What did teachers have to take into account to design their web-based lesson?
They should keep in mind that the web-based lesson...
1. reinforces a lesson already taught in the classroom (e.g. Animals, colours, numbers, etc.)
2. is based on tasks (Check material from teacher training session).
3. has three basic stages: pre-task (warming up); task; post-task (follow-up)
Besides, before the class, they should test the lesson themselves or asked a colleague/ teacher trainer to make sure instructions were clear and links worked.
If they designed activities for their online lessons using Hot potatoes, they should upload them to a hosting free online service like Geocities. It worked as a repository for all the materials they designed.
What was the web-based lesson session like?
1. The teacher asked students to go to Google and type Blogger. Next, they should click on the link for Blogger. Once they had done that, they should write in the Blogger search engine the name of the blog (e.g. ABsexto, Ictleonela).
2. Students clicked on the link provided by search engine.
3. Students started to work the lesson on their own or in pairs. The teacher only helped when they students called him/her out or raised their hands.
4. At the end of the session, students wrote comments about the lesson.
P.S. A training session for students should be planned before leaving students to their own devices.
Which were the results of this pilot project using class blogs?
Students 1) got engaged; 2) became aware of things they were learning (metacognition); 3) developed IT skills (life-long skills); 4) worked at their own pace; 5) became in charge of their own learning. On the other hand, teachers 1) were nicely surprised with their students' attitude towards learning English; 2) realized students' behavior was less disruptive; 3) developed IT skills; 4) were in tune with the way their students are learning outside the classroom.
Class blogs from municipal schools in Chacao
Unidad Educativa Andrés Bello
Unidad Educativa Juan de Dios Guanche
Prof. Oenis Hernández
Unidad Educativa Juan de Dios Guanche
This project will be carried on by the British Council and the Municipality of Chacao training more teachers to integrate ICT into the language classroom during the school year 2006-2007.
Richardson, Will (2006). Blogs, wikis and podcasts. Corwin Press. California.