Sunday, May 21, 2006

XXIV Ventesol Annual Convention and ICT

I recently attended the XXIV Ventesol Annual Convention held at the Eurobuiding hotel in Caracas (May 19th to May 221st). This event was called Daring to lead the ELT challenge. Among the challenges, we had those related to ICT. During this event, I attended 3 CALL presentations. One of them was related to blogs and writing. A second one, Internet and speaking and the last one, software and listening comprehension. I will briefly describe them and let you know what EFL teachers are doing in connection to ICTs in Venezuela.  

ICT: Weblogs and writing practice 

Nahir Aparicio (Professor at UPEL-Caracas) The main objective of this presentation was to show the use of weblogs or blogs as a tool for developing writing skills. One of the things I like from this presentation was the sea of examples given by Nahir when describing blogs and its types. Blogging, as Nahir said, can become an excellent tool to promote authentic written communication. Besides, she stressed the written blog entry is also the result of processes, like outlining, drafting, reviewing, editing, etc. Nahir’s presentation showed once again how important it is the integration of ICTs into the curriculum to motivate students to learn meaningfully by doing authentic tasks in the the lab, the cyber or the students’ own PC!. Two thumbs up, Nahir!  

Using Internet for EFL teaching at the UPEL Maracay 

Mayra Rondón ( Head of the English Department at UPEL, Maracay) Manuel Arrioja (Professor at UPEL, Maracay) This ongoing research showed how the use of Internet can help students develop oral and written communication. By following some instructions from a web-based lesson students can practice oral production. For example, they can agree on where to eat out by visiting a site about restaurants, choose a place to eat, invite a friend and accept or refuse such invitation. Mimicking what most people would currently do in real life on-line. They also showed the value of blogs for developing writing skills. One of the preliminary results of their research is that it seems to enhance motivation and increase students' participation leading to a more meaningful learning process. The ICT activities used in their research were adapted from a workshop given by the British Council in Maracay this year. What pleased more was to see how they “rendered” the printed lesson plan and external material shown in this workshop into a nice on-line electronic version. Since they were 2 presenters, four thumbs up!!! 
Learning English with songs: a CALL approach 

Víctor Ojeda (Colegio Emil Friedman and professor in the school of librarianship at Universidad de Venezuela) Juan Pino Silva (Professor at Universidad Simón Bolívar) Through software developed by Prof. Víctor Ojeda, students from Colegio Emil Friedman are exposed to numerous songs mirroring a bit what they are actually doing with MP3 players and iPods. This presentation aimed at describing students’ reactions to the activities designed for this software. The lists of benefits reported were impressive. What I found attractive and I’m sure any teen would do is that songs are chosen by the student himself/herself. Also, students get feed back individually. By the way, the program’s data based can be used for research purposes and since it is designed by teachers it can be edited and improved following sound pedagogical views of language and learning. Under Prof. Juan Pino's guidance, this young friend and colleague has shown how important it is to keep abreast of technological changes and what to do to replicate, to a certain extent, the way students are learning outside the classroom which is not exactly the traditional, linear way we are still using in ELT. Keep up the good work, Vic.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Off-line web-based lesson!

Planning a lesson off-line can be easy. Its design is the same as the one described in this blog (See: Web-based lesson design process, March 22nd, 2006). The only difference is that you will be using, to put it some way, off-line links! This type of activity is advisable if there’s a lab in your school or university but the Internet connection is very slow. Or you’ve got computers but no Internet connection. Let’s see what you need to do to design this off-line lesson in Word documents.  

Making off-line links in Word documents 
It just takes 2 steps:  create a folder and a hyperlink.  

Step 1 (Create a folder) 
1. Create a folder on your desktop (or any other place on your computer) and name it.  
2. Save the webpage(s) in this folder. 
3. Decide where the hyperlink will be in your web-based lesson.  

Step 2 (Create a hyperlink)  
1. Type a word or phrase (the name of a quiz, game or site) to make your hyperlink.  
2. Drag your mouse over the word or phrase and right click .  
3. A small menu appears. Choose Hyperlink or Hipervinculo (Spanish version). 
4. Now find the folder where you have the webpage. Choose this webpage. And click on accept. 5. Voila! You have created a hyperlink!  

Some quizzes can be saved but “the check answers button” may not work. You will have to discuss the answers and give feedback to your students. Some games can be downloaded. Others do not! If you are interested in several pages from the same site, save them all. You don't have to do anyhting else. Links for all the pages saved will be available automatically.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Stages in a community of practice

Once a community of practice has been set up, a series of events are going to take place as a result of the interaction among the members of this community. This forming or building of the community can be explained by using Gilly Salmon’s five-model step (2005). This model is based on a research carried out by Gilly Salmon in the Open University of the United Kingdom. A group of teachers and students from the Master of Business Administration from the OU participated in this research using computer mediated conferencing (CMC) during the early 90’s. This experience helped Gilly Salmon build her model of teaching and learning online. For Salmon, it’s important to understand that learning online is more than just using a computer. It implies complex interaction, transformation and integration of ICT skills while learning about a topic. Salmon’s model is divided into 5 stages represented as a flight of steps.  

Stage one: Access and motivation E-moderator welcomes, encourages people to participate in the community and offers technical support for participants to get online. Participants need access to a computer; internet, have at least certain basic notions on how to go about in an on-line environment, time and effort. Individual support is needed at this stage.  

Stage two: Online socialization Participants start sending and receiving messages. Participants get to know each other (High social component). They become familiar with the new online environment. E-moderators is responsible for promoting and keeping online socialization and networking. He is also responsible for helping participants understand how they can help each others to enhance their knowledge related to a topic, course or discipline. The development of a new culture gradually emerges in this stage with rules, norms of behaviors, ways of operating and sanctions. Social scaffold and promoting respect are keywords in this stage!  

Stage three: Information exchange Participants start exchanging information which can be quite overwhelming but they will have to learn with it by developing certain strategies. At this stage, also participants have already quite defined roles in the community. The e-moderator helps participants deal with the quantity of information shared and helps them focus on finding answers to problems or issues arising in the exchanges. Learning to deal with “messiness” (amount of information coming from different participants during this stage) .  

Stage four: Knowledge construction Participants interact and participate more. Participants learn more by expanding their knowledge and realizing that there are different perspectives to understand a problem or issue. E-moderators become less active. He becomes a kind of a “weaver” of knowledge. For example, they collect participants’ messages and relate them with theories and concepts related to the debate or discussion taking place in the community. At this stage, anyone can become the moderator temporarily; steps back and another member of the community take the lead. E-moderators should have clear the difference between cognitive methods of teaching and learning and constructivist approaches.  

Stage five: Development Participants become responsible for their own leaning and need less support from others. They reflect on how they have learned in the community and what they needed to do so (metacogniton). E-moderators promote critical thinking among the members of the community.
Uncertainties and problems may arise as a result of discussion at this stage.

This is just a summary of Gilly Salmon’s model. It’s important to say that technical support, e-moderation and a purpose for participating in a community are a must for a community to succeed (Salmon, 2005).

Salmon, Gilly (2005). E-moderating: the key to teaching & learning online. RoutledgeFalmer. London & New York. All Things in Moderation - E-moderating, 2nd edition. Retrieved July 19, 2006, from
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