Saturday, December 29, 2007


AVEALMEC ( Asociación Venezolana para la Enseñanza y Aprendizaje de Lenguas Mediados por el Computador) is an educational association which started as an idea on March 14th 2007 in a national forum entitled "What's next? The Future of English in Venezuela" at the British Council . During the concluding session, a group of teachers from different universities agreed on setting this association up (You can download the summary of this ELT forum in the 579 message in VENELT).

After this event, these teachers started holding meetings via chat and Skype to:

1. name the association

2. name the members of the board of directors, vocal and acting members

3. identify the mission, objectives and vision of the association

4. design a logo for the association

5. write the association constitution document with the British Council legal consultantship

6. write the statutes (we are currently working on them)

7. organize the first AVEALMEC event along with the British Council

We became a legal association on August 6th, 2007 when we received the constitution document at the registrar.

We are 13 founding members and we expect to have new active members after the November event, the Web 2.0 for ELT teachers:Podcasts, Blogs, Wikis, Virtual Worlds and Digital Games. This event will be an opportunity to promote the association among the seminar participants who in turn, we hope, will spread the words on the benefits teachers can get out of the association.

The AVEALMEC members are:

President: Teadira Pérez (ULA) . *Acting member: Dafne González (USB)

Vice president: Liliana Buitrago (UNEFM). Acting member: Nahir Aparicio (UPEL-Caracas)

Secretary: Miguel Mendoza (UCV-British Council). Acting member: Evelyn Izquierdo (UCV)

Treasurer: Víctor Ojeda (Colegio Emil Friedman). Acting member: Benicio Galavís (CUFM)

Vocal member: Yuraimig Rivero (UPEL-Maturin). Acting member: Elvina Castillo (UNEFM)

The rest of the founding members are: José Luis Gómez (UDO), Mary Pinto (UC) and Lisbeth Jiménez (UPEL-Barquisimeto)

The main objective of the association is to promote the integration of ICT in the language classroom and educational curricula. We also aim at promoting the use, pedagogical practice and design of ICT/CALL materials in ELT.

Working together and having the support of the British Council have made the setting up of the association smooth. There's still a long way to go but its current members are working hard to turn AVEALMEC into a leading association in the promotion of ICT in ELT in Venezuela.

ULA (Universidad de los Andes); USB (Universidad Simón Bolívar); UNEFM (Universidad Nacional Experimental Francisco de Miranda); UPEL (Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador); UCV (Universidad Central de Venezuela); CUFM (Colegio Universitario Francisco de Miranda); UDO (Universidad de Oriente); UC (Universidad de Carabobo)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On technical issues/attitude/participation when using ICT

This entry is a reflection I made in ELTnet, a British council Yahoo group for ELF Venezuelan teachers, in connection to teachers’ concern about students’ attitude towards using technology to learn a foreign language, technical problems in the computer labs and ICT trainees’ attitude from public schools or universities around Venezuela.

Well, technical failures/problems/glitches are going to happen all the time even if you are using the most state of the art computer lab...You know, wireless connection and all that…

We will have to deal with it...Teachers and students; housewives; businessmen; priests; children; neighbors, you name it.

Not having a good internet connection, enough computers, technical support when needed, a lab and all that can be quite discouraging. And that’s what we are going to find, at least, in most places in Venezuela…Yes, It can be quite disheartening sometimes...specially for someone like Nahir, for example, who knows how powerful technology can be for her students to learn and would like them to make the most of it...I do understand her…Or Clevia and Carmen who would like to have more participative, responsible, committed teachers when it comes to their ICT training…I’ve been there…

But can we do something about it? Well, we will have to arm ourselves with lots of patience and find ways to engage, entice, allure people into using technology. Maybe things you have already done: using cybers (try again and again). If you can, use a laptop and a video beam sometimes and plan off-line web lessons. Or do the same with a lab full of computers but no Internet connection. Keep using the old e-mail (almost everybody has one)! We are pretty resourceful, creative teachers…even in the most adverse situations…

I think us, immigrant natives, won’t see a swarm of people (teachers and students) dying to use least Not yet…Our job is to patiently show them how important it is for their studies or professional development. Also, in this, let’s call it, first stage of the implementation of ICT in Venezuela, our job will be promoting, showing, convincing, showcasing what ICT can do in the EFL classroom.

Our job/role, I think, is turning the non-believers into believers, the apathetic into a passionate ICT users...That takes time and guts, though...

Furthermore, and this is something very few professionals talk about, our job is not only to use and sometimes wao our students with the Web 2.0, it is to help reduce the digital divide…Just by bringing samples of materials downloaded from the net can be a start for those “who have no access to technology”…And this is not something I read about…That’s what I do in the classroom. Try to bring online based materials printed (sound weird, isn’t it?) to my class sessions. What do some of my students do?…Visit the URL’s I give as a source for these readings…They find ways to do so…and they start reading online…or if they want more practice I say I’ll do that by mail…They download the exercises I send…I check the answers…and send feedback afterwards…They are not all of my students…just a few…but they are spreading the word…I know…This term I didn’t use Yahoo groups and some students approached me and asked for online activities…That for me is a start….Creating the need…Moodle, skype, Yahoo messenger, podcasting, wikis will come later…But I’ll be ready when the time comes to use them…That’s for sure…

I know we would like our students or colleagues to enjoy technology as much as we do...But even if they don’t use it or want to use it, keep on trying…You know that our students and colleagues will come up with the most amazing excuses to justify them not using it to study or at work, of course…They use cells, e-mails, cybers, DVD´s, MP3’s - most of them on a daily basis…Many have cable tv system at home…And they are not precisely upper middle class! Have you ever been to or passed El barrio El Limón or La Morán? It’s amazing to see the sea of satellite tv dishes on top of the roof houses…! They generally don’t want to use it to learn/work, but to have fun!

You are part of a different type of breed of teachers, to put it some way. You belong to a breed ready to face any technological challenge to help / train those who “still twist their mouth in disbelief…” when it comes to technology in the classroom (outside the classroom is cool!)

No success with a group of students/colleagues when using blogs or Yahoo groups , well, try another ICT tool...or keep on using it until they realize how powerful it is to learn/teach...

Getting used to technology and its presence in the language classroom as a resource won't happen overnight...We, the first group of ICT trainers in Venezuela, should understand our role: show how powerful ICT is; show its relevance, its benefits, its impact in ELT…Let’s keep on trying…Do not give up!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The non-believers: Is conversion possible?

I know it sounds like a blog entry about religion. It's far from that, though. It's about disbelief in technology and how this can hinder its implementation in the language classroom. For some reason, I believed I was overreacting when I thought that one of the main obstacles we had to overcome to be able to implement technology in the language classroom was teachers themselves more than the lack of computer labs or having a good broadband connection. When I read Tim Wilson's blog entry in the Savvy technologist I realized I was not that wrong. The entry called: Ties: the influence of teacher beliefs is based on a conference he attended last year in Minneapolis. Tim says, in a nut shell, that when a teacher doesn’t believe in the role technology could have in learning and he/she uses it anyhow, the results are not the ones expected. It’s like, say , asking a teacher to use a new methodology or approach in class. He/she may use it, but if he/she doesn’t think it will work, it will be effective; results will be less than satisfactory.

This apparent disbelief in technology is something I have noticed in some EFL professionals I have met lately. I have come across from the most ICT oriented teacher to the most
E-unengaged one. The latter, the “I-get-the-same-result-without-technology”, the “technology-changes-too fast-to-keep-up”, the “I-have-no-time-to-learn-something-new”, should be our concern, especially, when technology is gradually becoming the tool of choice at home, in business, entertainment, etc., not only in other countries but our country itself.

Why does it seem so hard for teachers to believe we need to integrate technology as a tool in the language classroom? Is it because they don’t believe technology improve learning whatsoever? Do they think it’s just a fad and will be on the wane soon? Is it because they are not motivated enough to take time to figure out how technology can enhance their teaching practice? Is it because they don’t have enough ICT resources, so why bother? Is it computer phobia? Or is it because believing implies working a bit more, taking a bit of their time to learn how to use ICT's?
Off the records, believing in technology doesn't mean saying: "I know technology is important" or just attending a course and/or workshop. It is understanding and finding power in ICT tools as something that can better our teaching practices and the learning process of our students.

Whichever the reason, disbelief in technology on the part of the teacher contributes to slow down the use of technology in the language classroom. Technology is here to stay and it is becoming part of our resources jus like the board, the eraser and the tape recorder. Tim Wilson suggests some approaches to bring the non-believer to the land of technology. It is described using my own labels and definitions:

The Radical approach.
It consists of bringing ICT tools into the classroom, exploring them, collecting data and reporting results to other colleagues (esp. the non-believers). This is for more ICT oriented teachers. It implies risking, exploring as many tools as you can and spread the word to others less ICT oriented people.

The Gradual approach.
This means learning/using one ICT tool at a time supported by an expert or a
more knowledgeable colleague. This is for the e-unengaged.

The “Let-others-know” approach.
It is about telling, reporting colleagues, principals, supervisors, etc. about your experiences with technology in the classroom. Your experience makes it more valid in the eyes of your colleagues than just saying a nice story on blogs used by someone in England , for example.

Conversion may not be easy, but I think it is worth trying. I know there are lots of teachers who would like to believe in the power of technology as as a learning/teaching tool. A lot of preaching might be needed. By the way, by conversion I don't mean imposing something on people who still twist their mouth in disbelief when they hear about technology as a powerful tool in ELT. It means changing by gradually adding ICT tools and ICT-related approaches/theories (learned-centered / task-based/constructivism) into the language classroom. By doing this, non-believers will not be left behind; mirror the way their students are learning outside the classroom; and keep up with the changes that are taking place around the world. The presence of technology in our lives is unstoppable. Can you believe that?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...