Sunday, October 14, 2012

ICT Teacher Training in Venezuela

Mariel Armez (Argentina) and Michael Houton (British Council)
Last October 2nd in the afternoon I participated in the Dialogue: English and New Technologies: Teacher Development in the Policy Dialogues: English for the Future organized by the British Council in Cartagena, Colombia. This dialogue was moderated by Michael Houton (British Council, Brazil) and my dialogues partners were Mariel Armez (Argentina) and José Luis Hereria (SENA-Colombia).

In this post, I will share my presentation abstract and my PowerPoint. After this, I will summarize this presentation and share my reflections on the comments made by participants and speakers including those from the dialogues related to technology: Issues and Questions (October 1st, afternoon) and Transforming Learning (October 2nd, morning).

Abstract: ICT teacher training in Venezuela
A personal experience as a freelance ICT teacher trainer courses offered by the British Council and the Electronic Village online will be briefly described in this presentation.  This will serve as the basis to reflect on aspects such as course delivery, content, course length, participants in Venezuela. Currently, promoting and offering F2F and online courses to help EFL teachers integrate Learning technologies in the language classroom does not respond to an arbitrary or capricious fad. It is a fact that: 1) our students learning outside the classroom in a different way; 2) technology is pervasively present in our daily activities; 3)  a literate person does not only read and write well, but he/she must have digital literacies; 4) we are becoming a “connected” society allowing for possibilities for professional development not only locally but abroad. Taking into account this, teachers should be trained to integrate technology in a principled manner and learning to how keep updated online (PLNs). How will this be done? It should be carefully reviewed by policy makers, local school or university authorities taken into account teacher’s work load, resources and clear information on the duration of the course, teachers’ own commitment to ICT teacher training courses or workshops.

PowerPoint presentation: ICT teacher training in Venezuela

Summary of my talk

I started working as an ICT teacher trainer for the British Council in 2006. First, I started training teachers F2F (2006-2008) Two F2F  teacher training projects can be described from this experience. The first one was an eight-hour workshop for  EFL teachers from different public universities around Venezuela to learn how to integrate technology into the language classroom. The content ranged from distinguishing between ICT and CALL definitions to how to plan and design a web-based lesson. As the last part of the workshop, teachers showcased their own online lesson based upon a task-based approach. The second project was a pilot one addressed to EFL teachers working in municipal primary and secondary schools in Caracas. 10 teachers from three different schools participated in this pilot project. They first attended a workshop (the same given to public university teachers) in the British Council computer-based lab. After that, they planned and designed a web-based lesson to showcase it to teacher trainer and some appointed students from their school courses at British Council premises. Next teachers planned and designed two more lessons this time to be used  with their students in the schools they worked having the support of the teacher trainer all along. As we can see there are 2 clear stages in this pilot teacher training project: 

Stage 1: ICT Workshop and practical application
Stage 2: Practical application in teachers’ schools and teacher trainer's support

Now I believe a third stage is needed in this kind of ICT teacher training school projects: Self-Teacher training. This stage would be about showing teachers how they can continue their own professional development online. The teacher trainer can plan a session to show them how to, for example: 1) create a professional learning network (PLN); 2) participate in webinars; 3) attend free or paid courses and; 3) create a community of practice; 4)  become familiar with *Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). 

After this last session, there should be some sort of follow-up or regular monitoring by principals, local authorities or organizations in charge of this training. 

In 2011, I started moderating the online course Learning Technologies for the Classroom offered by the British Council in Venezuela. This course aims at providing basic notions and skills on the use/integration of technology - from information technology skills (eg. searching the web) to what’s ahead (mlearning). Any Venezuelan EFL teacher can enroll in this course having Moodle as the main access platform. It is paid. It lasts 2 months and have four topics with modules stemming from each one of them. The e-moderator can only create forums and send emails. To guarantee a better communication and prevent any immediacy issues several external tools were added to this course (Wiziq, Mailvu, video tutorials, blogs, and cell phone). I believe several key issues should be addressed when offering online ICT teacher development courses:

1. Requirements: teachers must have clear that a "decent" connectivity and at least an updated computer/laptop are needed (If connectivity or Internet service provider is OK, they  may use an Ipad or smartphone); they should be familiar with content and duration of the course; number of  hours needed to do tasks and forums. Asking teachers to do a mandatory course on ICT without them knowing about this or not having basic resources in schools or home will not be a successful one.
2. Tasks: too many tasks per week will put off any overworked Venezuelan teacher. I would advice - based on my experience with The Consultants-E as a participant and shadowing some e-moderators- no more than seven activities/tasks and two forums per week.
3. Practical applications: focusing just on the tool is not the way to go. Showing teachers how they can potentially use it in a principled way in the classroom will guarantee better (learning) results and will increase participants' motivation.
4. Duration: a course should not last more than two months. If it has to be any longer, it should be divided into different levels.
5. Synchronous: Forums are Ok. There's a lot of asynchronous interaction and input to summarize on the part of the e-moderator. However, whenever possible schedule a real time, live session.  

The three stages described for F2F sessions can also apply/ be adapted to online courses.

The last experience described in this dialogue in Cartagena was my work as a co-moderator in an Electronic Village Online session: the Podcasting for the ESL-EFL Classroom (2011-2012). This is one of many free sessions offered to ESL-EFL teachers from all over the world at the beginning of each year for 5 weeks. One of the things I like from this session is that I have co-authored the content along with another moderator: Evelyn Izquierdo. This session can also be divided into three stages. 

Stage one is Week 1 and it aims at encouraging teachers to meet each other, getting familiar with web tools used all along the session, knowing participants' expectations and surveying their knowledge on podcasting. Stage two comprises weeks 2, 3 and 4. During these weeks participants: 

1. read three required readings most of them based on experiences of teachers using podcasts. This will help them get inspiration for planning and developing their own podcast projects.
2. do tasks that they can potentially use in the classroom (eg. describing a picture) while learning how to use podcast tools (recording and publishing). Tutorials help them do these tasks as well.
3. create a blog in Blogger with three pages (About me, Podcasts, and Podcast Project)  to showcase during week 5.
5. plan and describe a podcast project they may potentially use in their teaching contexts. 

During the last stage (week 5), participants start tweaking their blogs to showcase in a live session in Wiziq. Before they do this, they are given recorded feedback - inspired on Russell Stunnard’s idea on screencasting- which do help them talk confidently about their blogs and projects during this last session.

You can listen to my presentation here:

Final reflections based on audience participation and speakers

1. E-Moderator / F2F teacher trainer : He/she should be well-trained, have basic e-moderation skills, should regularly use technology and - something not mentioned - obvious for some- but just in case- should preferably be an EFL or ESL teacher to provide support on one of the most important issues on integrating ICT in ELT: practical applications / pedagogical approaches/ modeling. 

2. Free and paid courses: it seems to be that there’s a –maybe- valid concern about free online courses quality and certification. Concerns about quality can also apply to paid courses, though. Getting a certificate will depend on the teacher and what he/she is looking for in a online course: knowledge? being promoted? both?  Another concern is the number of participants starting and finishing the course. It is true that regular attendance/participation is higher when the participant pays (or the institution pays for him/her for that matter). Free online courses focuses are maybe addressed to those who are really interested in learning, are disciplined and know how to work on their own. We should not underestimates lurkers. They also learn one way or another from free online courses. We should keep in mind not all teachers can afford to pay for a course and the schools or institutions they work for are not really willing to pay for them sometimes. In my opinion, there are options. It is the teacher the one who has to decide what's more convenient for him or her. Currently, there are many opportunities for online professional development we didn't have before (free or paid). Have you ever heard about the Electronic Village Online and SEETA? I would highly recommend paid courses from The Consultants-E (They offer scholarships).  Apart from courses there are some other ways to develop professionally: webinars (TeachMeet, Reform Symposium, Virtual Round Table Conference, Free Friday webinars. IATEFL and Consultants-E have been offering some free webinars as well. There are some other great ELT communities, non-ICT-oriented, which offer great opportunities for professional development as well like iTDi.   Other PD alternatives are: professional learning networks; communities of practice; social bookmarking.

3. Mlearning: Yes, mlearning might be a rising trend in some countries. In those countries where,say, Ipads, Iphones, tablets and smartphones are unaffordable or not safe to carry, computers and laptops are still a valid and wonderful solution to integrate technology in the language classroom. As far as I know the difference between “Mlearning” and computers and laptops is mobility and comfort, but what we do on the net is somewhat the same. So I have been wondering what’s wrong with being bound with computers and laptops?. Should I have a “Mafalda” moment  and run the risk of being considered a "martian" for still  using my computer to moderate, design material and follow my PLN? Is learning better because it is done on the go, or learning opportunities are different since we can log on anywhere? 

4. Connectivity and resources: it is still an issue in countries like Venezuela when thinking about ICT teacher training. Unfortunately local authorities, government or institutions ask teachers to participate in mandatory ICT training courses (for them to look OK most of the time) without knowing which the teacher’s context is especially those living in rural areas. How come a teacher can learn about the integration of technology if there is not a computer lab at school? If there is one computer/laptop, it sure may have connectivity problems or the teacher have to find a gap in the lab schedule to use it. How come teachers are expected to do the course at home if: 1) they don't have a computer/laptop (or at least an updated one). If they are from rural areas they might be 3-hours away from an Internet cafe. So my advice: check out first how teachers can integrate technology (there are different levels) and adapt a course to what he/she can actually do at school.

5. Articulating Learning technologies within the curriculum: universities training teachers to become EFL teachers -as it happens in Venezuela- should contemplate in their curriculum courses aimed at EFL student trainees (pre-service) to learn how to integrate learning technologies in English Language Teaching.

6. Digital Literacies: Gavin Dudeney mentioned four focus point: language, information, connections and remix. I wonder how these literacies can be developed/taught in an ICT teacher training course. As a separate course or while participants are being trained? As a by-product of teachers' participation in their PLNs? / webinars? Here's a good example on how as a moderator Mike Harrison learn how to find posts (experiential learning) in Facebook groups.

Images from the Policy Dialogues: English for the Future, Cartagena, Colombia.

Links of interest:   David Graddol: English Next  Survey of Language Competences Digital Literacies  Some other links related to this post: Online Teacher Development Works Best - 15 Reasons Why (Nik Peachey) How I use social media for my professional development (Nik Peachey)  The 4 Best Ways To Personalize Your Professional Development (Edudemic) 3 keys to successful professional development  Learning what I want to learning! Creating meaningful professional development  Out with professional development, in with professional learning   ELTChat Summary: what makes a good teacher trainer?  Rethinking professional development   The Teacher’s Guide To Successful Technology Integration  (Edudemic)

Miguel Mendoza eFL by Miguel Mendoza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Friday, August 10, 2012

#ELTchat: the loss of – Plan B

Post originally written by Marisa Constantinides. Just helping spread the word on the new #ELTchat website

For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important part of our continuous professional development.

Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.

And that is how #ELTchat was created.

The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.

Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy and announced the good news to us after the fact.

A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011, he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.

We never found out for sure.

We never received a single word of response to our emails. was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it.

On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.

The news is really upsetting.

The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment

We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.

But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased –

It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet

And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations.

We will be back with a vengeance.

We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!

See you all in September!!!

Marisa Constantinides Shaun Wilden


Miguel Mendoza

P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers, teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers, reposted this on your blog.

If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Never late: My IATEFL reflections

The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre
Well, after more than a week, and since it’s never late, I’d like to summarize my IATEFL experience in Glasgow as a participant and speaker. I hope it will encapsulate not only what I got in terms of knowledge but what it meant to have met a warmth and friendly PLN.

First day (March 19th)
LTSIG Pre-conference Event: Challenges and limitations in MALL

Even though I am not using mobile technology as much as I would like to in the classroom (I have used it for some other academic activities: announcing meetings, recording  events, contacting speakers). Also, it’s true I have used it in an online course I moderate for the British Council (Learning Technologies (LTs) for the Classroom course)  to send task  or WizIQ session reminders,  but once again not as part of the tools participants should use to become familiar with mlearning. My first impression on this pre-conference: its organization and far as I understand Graham Stanley was behind all this. Kudos! One of the things I found interesting while I was listening to speakers about MALL (Mobile Assisted Language Learning) is that my PLN  does keep me well informed on what’s going on about mlearning (just read the e-Moderation Station and you will see what I am talking about). By the way, Shelly Terrell referred to this in her eloquent presentation called Evolution of the conference: the internet's impact on professional development. However, there's no denial that there's always something new to learn and reflect upon from F2F conferences. The short but rich participation of the speakers in this LTSIG pre-conference kept us all glue to our seats them -figuratively speaking- throwing at us valuable key phrases, notions, insights that  complemented or added new information about mlearning. Just from Gavin Dudeney and Gary Motteram I got some that are still swirling in my head sort of accommodating, complementing, and expanding what I have heard/read about tablets and smartphones before.  Here they are in the shape of a word cloud:

Another thing mentioned in this pre-conference that called my attention was the use of  ESL-EFL apps in contrast with the use of rich media content (Youtube, Skype). It seems to be the latter may have a more positive effect on language learning than the first one. This might be true. However, I still believe, and might be wrong about it, this is not a decision to be made by the teacher only. I am almost certain some EFL students would appreciate a dose of apps to practice grammar and vocabulary on their smartphones or tablets. I do remember showing this Wordshake app to a group of students and they were fascinated by it. As an EFL learner myself, I’d never discard apps or "discreet" exercises that may help in one way or another to practice something about the target language.

My reflections/questions at the end of this valuable pre-conference revolved around how willing an EFL teacher from my country (Venezuela) could be in integrating mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) in his/her classroom. I reckon this  will depend on certain issues like safety (Is it safe for students / teacher  to carry their own devices to the classroom?); affordability (Can all students/teachers afford having a mobile device? What the BYOD?); connectivity (Is there wireless or decent broadband connection at school/university?);  compatibility (Can you use same apps or any other content rich media in all mobile devices?); training (Are all teachers willing to use and/or be trained to learn how to use mobile devices in the classroom?); pedagogy (Are there clear examples on the use of mobile devices in language learning?).  For my part, I finally managed to get a smartphone last year. I am exploring apps and how to use them first (before taking the plunge into integrating mobile devices in my EAP class), although I am really tempted to try one of the activities suggested by Nicky Hockly in her blog e-moderation station

Here you can have a peek at Gavin Dudeney's and Gary Moterram's presentations. You can also check out: Challenges and limitations of MALL, Twitter Summary
Next days: Tuesday 20th, Wednesday 21st, Thursday 22nd, Friday 23rd

Some of the presentations I attended and enjoyed/learned a lot during these days were:

1.How to Reflect on Research Talks at the Conference. Simon Borg
2.It’s all very well in theory, but... Penny Ur
3.Technology speaks volumes: enhancing integration, participation and speaking abilities. Bruno Andrade
4.52: a year of subversive activity for the ELT classroom.  Lindsay Clandfield  & Luke Meddings
5.Tools for digital storytelling. Russell Stannard
6.Who needs a teacher’s book? Olwyn Alexander
7.Dialogue in teacher training: a sociocultural perspective. Willy Cardoso
8.How to create a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Nik Peachey
9.What’s in your blended teaching toolkit? Valentina Dodge
10.Teaching English in technologically-challenged environments. Dafne Gonzalez & Rubena St. Louis
11.Teaching Business English with technology in Latin America. Jennifer Verschoor
12.Evolution of the conference: the internet's impact on professional development. Shelly Terrell
13.What has #hashtagging ever done for us?Shaun Wilden
14.ELTCHAT and reflective teaching. Sharon Hartle
15.Continuous professional development through social networking. Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto
16.Creating your own interest-driven professional development path using social media. Bernadette Wall
17.TeCH-achers: get your one-way ticket to tech islands!. Isil Boy & Beyza Nur Yilmaz
18.No words: ideas for using sound and images in class. Michael Harrison
19.Supporting the teacher as innovative learning design. Diana Laurillard (Plenary)

SECC-Clyde Auditorium
As for my presentation, well, it was a really interesting, bit nerve-racking experience. I may not knock it out of the park, but all in all I think it was an important lesson as part of my professional development. Talking for the first time in an International event like IATEFL F2F to ESL-EFL teachers was really something. And I am still thankful to the British Council for having given the chance to participate in this event.  A small, but nice crowd attended my presentation among them Russell Stunnard (really supportive and a super great person - speaks Spanish amazingly fluently!), Sue-Lyon Jones (what a nice and lovely Lady!), Vicky Samuell (kind and sweet), María Muller (Nik Peachey’s wife – so great to have a Venezuelan listening to my presentation) . I do, do really thank them for having attended my session (the sound for videos didn't work, but was able to finish it just in time!). Last but not least, it was great to have had Luz Ortuñoz (British Council Project Officer in Venezuela) helping during this presentation and Carlos Mayora’s participation from Universidad Simón Bolívar. My presentation was called Technologies for ELT learning in Venezuela: Benefits of Screencasting and was presented on a Wednesday afternoon in the SECC-Clyde Auditorium, Gala 2. Here's my presentation:

Here's a summary of my presentation.  

My PLN: Surreal!

From day one till the last one Surreal! Having met part of the people I follow/follow me in Twitter/Facebook in Glasgow was really something…You know pictures, tweets, words, audio, video turned into flesh and bones to put it some way…This impression of meeting them and seeing how friendly, warm, supportive they are was really amazing…This tells quite a lot about the connections we make online and how powerful and permanent they can be in spite of what some people may perceive as an impersonal, cold, detached way of connecting, keeping updated, being informed or even making friends… In my humble opinion, online networks simply replicates in an amplified and different way what we do F2F (and what we have been doing for centuries: networking) reaching further than the local networks we (naturally) create in the place we live in (family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances). Here are the people I met in person and had the chance to greet or listened to their presentations:
Valentina Dodge
Shelly Terrell
Barbara Hoskins
Vicky Saumell
Sue Lyon-Jones
Cecilia Lemos
Jennifer Verschoor
Işıl Boy
Bernadette Wall
Russell Stunnard
Carl Dowse
Ronaldo Lima Jr
Bruno Andrade
Mike Harrison
Lindsay Clandfield
Some other people I met before F2F and was a real pleasure to see them again:
Graham Stanley
Gavin Dudeney
Nik Peachey
Eric Barber
Click on their pictures and start following this amazing PLN! You won't regret it. Some pictures of myself with part of this fantastic PLN:
Left to right: Barbara Hoskins, Sue-Lyon Jones and myself
Left to right: Jennifer Verschoor, myself, Shelly Terrel and Cecilia Lemos
Now one of the things that was really unexpected, but super pleasant at the same time was attending Valentina Dodge's presentation, What’s in your blended teaching toolkit? , and meeting a participant from a course I was a support tutor and Valentina  the main one 5 years ago! This is a Consultants-e course and the name of the participant is Margret Udo. Valentina Dodge assertively and clearly summed up the experience like this:
"Love the way this conference and this photo blend the online and face to face experience into a unique experience :-)"
Left to right: Valentina Dodge, Margret Udo and Myself
An to top it all off, I met two participants from an EVO (Electronic Village Online) session I co-moderated in 2011 and this year, Podcasting for the ESL-EFL classroom: Anne Breckenridge (2011 participant) and Kerry Shoeshep (2012 participant).
Anne Breckenridge
Kerry Shoeshep
They kindly gave me more feedback from this session (this time F2F). It does really encourage me to keep on moderating online. Something I did not learn out of the blue. I had one of the best tutors in the E-moderation: A Training Course for Online Tutors (2007) offered by the Consultants-e: Carl Dowse and also had the chance to work as support tutor with experienced e-moderators like Valentina Dodge and Anna Falcao. I did learn a lot from them and it all started from a sponsored place Gavin Dudeney gave me as a token on one of the courses offered by the Consultants-e after his one-week seminar delivered in Mérida, Venezuela, back in 2006. 
Fun in iATEFL!
Ferry party and Pecha Kucha night!
And not everything has to be that serious in IATEFL. Among the evening events, people danced to Scottish music and had a good laugh listening to funny, but serious brief talks facilitated by Jeremy Harmer in PK night. An here's a taste of it.
Ferry Party (Wednesday 21st)
Pecha Kucha (Thursday 22nd):
Right to left: Jeremy Harmer, Herbert Puchta, Willy Cardoso, Vicki Hollett, Shelly Terrell, Barbara Hoskins, Geoff Tranter Vicky Saumell and Helena Gomm
Barbara Hoskins and Shelly Terrell
Venezuelans on board!
Last but not least, it was fun to have shared these days in Glasgow with these wonderful Venezuelans!
Right to left: Rubena St. Louis, Elvina Castillo, Dafne González and myself. (Carlos Mayora's picture)
Right to left: Luz Ortuño (British Council), Miguel Mendoza (UCV) and Carlos Mayora (USB)
PS. Glad to have seen and talked to María Muller and Evelin Ojeda.

Pictures and videos by Miguel Mendoza. Videos using FlipCamera. Pictures Sony 35. Images from PLN taken from their Twitter pages, About me webpage and Podcasting for the ESL-EFL classroom Photo album.
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