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


Mariel Amez said...

Insightful reflections on the ICT strand of these thought provoking Dialogues.
A pleasure to read them and a pleasure to have shared the event!

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