Saturday, August 6, 2011

My reflection on ICT in TEFL course

         I am just “packing” and ordering my stuff and meanwhile, I reflected on the past fourteen weeks. During this time, I have been very fortunate to explore this digital world. The experience has been incredibly challenging and demanding since I knew just a little bit about technology and its applications.
     At the beginning of this course, I felt completely lost and stressed. There were terms that were definitely unknown to me, and as we had online classes I got in despair and frustrated. However, I took some time to calm down and  I continued with my tasks.  As time passed, I gained some knowledge and created many artifacts, and most important, I learnt how to manage some of them very well.
     Living this experience has been profitable and unforgetable. When exploring innovative and interesting sites, my family and friends were out of my sight. However, they were by side and gave me their precious support. I am deeply grateful for those people who somehow contributed to this process, from being digital illiterate to becoming not an expert in technology, but at least, a person with some knowledge in technology.
     I should say that my teaching practice will not be the same after having taken this course. That is definitely the most relevant fact; the benefits are above all inconveniences and anguish.  I am convinced that any single technological device may be used to motive our language learners. This is their environment: the digital world.
     Finally, I want to thank prof. Evelyn Izquierdo for her guidance and assistance whenever needed. I gratefully acknowledge her support, in spite of the hard work. I am indebted to my family and friends, and I am not sure whether to thank them or to apologize to them. I owe special thanks to my course mates, we had a lot of hard work but also we had fun. Your comments on my work are totally appreciated. The experience has been fruitful and enriching. Thanks to all of you!

My project on ICT in TEFL

     One of the greatest challenges for ESP teachers has been providing learners with real world contexts and natural communication opportunities which are so relevant for language learning. Some authors (Rammal, 2006; Mekheimer, 2011) have mentioned how useful and helpful videos are to stimulate students to develop receptive or productive skills. Using videos represents a powerful resource since they provide audio and visual aids. Aural skill is one of the receptive skills that need to be activated and developed by offering not just audio but visual images that help learners have a picture of the situation, action, setting, gestures, and emotion. Additionally, the input received through audio videos can result in a potent source to develop and improve oral skills.

     The title of this project is  Integrating videos into the EFL Classrooms as a Means to Develop Students' Listening and Speaking Skills and it is based on the concepts of Authenticity of materials and meaningful learning as well as blended learning. This project aims at describing the incorporation of videos as a means to develop students’ listening and speaking skills and is intended primarily for English teachers who are considering the wide range of tools that the emergence of technology offers.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Web-based lessons

Web-based lesson

     The possibilities for English teaching and learning using Internet are endless. The big amount of resources allows teachers to incorporate web sites into their classrooms.
     When using a web-site or some web-sites in a lesson, it is called Web-based lesson. A web-based lesson is the one entirely conducted online or when a web site is used in a lesson. Conducting web-based lessons offer enormous opportunities and advantages. They are more interactive, dynamic and interesting. Web-based lessons are very useful for both learners and teachers since they provide opportunities for all learning styles and promote collaboration, and improve teacher-student and student-student interaction as well. I have particularly witnessed these advantages.

     Planning a web-based lesson implies following a series of steps and there are some formats of web-based lessons on the web that can be used. It is important to keep in mind the purpose of the lesson, and then to select the web site to be incorporated in the lesson.

     Recently, I conducted my first entirely web-based lesson online and the experience was definitely enriching. It helped me develop my digital skills as well as creating my own artifacts to be used in the lesson.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Real life vs. virtual worlds: Second Life

     As educators, we are always looking for new gates to make learners enjoy classes while learning and with the flourishing of technology it seems to be easier nowadays.

     Second life is completely new for me. It is an “online virtual world” (Wikipedia, 2001) in which residents (avatars) has the opportunity to interact with each other. These avatars can explore the world, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities (op. cit). Now I wonder what the new enterprise is and what these virtual worlds offer. Don’t we interact and socialize in the real world?

     It seems that for educational purposes second life offers a great deal of opportunities, especially in language learning. I have my doubts about it. Why taking our learners to a world that we know that does not exist? It seems to me that virtual worlds are perfect and magic. People can fly, go shopping and buy things (I do not know where the money comes from) and do many things. That is wonderful, but how about then? Maybe, I am wrong but I think that taking my students to a virtual room in second life will not provide them with anything really effective. To face real situations when having conversations with real people is better, I think.

     Just to finish this reflection, we, educators should be very careful of being seduced by the novelty of a new technology. We have to consider whether this new technology will improve teaching and enhance learning (Sharma and Barret, 2008)    

Monday, July 18, 2011

Virtual Learning Environments

     Let start by saying that I sometimes find myself doing things and actually do not know what they are. I had a great opportunity to have classes online and was kindly taught how to manage the tools in WiZiQ. I had a lot of fun and became a fan of those online classes. I was terrified at the beginning but then I got familiar to listen to my professor presenting her slides and giving us the chance to share ideas through the chat. The experience was pretty enriching and fruitful. Poor me! I did not know that it was a kind of virtual learning environments. It is not regret; it is just that we do things without knowing their real names but they absolutely work.

     Nowadays, when approaching technology to be updated to implement Web 2.0 tools in my English classes and having an expert’s guidance to manage many of these tools, I came to learn what virtual learning environments (VLEs) are. According to Sharma and Barret (2008, p. 103), a virtual learning environment is “a web-based platform designed to support teachers in the management of online educational courses”. They also state that virtual learning environment consists of communication tools, among these tools we have email and a discussion board, and tools for organizing the administration of a course.

     VLEs are often used by universities; Moodle (one of the best known VLEs) is used at Universidad MarĂ­tima del Caribe (UMC). After asking the technologist in charge of the technical issues at UMC, he explained that one of the reasons why Moodle software is used in this university is because it is free. He also said that it is a Course Management System (CMS) which uses an Open Source software package designed on pedagogical principles. The purpose of this CMS is to help educators create effective online learning communities. At UMC, educators and students take advantage of this platform. Some educators are allowed to use this platform (since its use is restricted) to promote distance learning through what it is called Virtual Room.

Social networks

        I was wondering what social networks are useful for. Some people say that we can share and interact somehow, but we are always sharing and interacting at work, in a classroom, aren’t we? Some others say that this a way to know about opinions and ideas from people who are far away but, being connected online, we get close and share ideas faster than using the old-fashioned mail. Certainly, it is a new and fast way to get in contact. I was asked to open a Facebook account to fulfill an EFL master course program, and a couple of nights ago I was contacted by my sister, my father’s oldest daughter. We had a lot of time without seeing each other. Well, this could be an answer to my question. I went deeply into this topic and found some other reasons.

     According to Wenger (2004), we all belong to communities of practice (CoP). He states that communities of practice are everywhere, at work, at school, at home. However, our social active participation is what makes the difference. For him, a social theory of learning must be integrated by the following elements: meaning, practice, community and identity. Turning our head to educational issues, Wenger (2006, n/p) defines CoPs as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”. During my path on TEFL, I have had the great opportunity to belong to VenELT which is formed by a group of English teachers with the interest to share knowledge and learn more about how to teach English and how to become better educators for the benefits of our students.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Videos in EFL classrooms?

     In 2005, Rammal stated that “video material can be a very useful source and asset for the language teaching-learning process…” (n/p). Dr. Rammal explains that video material could combine both fun and pedagogic instructions and it can result in a more authentic material that may reflect real interaction. Furthermore, he states that by using videotaped material “teachers can always create an indefinite number of language teaching activities”. I pose everything that allows me to improve my English lessons and which has been proved to do so.

     After reading many articles and studies about the use of videos in the EFL classrooms (Rammal, 2006; Moura, 2010; Mekheimer, 2011), I am really amazed about this new artifact. I must confess I am just getting involved and know nothing how to implement videos in my classes. I have learnt that students can improve all four language skills by employing videos, though.

     What I have learnt up to now is that emerging technologies represent a potential for teaching English as a foreign language.  Perhaps, I should consider implementing videos in my classes to keep my students in constant exposure in the target language as it is a useful tool to improve listening. For example, YouTube, at present the most prominent video network as stated by Moura (2010), offers an unlimited amount of videos that allows learners to deal with listening material which in returns lets them  manage conversation with native speakers. YouTube offers a lot of videos in which native speakers are in. Therefore, by hearing, learners can improve their abilities both at listening and speaking.
     Likewise, Mekheimer (2011) points out that the use video media, especially with the help of computer-assisted language learning (CALL), can contextualize and personalize the language learning process. This author also explains that using videos could facilitate the learning of a language, however, it all depends on “how pedagogically appropriate videos are used and how effective the instructor incorporates them in his/her classes” (p. 27). Reflecting on this final quotation, I should consider carefully the purpose of using videos in my English classes before implementing them just because they are in fashion.