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 Marítima 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. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Podcast and Podcasting

     A podcast is an audio programme distributed via the internet. It is a series of digital media files (audio or video) that are released episodically (Wikipedia, 2010). It is another Web 2.0, and like blogs, podcasts tend to have chosen audiences, with materials aimed at a target audience.

    According to Sharma and Barrett (2007), podcasts can provide listening practice that is specifically tailored to the needs of language learners, and as an ESP English teacher, this feature supports a strong reason why to use podcasts in my lessons. Monologues or dialogues can be recorded to provide context-based models of grammar or vocabulary (op. cit). Furthermore, podcasts can focus on pronunciation. They can be used to pre-teach input in a format other than a written form.

     There are a number of reasons for language teachers to promote and use podcasts. One of them is offering real-life listening (authentic material) to the students and at the same time we are promoting learners’ autonomy. In other words, learners do not need the teacher’s presence to practice their skills and exploit their abilities.


    Implementing blended learning requires knowledge of the variety of methods, namely, blogs, podcasts, websites and wikis as well as time to invest in the familiarization of the chosen technological resource and then, using it in and out of the classroom (Sharma and Barrett, 2007). This is absolutely true when creating and designing a wiki.

    A wiki is “a website on which the pages can be edited by the users as well as the creator” (op. cit. p, 119). That is one of the reasons why wikis are said to be more interactive than blogs. They also improve communication and interaction among users (Wikipedia, 2010).

    Educators are implementing wikis into their classes since they promote collaborative work and encourage students’ participations. According to Sharma and Barrett (2007), wikis offer learners the opportunity to collaborate on tasks outside the language classroom. Additionally, they state that the nature of wikis is sharing knowledge and commenting on the users’ input. Therefore, learners can learn from each other.

    As a digital immigrant user, since I am not part of the Net Generation, I realize that it is not enough to decide to implement new resources into the classroom. It also implies to be aware of the time that one has to invest to get familiar with the tools. I have been working very hard to create and design a wiki to improve communication and encourage interaction among my students and it is time consuming. However, it is my belief that it will be worthy at the end.

Monday, May 23, 2011


     Blogging has changed all the traditional ways of communicating, and it is so, thanks to Internet, again, the magic word of these days, technology! The days when people sat down to write notes and post cards to their pen pals are gone. Fortunately, we never stop learning. There are always new, exciting ways to integrate teaching techniques to stimulate our students in the process of learning, especially with the surge of social media and blogging (Fioriello, 2009).

     To blog is mainly to write, post, express or share opinions, ideas, experiences, knowledge with another individual or groups of individuals who have similar interests; this group could be called a community of bloggers that inspire and motivate each other through commenting, one of the key feature of a blog (LeFever, 2007). Most blogs allow their users to write and submit a comment on a blog post, whether the post is written or an image. This commenting aspect of the blogs is what differentiates them from other static websites. They are interactive.

      Depending on the content and on how the content is delivered or written, blogs are of different types. Firstly, regarding the contents, they could be personal or corporate and organizational blogs. Personal blogs are created to write about one’s personal reflections about life, they function more likely as private diaries. Conversely, corporate and organizational blogs are mainly created for business purposes. Secondly, regarding how the content is delivered or written, blogs can be classified by genre, by media type and by device. By genre, these types of blogs focus on a particular subject, such as political blogs, travel blogs, educational blogs, among others. By media type, these are blogs that comprise videos, links, photos, etc. By device, these kinds of blogs are defined by the means used to write or communicate the information, namely, mobile phones or PDA; in this case, they are called moblogs (Wikipedia, 2010).

     My experience as a student and as a teacher tells me that we never stop learning, and most important, we learn by doing. Reading about the usefulness of a blog and creating my own one, has provided me with the knowledge to teach and train my students as well as some colleagues to work with this tool for educational purposes.

World Wide Webs

     To start with, it should be stated that I had a misconception of the terms Internet and World Wide Web (www). I thought these terms were the same and, after having read about them, I noticed that they refer to different things. Internet is a global system of interconnected documents in which the web is an application. To illustrate this, the Internet is like a big cake in which the web is just an ingredient, namely, the flour or the butter.

     The web is used for receiving information and providing it. There are some webs that can be very helpful for educational purposes. Web 1.0 is associated with web applications that are static, people can not interact using it; users are limited to have a view of contents of what has been created for them. An example of this is the e-portfolio that do not allow users to comment on it. Conversely, web 2.0 is associated with web applications that facilitate participation and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of these applications are wikis, blogs, web networking sites, among others (Wikipedia, 2010).


The current situation of ICT in TEFL

      The enthralling use of technology in Education leaves no doubts that most teachers should be updated. We are not anymore the teachers using just a piece of “chalk” and an “eraser”. It seems that the techno era is definitely building up its foundations on solid ground in the Education field, and it is growing so fast that those who are yet reluctant to its use are being left behind.

     Today, words like e-learning, online learning, and virtual learning, among others, are being heard a lot. Basically, all these terms refer to Educational processes that “utilize information and communications technology to mediate asynchronous as well as synchronous learning and teaching” (Naidu, 2006, p.1). According to Naidu (op. cit), e-learning includes “all educational activities that are carried out by individuals or group working online or offline” (p. 1). This author also refers to e-learning as “the intentional use of networked information and communications technology in teaching and learning” (p. 1).

     The use of ICT in the educational system is growing up, although, there are some constraints. One of the main limitations is the infrastructure. In the field of TEFL, it is not the exception. Based on the expensive costs in providing computer labs to higher educational institutions makes it difficult to promote the use of technology to favor teaching and learning.

    At Universidad Marítima del Caribe there exists a platform which could be used to expand and exploit the use of internet and computers as a resource to enhance English learning and teaching, however, its use is limited. Students are not allowed to enter some sites which are very useful for them to practice their listening and speaking skills. To muddy these waters, there is not a modern English lab.

     Being in a constant interaction with English learners is of great importance as it is the only way to practice English in a Spanish environment. As an English teacher, recognizing the paramount relevance of using technological devices to promote learning, I definitely pose to teach my groups of learners taking advantage of cell phones, internet out of the university settings, that is, I pose for a blended learning.

Digital Literacy

     Nowadays, people are managing many technological devices using Internet. The use of technology has allowed people around the world to be informed about almost everything. They communicate and share knowledge as well. Nevertheless, to be able to manage those technological devices does not mean we are digitally competent.

     The heart of digital literacy is to be willing to adapt our skills to a new means. According to Gilster (1997,p. xii) “our experience of the internet will be determined by how we master its core competencies”. In this sense, digital literacy is defined as “the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers” (op. cit, p. 1).

     Regarding this definition, firstly, it could be stated that it is not only a matter of acquiring skills of finding things using internet, but also we need to acquire the ability to use these things in our life. Secondly, one important issue to be considered when using internet is the ability to make informed judgments about what we have found on-line, that is, to think critically about it. Gilster (op. cit) considers that this is one of the digital competencies we should acquire as well. Finally, developing search skills is yet another core competency which should be acquired since we have to read and select reliable information.

     To illustrate this process, I put myself as an example. To write this reflection about this topic (Digital literacy), I used my computer and the internet connection to find information. However, I had to read a big amount of information about it but nothing seemed reliable to me. I read and thought about what material should be selected, finally, I chose what it seemed more suitable and reliable for this topic. I should say that I am not digitally competent as I would like to. I am on the right path, though.

Welcome Message

    This blog has been created to share information about technology as a requisite of a course called ICT in TEFL. You will be able to read and comment on Digital Literacy, The Current Situation of ICT in TEFL, The World Wide Webs and Blogs.
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