Sunday, July 31, 2011

Web-based lessons and e-portfolios

Week 11

A web-based lesson is a lesson based on a Web 2.0 artifact or a lesson where part of the class employs an artifact in order to teach an objective,a lesson or part of it.  Nowadays, lessons can insert podcasts, videos and music downloaded from internet, wikis, blogs and other interesting web 2.0 tools like Virtual Life or Second Life in order to foster listening, reading, writing and speaking inside the EFL/ESL classroom.
Web-based lessons are an outstanding experience both for students and  facilitators   because   it´s updated, real and meaningful.  It is also well known that students are very familiar with technology but not always are digitally literate.  In this case, the  facilitator has to master the use of the artifact to be used in class, in such a way that time and effort are worth for the purpose of the lesson.  In order to do so, several considerations are to be taken such as technological availability:  enough pcs or laptops, fast connection, and all the necessary devices in order to exploit the tool inside and outside the classroom.  Wikis, blogs, podcasts, videos, SL and many other Web 2.0 tools are great for designing a web-based lesson.  Try the new way of teaching and surprise your students.

Wikipedia states that, aelectronic portfolio, also known as an e-portfolio or digital portfolio, is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. Such electronic evidence may include inputted text, electronic files, images, multimediablog entries, and hyperlinks. E-portfolios are both demonstrations of the user's abilities and platforms for self-expression, and, if they are online, they can be maintained dynamically over time.   
For me,  as  a   teacher and as a post-graduate student,  e-portfolios are a way of  tracking students´ progress and evolution and also a great way for self-assessment and peer assessment and they can be accessed by different users.  Learners can keep every piece of writing, reading, listening and speaking assignments or projects in the form of an artifact on the web and colleagues can go back and forth in order to give feedback, leave comments and suggestions, etc.  This is an enriching experience for everyone.

This is my first web-lesson plan which I want to share with you,

My first web-based lesson



3D Virtual Worlds - Second Life

Week 10
¨A virtual world is a genre of online community that often takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment, through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects.  Virtual worlds are intended for its users to inhabit and interact, and the term today has become largely synonymous with interactive 3D virtual environments, where the users take the form of avatars visible to others graphically. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations, although other forms are possible  (auditory and touch sensations for example). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users¨  as stated in Wikipedia (2011).

One of the most popular online worlds is Second Life (SL) launched in 2003 by Linden Lab.  This world is inhabited by the so-called residents which are impersonified by avatars created by people like you and me who give person and life to such avatars and life a life where you can do unthinkable actions not possible in real life.  SL was first created with the aim of socializing, participating in group activities as well as individual and trading.  With this purpose in mind, SL has its own currency called Linden dollar and residents can earn money  by doing a number of different activities with the aim of purchasing goods, properties, services, etc.   
At the very beginning, virtual worlds were used only for video games, but as time went by, they became more real and vivid and they started to be used for educational purposes among others, and it has to be said, for a totally new approach to education: more vivid and therefore, more meaningful and everlasting for students. 
Now, after living in this amazing world I suggest you to create your own avatar, it´s for free, you can fly, live underwater, and do a number of interesting actions you would never dare to do in real life.  But be careful, virtual worlds are, as real ones, inhabited by different kinds of people with different reasons for being there.  There are risks but there are also incredible opportunity for living the experience.  I´m Nairuby Sarowsky in Second Life.  Take a tour, you won´t regret!

If you are not sure about creating an avatar and living a Second Life, maybe this tutorial would be a great starting point


Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs):WiZiQ, Elluminate, Alado, Kodeos, Moodle and others.

Week 9

If a person googles Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) the first definition to emerge is this one from Wikipedia: ¨A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is a system designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting, as distinct from a Managed Learning Environment (MLE), where the focus is on management¨.  I other words  Virtual learning Environment is an very important scenario for virtual teaching-learning.  This process can be done synchronous or asynchronous as updated VLE  allows the facilitator to record a class therefore it is available for the learner at any time for the student to learn at his/her own pace and in such a way contribute to autonomous learning.   At present, facilitators can use free VLE´s all over the world.  Moodle, Elluminate, Dokeos and WizIQ are among the most known and employed due to their performance and versatility.  

A couple of years ago, I was a participant on an online version of TKT Essentials at The British Council and the experience was amazing.  Although it was overwhelming to some extent, it was also really interesting from the point of view of the learner because I, as a learner, could work at nights, at my own pace, going back and forth if I needed, looking for information and completing the tasks online, chatting with my tutors individually and in group, and also tracking my own progress at any time.  The British Council used Moodle as a VLE for that course and I´m not sure, but I think they still use it because it is reliable and steady.  I have to confess that when I was first asked about how I would feel about not having face to face (f2f)  classes I  said:  ¨No way, I cannot imagine talking with no one, only sitting in front of a computer without interacting with people¨.  I have to tell all of you how my mind has changed.  I love f2f classes the same way I love virtual rooms basically because interaction occurs in both environments.

When I became a Masters´ student at UPEL-IPC one of our teachers, Dr Rosynella Cardozo, first introduced us to WiZiQ as a virtual learning environment.  We were all astonished, scared, sometimes overwhelmed because even if the environment is easy to work with, our internet connection can make this become a nightmare though.  At that moment, and due to those inconveniences, I could not make it possible to have my own teaching experience online which I really regreted.  Later in every term, the Masters gave us the possibility of having online sessions, some went better some worse but every time I was online I thought here is where I want to teach in the future. 

In ITC´s in the TEFL classroom I have had the worth experience of teaching via WiZiQ and I loved it, it was like I expected and more.  I am so eager that I already notify some of my students that we will have online sessions using this platform and they were surprised.  Actually, I am preparing some classes and next week I will encourage them to open a student account so they can join the classes.  These are all English students who are going to do their communitary service with the language program I work for and they are very young people, from 21 to 24 years old, so they cope with technology very well.  I am sure the experience will be outstanding and they will be exposed to a different teaching style.

Thank you VLE´s for being available!



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Social Networks, Communities of Practice, and Personal Learning Network

Week 8

According to the Merriam-Webster´s online dictionary community is:

: a unified body of individuals: asa : statecommonwealthb : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself <the problems of a largecommunity>c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common locationd : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a communityof retired persons>e : a group linked by a common policyf : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community>g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society <the academiccommunity>
The word community derives from the word common which is the key word of the definitions above, as you can see.   As very well stated in Merriam-Webster´s online dictionnary a community is every group of persons sharing the same interest, likes, social or economic interest.  Thefore, we as EFL/ESL teachers constitute a community because we all share the same interest for education, learners, technology in some cases, material design in others, assessment, developing learners´s skills, different approaches, in simple terms we share something in common.  
In relation to EFL and ESL  there are very important international communities of practice or CoPs as they are known like TESOL, WikiEducators, Webheads in action, Diigo communities and locally AVEALMEC, VenTESOL´s, ELTnet among others.  The main aim is to get together, share and collaborating for the purpose of growing in knowledge and number.  
Recently, social networks as Facebook and Twitter have been growing rapidly and amazingly they can also be used for educational purposes with our learners outside the class.  These networks can be the means to convey short messages, have our students write and share ideas, send homeworks and giving instructions for delivering projects, etc.  It is also a good way to have them practice the language among themselves and not only with the teacher, and since messages are not long, they may feel there is opportunity for practicing without making many mistakes.  

community of practice (CoP) is, according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, ¨a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991). CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment¨.  While Lave and Wenger coined the term in the 1990s, this type of learning practice has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling.

Brantlee Underhill, PMI Director of Practitioner Markets makes this interesting interview to PhD Etienne Wenger, an authority on CoPs that I would like to share with you, enjoy it!


Videos and other useful Web 2.0 tools

Week 7: 

When I was looking for online definitions of useful and easy programs to manage Web 2.0 tools google took me to  Windows Movie Make immediately and then as I  wanted to know what this was, Wikipedia gave me the following information:  ´Windows Movie Maker is a video creating editing application, included in Microsoft Windows Me, XP, and Vista. It contains features such as effects, transitions, titles/credits, audio track, timeline narration, and Auto Movie. New effects and transitions can be made and existing ones can be modified using XML code. Windows Movie Maker is also a basic audio track editing program. It can apply basic effects to audio tracks such as fade in or fade out. The audio tracks can then be exported in the form of a sound file instead of a video file¨.  Great tool, ummm but how can I use it, will I be able to use this, I can hardly take pictures with my smartphone and edit them.  That´s why I thought.  

Then while we were attending our online class with Prof. Evelyn Izquierdo we all were asked to look for the software and open it, drag some pictures to the squares and make transitions and effects and after doing so playing.  And there I was... manufacturing and editing my very first attempt to a video using a really simple and useful tool which provided me with unlimited ressource options.  I have to say that  I am a  visual and aural learner, therefore I love images and music and everything which has to do with observable resources for teaching.  

I am aware that we all have to plan for different learning styles in our classrooms but this is a great tool for visual and learners and if we combine some kinaesthetic activities after watching and listening to a video it will really catch our learners attention whatever learners´characteristics they have.

I have been exposed to a new experience which I can tell is amazing and wonderful for our learners at all levels and ages.  The power of designing and manufacturing and, of course, editing a video is immense.  Videos can be used inside the EFL classroom for so many purposes: building lexical items, working with functions, presenting authentic and real language and it is innovative and atractive for the learners.  Moreover, it has also a tremendous impact on teaching and what is more important than that is the good news that our learners can use them outside the class and start walking the way for their learning autonomy.