Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Contributions of Technology to my Professional Development.

As I reflect on my own beliefs about technology, I totally agree with the impact that web 2.0 tools have on language learning. First of all, I believe firmly in the idea of technology as the most critical component that contributes with reducing distance and time barriers in the educational arena. Nowadays, there is a flood of people who attend classes no matter where their teachers are, thanks to a computer or a mobile phone they are getting closer.
As an ICT Student I have learned in a more conscious way to handle, utilize and disregard some technological tools. At the very beginning, I used to visualize web 2.0 and 3.0 tools as simple tasks that I could include in my daily teaching. In this current ICT setting, the demands, duties and responsibilities of incorporating technology in an EFL classroom often requires more critical thinking skills that I have definitely developed through this ICT in TEFL Course.
It is fair to say that I have acquired so much knowledge about the theory behind every single used tool that I am so proud of speaking properly about what I am doing in my classes and why. Terms such as technogogy, long life learning, critical thinking, RSS, widgets, gadgets, blogs, wiki, podcast, minicast, hashtag, embed, among others, have undoubtedly changed the way I deal with tech vocabulary.
It seems the more I read and use ICT devices, the more I am involved and engaged in learning about them, teaching them to my students with the main purpose of enhancing and fostering a meaningful learning and teaching process, sharing all my knowledge with all of those colleagues that are interested in technology, and last but not least, using technology to educate and havge fun with my daughter. Finally, I have to say that this course has been a wonderful and outstanding experience that has enabled me to change my teaching perspective, motivated me and inspired me to be a better person, a conscious teacher and a new digital literate.


This paper views the promotion of linguistic, cultural and academic sharing through the use of innovative tools such as Google+ and Voicethread as a sense of expanding professional and educational boundaries. Applied to environments of real world firefighting, specifically UMC Volunteer Firefighters in Catia La Mar, Vargas State, as well as some Caribbean Firefighters, this project examines some cultural facets and English as a foreign language (EFL) competences by using Voicethread and Google +. In the former participants will become aware of their own culture, learn to respect cultural diversity and develop some cultural techniques and strategies to contextualize their experiences under the firefighting field. In this context, they will leave comments orally and in written form. In the latter, participants will be provided with a firefighting circle where they will share experiences and materials regarding their professions and will be immersed in oral discussions through Google Hangouts with the purpose of reducing distant and time barriers. Additionally, this paper uses the concepts of learner-centered approach, Intercultural Approach and some tenets stated by Brown (2004) regarding English skills assessment. As final remarks, it can be concluded that this project will contribute to Venezuelan and Caribbean Firefighting community while reshaping linguistic and cultural knowledge.

Descriptors: Culture, EFL, Firefighting, UMC, Voicethread, Google +.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Web Based Lesson and E-portolifios: Raising Awareness

How many times teachers incorporate web tools in their classroom? I think that more than many think. But how many times a formal plan is included? This is the central issue.

Most of the times that I tried to enrich my EFL classes by using technology, I did it by following an informal assessment. In other words, I just added a couple of web tools as a warm up or wrap up activity, but without a clear and specific objective in mind. Not in written form, at least. Now that I am aware of the wide range of web tools and the underlying theory within them, I should state that my perspective has changed. At this stage, considering not only the popular or innovative features of an artifact is not enough to apply it in classes, we should support questions such as: what it is used for?, what skills I want to develop through it?, Does my local context is in consonance with the use of this tool?. I think that designing a web based lesson is not simple, it is similar to doing research. We should take into account so many issues, that the process is as rigorous as a formal investigation.

In doing so, and considering the Communicate Approach Main Tenets I designed my first formal web-based lesson plan:

Date: October 2011
Teacher: Albis Tovar
English VII (Upper Intermediate)
Types of Vessels.

  • To describe some parts of the ship as well as her dimensions in written and oral form.

  • To contrast different types of vessels orally.

  • To interact in authentic learning environments.
Web Sites used: Tricider, Marine Traffic, Google +

Web Site 1: Tricider
URL: http://www.tricider.com
Rationale for Selecting this site:
Tricider is a very easy and simple tool to use. In other words, you are able “to collect information and opinions from all over the web in a very easily digestible and powerful way” (Peachey, 2011)

Web Site 2: Marine Traffic
: http://www.marinetraffic.com
Rationale for Selecting this site:
Authentic tool which offers real and live maritime information with an array of maritime terms suitable for deck and engine cadets, for example, port facilities, types of vessels, track of vessels, among others.

Web Site 3: Google +
: https://plus.google.com
Rationale for Selecting this site:
Innovative tool that allows students to share video calls up to 5 people. It offers the opportunity to provide in the moment feedback or co evaluation.

Other Materials: Class notes, Maritime Articles.
Teacher Preparation:
• Teachers should provide feedback in tricider`s answers.
• Teachers should explore all the options in Marine Traffic. Com
• Teachers Should build a circle in Google + with the name of the topic.
• Teachers should start a hangout to present students´oral participations.
• Teachers should create a rubric for assessing writing (Tricider) and to assess online presentation (google +)

Steps for Learners:

Description of pre-computer/classroom activities (preparation):
• Think of possible vessels to work in, its pro and cons.
• Review some basic parts of the ship
• Review ship´s dimensions studied in class

Description of computer/online activities:
• Students go to http://www.tricider.com and click on Propose a solution
• All students should find the web site www.marinetraffic.com and click on gallery.
• Students are allowed to look at the pictures of types of vessels provided by this site and become familiar with some other options.
• Students take notes of the ship selected and send their notes .by email

Description of follow-up activities:
• All students create a Google+ Account and join to the circle.
• Students prepare a mini presentation to be shared in a Google hangout.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reconsidering my Learning Styles

To plan a class implies a solid knowledge about our learners, in other words, to make sure that the learning process is meaningful, we, teachers need to be acquainted with a variety of factors. Results from research on EFL clearly call for considering learning styles and strategies in the teaching process as the starting point to have a successful learning. Learning styles and strategies are defined as “the main factors that help determine how-and how well- our students learn…” (Oxford, 2003, p.1). Under this framework, and considering that currently we are witnessing a new emphasis on instructional environments, teaching with ICT, especially teaching language in virtual words, demands even more a learner-centered approach.

During the Second Life (SL) class, I recapped most of the issues stated above. That experience of being a student in a virtual world caused me to reexamine my beliefs about learning styles and strategies. According to several tests my predominant learning style is visual because many of the characteristics conveyed by this style fit into the way I learn. However, it seems contradictory that my spatial memory does not work efficiently. It is pretty hard for me to store information about the environment around me, that is the main reason why when playing computer games I make a big effort to locate myself in time and space. Not only does playing computer games but this can also happen to me in real life when following directions. In this sense, I think that using an avatar was a wonderful experience but there were several times that I got lost, no matter if I followed the map. Then, an important question cropped up: is this tool suitable for people whose spatial memory is not developed?
At that stage, firstly, I thought of how frustrating this task may be for non-visual learners and for those people whose spatial memory is not a strength. Secondly, we, teachers should not take for granted that we teach homogeneous classes. In fact, sometimes I think in that way. As an EFL teacher, If I dare to design a class under SL, I strongly believe that I should consider whether my students are predominantly visual or not. On the contrary, this experience would be simply too overwhelming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CoPs: The First Step to reach Self-Learning

The first time that I heard the Term Communities of Practice (CoPs) was at the beginning of my master course where I made an oral presentation in WIZq with Professor Lisbeth Belisario. Although it was meaningful, I think that in that moment I was not acquainted with the impact of CoPs on TEFL. Today, that my knowledge has expanded I recap some aspects from that presentation.
The main issues presented in that online experience relied on Etienne Wegner`s ideas. He claims that communities of practice are groups of people who share the same interest, interact regularly and learn from and with each other (Wegner, 2006). Under this framework, we provided our audience with some examples such as Venelt and WIZq. However, as technological as CoPs seem, we concluded that they are not always related to technology. In fact, they are everywhere: at home, at school, in our hobbies, in our lives (Wegner, 2006).
Obviously, nowadays I can mention some others. For example, twitter that in my opinion is a rich resource to learn from some authorities in the TEFL arena. For instance, I have a confession to make. I have learned a lot about technology by following Professor Miguel Mendoza on twitter. I would like to highlight that the flood of tools and tips that he always offers by this means is infinite and has helped me a lot in building my self-learning path.
Finally, the reason I felt it was important to write this reflection is to highlight that knowledge (the domain) should be shared not only on the internet but also in our everyday life. This is the keyword to being a successful teacher.

Are Videos Feasible Tools in Public High Schools?

For a variety of reasons, videos are gaining ground to become one of the most powerful tools that EFL educators have at their disposal nowadays. To begin, considering our learners ‘styles can be the starting point to state that these kind of resources may highly contribute to the learner –centered approach. In other words, videos may provide visual learners with some benefits to foster consciousness-raising.
Nevertheless, as with many limitations, we have to deal with lack of technological infrastructure in high school for example. If we consider our local context, more specific public high schools, I wonder whether educators can count on this kind of stimulus as a standard practice. It is well known that at the secondary level, technological devices are not available sometimes. For instance, It is pretty hard to have a video beam to empower your English classes.
I think that at this stage, the internet would play a crucial role since it “is a useful tool to expand the resources available to your students”(Iberri-Shea, 2009, p.36). I strongly believe that there are several clear advantages of the internet to improve EFL learning. However, it is important to know that not only using some web tools such as videos but also web 2.0 tools in general is an educational challenge. But in the case of public high school is a matter of inspiring our students, commitment to our profession and to the sake of our students. The answer is yes, just if we put into practice the above mentioned ideas.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Podcasting under a Technogogic Framework

In starting this piece of work I read a lot of new words but I ran into a new term that called significantly my attention: Technogogy. As Peachey (2009) defines it, Technogogy is a combination of educational potential of new technologies through sound pedagogical exploitation. In other words, a hybrid of technology and pedagogy. Under this conception many tools have been implemented for the sake of using new technologies to contribute to the educational arena. In this respect, podcasting crops us as an important means that may be linguistically well-grounded.
In fact, drawing on podcast definition as a series of audio or video programs delivered trough a static URL and constantly feed by RSS (Ratcliffe & Steve , 2007), it can be said that it may have educational implications for EFL students, since it will contribute to meet the needs of 21st century learners: more authenticy in teaching and learning. skills such as real life listening and more meaningful speaking tasks will doubtless expand educational evolution under this digital era.
It is obvious that people see a huge increase in the range of podcasting in education. Nowadays, more and more people download videos and audio files from the internet, teachers usually visit podcasting web sites for getting audio material for their students (At Universidad Marítima del Caribe, we downloaded podcasts for an International Trade and Transport Course), more authorities are implementing podcasting as social innovation (Service Podcasting: UNESCO releases a series of videos on human rights, peace and tolerance) among others.

They are all right...Wikis are powerful tools

The recent convergence of advances in technology for educational purposes makes a wiki a powerful tool to learn and teach collaborately. Having a brief look at wikis, it can be said that these web pages contain a flood of possibilities for enhancing EFL context. For instance, introducing students to many abilities of academic research writing (Tardy, 2010) may lead learners to work together and produce high quality texts (Peachey, 2008).
On the other hand, other perspectives are also very valuable when considering the use of wikis as a special contribution to the field of EFL teaching. This is the case of one of Peachey’s (2008) article which showcases an array of issues to learn how to use wikis for teacher development. In this sense, this author states that wikis can be used as a sort of scrapbook to collect together possible ideas that educators have on teaching, such as links, articles, teaching tips, lesson plans, among others.
As beneficial as wikis seem, the use of this powerful tool may not be easy to achieve. The first pillar to be built relies on training potential wiki users on how to use these web pages for varied purposes. This is the first step to foster collaborative and cooperative learning.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Keywords When Blogging

When searching about blogging, I found out that even important organizations as UNESCO have a blog. As a result, I thought that it was time to sort out my ideas, and ask myself the extent to which I was acquainted of blog terminology.

Drawing on the most conventional definition, a blog is “essentially someone´s personal journal made available on the web” (Colmer and Thomas, 2005, p.191). However, nowadays, we know that blogs are more than that. For instance, some authors are always ready to acknowledge the innumerable uses that a blog may have: to share materials, http://bloggingandsocialmedia.blogspot.com/search/label/blogging ; to help your students, http://edublogs.org/ ; to sell your teaching materials online, http://www.killerstartups.com/eCommerce/tagito-com-turn-your-website-into-a-virtual-store ; among others.

In this sense, if a blog conveys all of these features, what is blogging then? it is the activity of updating a blog. At first sight, it looks simple but it is not. When blogging you have to be familiar with an array of terms with different implications, for example, widget, gadgets, post, etc. What seems immediately obvious, for those who learn by doing, is that engaging in any of the blog functions is easier when you explore blogging through playing.

Technological Infrastructure at UMC

It should be noted that Information and Communication Technology (ICT), plays a distinctive role at universities . As Tuning America Latina Project(2007) assumes “the incorporation of ICT into higher education is expected to contribute to improving the quality of education” (p.22) to develop and enrich not only the teaching process but also student learning and academic performance.

Needles to say that in Venezuela Ley Orgánica de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (2004) , is based on the premise of fostering and stimulating the ability to innovate technologically in the educational field. In this respect, Universidad Nacional Experimental Marítima del Caribe (UMC) has tried to work in consonance with this issue based on the consolidation and practice of technology for students’ academic development. The UMC is a highly recognized institution, intrinsically related to the maritime sector where students are offered a diverse range of ordinary degree courses such as, Maritime Engineering – Operations and Marine Facilities; Administration – International Trade and Transport - , among others (UMC, 2011).

UMC counts on a moodle platform called Sistema de Aprendizaje Interactivo a Distancia (SAID)used for Distance Education. We also have some computer rooms designed to satisfy the increasing need of up-to-date information. Due to the task developed by the Communication and Information Technology Coordination and the State Office of Planning in the Higher Education sector (OPSU) in order to achieve this Computer Room in our campus, many students, professors and researchers are able to visit these high-tech facilities (UMC, 2011).

1...2...3...4... Web Tools!

Have you ever blogged, podcasted, wikied, showed photos or commented online? Well, all of these terms that are like a tongue twister for many people, are obviously associated with the wonderful world of the web tools. There has been a flood of perspectives pointing out that web tools have definitely contributed to the way information is collected, treated and analyzed in a global, electronic and interactive medium.

Before we can see the nature of the impact that web tools have on society, we need to be clear about what they are. At one level, we have the earliest incarnation of the web or Web 1.0, tools which enable online users to accomplish an immediate goal, for instance, access a website, email a friend, etc. They are also known as static pages or more technically, a storehouse of online information that could be accessed to achieve an end (West and Turner, 2007).

“The shift from websites that had content which was designed delivered and controlled by the company or person that produced the site, to a ‘user generated’ model of content development” (Peachey, 2011) lead us into a more expansive, more democratic and more interactive tool: Web.2.0. This time we are not going to just read and write, we will be able to socialize, collaborate, create genuine products and share content in an authentic way (Peachey, n/d).

But wait, there is still more. While there has been much recent discussion of what the Web.2.0 follower is, a very important issue has arisen: Web 3.0. According to Peachey (2011), Web 3.0 may be intrinsically related to Augmented Reality. In other words, a kind of fusion between our existing physical reality and the internet throughout mobiles devices which will help us to shorten the distance between internet information and real world objects, places and even people.

And what after Web 3.0? Some people say that Web 4.0 or Ubiquitous Web is under development, but it definitely builds upon all previous stages of the internet growth taking into account both humans and machine agents (Anandarajan and Anandarajan, 2010).

From E-Learning To U-Learning

New technologies are so diversified that they open up new spaces for the emergence of an array of approaches that imply a deeper comprehension of what 21st century education actually needs. In this sense, the mainstream developments and applications of new technologies have put pressure on education to provide with a wide range of tools that may shed light on what lifelong learning requires. Emanating as starting point, the path to achieving self-directed learning emerges as central issue in this approach.

Under this framework, learners can be provided with education in different locations at a distance (Distance Education), using technology to enhance the learning experience separated by time or place (Distributed Learning); within the boundaries of different methods – classroom instructions with online instructions (Blended Learning) – and sustained through different media, as computer aided learning or E-Learning (UNITAR, 2004).

At this stage, it is important to consider whether E-Learning is the final step to reach holistic skills. Of course, it is not. Many other approaches have cropped up, for instance, T-Learning or TV based interactive learning which relies on the benefits of interactive digital television for a more engaged learning (Jokipelto, 2005). M-Learning (Mobile Learning) “in which different tools or mobile technologies are used” (Harman and Koohang, 2007, p.191). And U-Learning or Ubiquitous Learning, based on constructing “a ubiquitous learning environment which enables anyone to learn at anyplace at anytime” (Arniza, 2010, p.1).

It is obvious the advancement of technology in education, and the multiple answers to overcome that, but what seems to be more important is how learners can assume leadership for their online studies in a holistic manner for promoting lifelong learning. That is definitely the keyword.

Fostering Critical Thinking Through Digital Literacy

Fostering Critical Thinking throughout Digital Literacy.

The rapid growth of technology has obviously changed the way human beings work, communicate, interact, and visualize life. In other words, every facet of people´s lives may be influenced by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). From sending a message using a mobile phone until socializing throughout an Avatar, children, teenagers and adults utilize digital technology everywhere.

In this framework, the 21st century society is demanding new professional competences, no matter what the area of expertise is. In fact, some international authorities such as UNESCO (2011), European Computer Driving License Foundation (ECDL) (2011), Tuning Project in Europe and Latin America (2007), among others, have agreed on the importance of fostering digital literacy skills for economic, societal and educational development, mostly based on the critical understanding of using technology (Freire, 2004).

To enlighten us on this issue, it would be relevant to mention that there has been a flood of terms used synonymously to refer to digital literacy: ICT Literacy (Educational Testing Service, 2002), ICT Fluency (NRC, 1999), Computer Literacy (Williams, 2003), among others. However, no matter how many perspectives digital literacy conveys, what really matters is to what extent digital native or immigrants are responsible users of online technology.

Digital Literacy as simply the knowledge and skills required to participate in online activities (ECDL, 2011) is reductionist to the degree that the now digital citizen not only read, write, and communicate using digital technology, but also think and consider critically cultural, political, and educational values associated with those activities. Nowadays, digital literates need a much broader approach to literacy in the digital age (Thompson,2007), as a result there is already a point of departure Safer Internet Day (ECDL, 2011).