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
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
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 +
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 and click on Propose a solution
• All students should find the web site 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.