Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Wikiproject

After the completion of the EVO 2009 sessions this year, I approached my assistant director with the idea of starting up an institutional wiki. My conceptualization of it was a place for faculty collaboration across our EAP program, especially since the majority of our teachers are part-timers. We are like many ships passing in the night, and there is rarely a time when we meet together and discuss what is going on in our classes. I thought that the wiki could be a way to virtually unite us, a place where we can share resources, insights, ideas, concerns, etc. I also think through exposure and manipulation of a faculty wiki, our faculty could get accustomed to the wiki as a potential tool for their classrooms. Perhaps from there other projects and collaborative efforts could spring up.

The assistant director then asked me to write a proposal for said wiki. This has stumped me. I'm not sure exactly what should be in the proposal nor what the proposal should look like. After two months of silence in my blog, I decided that I would start to blog as I work on this "Wikiproject." The blog is the springboard for my thoughts and ideas about the proposal, like an organized brainstorm. I also welcome any insights, comments, or ideas.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 Tutorial using Jing

I am nearly ready to create the tutorial I promised for the Enhancing Lessons Yahoo Group! I've been looking through some of the basic features of and have made list of what I want to include in the tutorial. I have not yet tried to make a video tutorial using Jing, so this will be my first. Most of the features that I plan to highlight in the tutorial will be basic ones, that many people may already know about.

Here is what I plan to cover:
  • creating an account
  • importing bookmarks
  • installing and using the bookmarklet tool
  • organizing your bookmarks
  • a little bit about tagging
  • networking with other users
  • subscribing to tags
I think that Jing only allows 5 minute video tutorials, I likely will not be able to fit everything in at one time. I expect to finish it by this weekend.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What does it mean to be hospitable to your guests?

While exploring the tools for week 5, I thought about using these tools for exploring sociolinguistic rules and pragmatic uses of language. Because I work with students in an ESL environment, there is often a need to help them understand cultural differences they encounter as they make friends and become integrated into the community. Using the comics, or for example, Dvolver, seemed like one way to bring to life some of the uses of language and illustrate misunderstandings that may occur when people with two different sets of sociolinguistic rules interact.

This comic deals with the differences in what it means to be hospitable across cultures. For example, some students coming to live and study in the U.S. are surprised when they eat at their hosts' houses and the host may not offer them food multiple times. Multiple offers of food may be customary in their home countries, and therefore expected of a host. Furthermore, they may feel reluctant to ask for directly for food or drink. They may begin to see the host as not hospitable to their guests by not making offers several times, when in reality the host was working within their own set of cultural norms.

With this type of visual, we could explore these cultural differences in the classroom. It was inspired by a text we read in the high-intermediate reading course about sociolinguistic rules and sociolinguistic competence.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Slideshare lesson plan

Here is a formal lesson plan for the Slideshare tool that we were introduced to Week 4 of Enhancing Lessons EVO session. This lesson was created for an imaginary course. I wasn't having much luck thinking up ways of integrating this tool for the course I am teaching now (pre-intermediate reading in an intensive English program).

Giving Academic Presentations

Learners (proficiency, age, number, goals, motivation level, type of class i.e skills-based): The target learners for this module would be advanced non-native speakers of English already accepted to graduate level courses in U.S. universities. They would be graduate teaching assistants (TAs) with the responsibility of teaching undergraduate level introductory courses and labs in their fields of study. Examples of fields of study may be mathematics, physics, and a variety of engineering fields. Because they are not only students but active researchers in their fields, they would also be giving academic presentations and lectures at conferences and other universities to a variety of audience types. The course would be an oral communication course specifically for academic English. It would be a credit-bearing graduate-level course in a U.S. university.

Goal: Participants can become more aware of their areas of strengths and weaknesses in their academic presentations by getting feedback from their teacher, classmates, and undergraduate students who are taking or may take the introductory level courses the TAs will teach. The participants in this module or course would also be introduced to this program for potential use in their teaching, making this module an opportunity not only for them to improve their English but to include Web 2.0 tools in their future classrooms.


By the end of this lesson, students will:

· be able to upload a slide show to Slideshare, accompanied by a narration.
· become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses in giving academic presentations.
· give feedback on their classmates’ presentations
· be able to integrate feedback from their classmates, instructor(s), and undergraduate students to make improvements
· develop a teaching strategy that will benefit them in their future teaching.

1. At the beginning of the course, the students will prepare and give mini presentations from their fields of study in class. The teacher would have researched about the specific segmental and suprasegmental aspects of pronunciation that are typically problematic for the group of learners and also would observe the students to determine the most important aspects of oral communication to work on during the course. Lesson plans based on these aspects, whatever they may be, will be the focus of in-class work for the first part of the course.

2. During class, the students will give an academic presentation on a topic that they would teach in their introductory level courses at the university, using a slide show as a visual aid. Teacher gives feedback regarding the aspects of oral communication that were covered in the first part of the course. Other students also give feedback, organized and facilitated by feedback sheets created and distributed by the instructor.

3. Students will be introduced to the Slideshare tool in-class and asked to upload the already created slide show, or to create another one on a topic that they would teach in their introductory level courses at the university.

3. Students use a voice recording program (such as Audacity, or, if the university provides access to software in a language lab students can use this). Students will prepare the lecture or explanation outside of class, incorporating the feedback given from their teacher and classmates. In class, they will record the audio and link it with the presentation.

4. University undergraduates are asked to view and listen to the Slideshare creations. The Slideshare creations would be made available on the class wiki or blog, and short surveys created in Survey Monkey would be linked to the site so that the students viewing and listening to the presentations would be able to give instant, anonymous feedback on their own time and at their own pace.

5. The feedback given about the presentations would be reviewed by the teachers and the participants in the module or course and discussed in class.

Anticipated Problems/Solutions:

One anticipated problem is finding willing undergraduates for the task. To remedy this, collaboration between the department offering the oral communication course and the departments the TAs are studying and working in is necessary. If possible, the instructors of the introductory undergrad courses could offer a minimal amount of extra credit in the course for those students who voluntarily participate in the project. Then, of course, the feedback could not be anonymous. The students would have to include their name, course number and instructor information.


Have a discussion with students about the potential application of this tool for the current and future undergraduate courses they are teaching.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Pictures from Peace Corps first Bubbleshare creation!

Here are some pictures from my Peace Corps service from 2002-2004. I was an EFL educator in Gubadag, Turkmenistan where I worked in an elementary school teaching EFL to both students and teachers.
BubbleShare: Share photos - Find great Clip Art Images.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Musings on Voice Thread and Chinswing

I know I'm a little late in writing this post. And this post does not really represent a formal lesson plan. It is simply a collection of the thoughts I was having about the two tools Voice Thread and Chinswing, mixed in with ideas that I heard from other participants and the moderators of the Enchancing Lesson EVO session.

Of the two tools, I really liked Voice Thread. What I liked:
1) The fact that all participants in the Voice Thread comment around an image or can upload their own images.
2) Ability to leave an audio, text, or doodled message.
3) The opportunity to leave an audio message with a video.

Some uses I see for this tool:
1) Storytelling (I know someone mentioned this already...) I really like the idea of putting up an image and having students tell the story, perhaps each student in a class is asked to continue the story from the previous contributor. A reverse activity could be a summary activity. The students could read a story in class, and then have to re-tell the story using their own words and finding or creating images to go along with the story.

2) Pre-reading prediction activity. Using it for an alternative way to complete a common classroom activity that we use in reading classes: predicting what a story is about based on an image related to the story and the title. This is something that I do quite often in reading classes. Before we read something, an image from the story could be posted to the Voice Thread. As homework, the students would view the image and leave a comment with a prediction about what the story will be about. The reading then would be given in class the next day. In a way, this can build more anticipation about what the reading will be. A follow-up might be to go back and comment on what predictions were accurate and which ones were not.

3) Alternative endings. Another activity I thought about was to give students an incomplete story, a real cliff-hanger. Then, they each have to (or in assigned groups) come up with an ending to the story and present the ending in their own Voice Thread.

Now, about Chinswing. I liked this tool less, likely because I really like the idea of coupling images with text and audio chat. Chinswing reminded me of the Sanako software I used in the language lab with my students in Spanish when I was a TA, except the only audience the students had was me, listening and commenting on their recorded contributions. Basically, the students were given a prompt which targeted specific structures and/or vocab and then they had to speak freely about it for 1-2 minutes. They were not supposed to script out what they would say, but of course many tried to.

I suppose the positive aspect that Chinswing has over software like Sanako that is usually purchased by the institution is the following.
1) It is free.
2) There is potential for a wider audience (if anyone is listening)

My first ideas for this tool were pronunciation practice. For example, in an oral communication class, students would be working on different segmental and suprasegmental elements of their speech. Having raised their awareness of their specific strenghts and weaknesses in class, they would then record responses to a prompt on Chinswing and then be asked to self-monitor the specific aspects identified. I realize this is very general, the specifics would be determined by the course, instructor, and students. Students would also be encouraged to comment not on the pronunciation of their classmates, but on the content of their responses.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"A Vision for incorporating blogging into lessons"

The Scenario: "'You are a 'blind optimist' who believes that by using blogs in your lessons you might afford new learning opportunities for students and perhaps encourage your colleagues to become interested in using Web 2.0 tools. You would like to present 'A Vision for Incorporating Blogging into Lessons' at the first staff meeting of the year. Explain your plan for incorporating blogging. (What do you have in mind and how you will accomplish it?).'"

First, I would spend some time doing some blogging activities with my students for a semester or so before I would approach my colleagues with the idea of incorporating blogging into our program. I would also collect examples of blogs from similar programs.

Our program divides reading, writing, grammar/speaking, and listening into separate courses across 4 levels. I've taught reading at two different levels so far: high intermediate and now pre-intermediate. A large part of the curriculum has been vocabulary acquisition, reading skills and strategies being the other part. We do a lot of vocabulary exercises and assessment.

One idea: Set up a class blog, and then provide prompts or scenarios every week that would elicit the vocabulary we are currently working on. The students would have to respond in a comment or with a posting that included some of the new vocabulary items in a meaningful way.

Another idea: Set up a class blog, and instruct each member of the class to set up a blog as well. The scenarios and prompts would be posted on the class blog and then each student would respond in their own blogs with a posting that used the vocabulary in a meaningful way. They would also be encouraged (or required) to comment on other blogs.

After I had collected enough data, i.e. student blogs, I would share this with my colleagues. The main points I would focus on:
1. Blogging does not have to be a substitute for other types of activities in class that the teachers find useful. If they really like giving fill-in-the-blank activities, blogging can be used as an addition to that.
2. The blogs give the teacher an opportunity to give instant feedback on the student's work.
3. The blogs allowed for the students to see each other's work.

I would then have them brainstorm activities for blogs for the different courses. Or perhaps, in what ways we could use blogs to compound the information they are getting from each of their classes.

I think that it would be important in my program to start small, using a blog for a set of specific activities, for example. No one in our program has done anything like this so I would reinforce the following:

-blogging, although many may think of it as a social tool, also can be harnessed for educational purposes
-blogging is not a substitute for 'tried and true' methods (I think that this would be a great hang-up) but should be seen as supplemental
-blogging has other possibilities beyond what I've shown them, we only have to start trying to see the opportunities.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My first step

This is my first post to my first blog. This blog was created as a result of my joining two EVO (Electronic Village Online) sessions, Enhancing Lessons with Web 2.0 and Multiliteracies for Social Networking and Collaborative Learning Environments. I'm just beginning to learn about and navigate Web 2.0 and I'm hoping to eventually incorporate what I learn from these sessions into my work. So far, I've started this blog, which is my first step!