Sunday, March 18, 2012

Week 10. Great mixed emotions

Ironacally, on the last week of Webskills course my computer breaks down. But I got my phone that can help me publish this post. I can tell you that is really hard for me to type with my phone so if I make a few typos, just excuse me. Week has been somehow different from the other weeks, diffrent because I felt more relaxed and there weren't many assignments but on the other hand I feel a little melancholic because I won't get to "hang out" with such wonderful people, devoted educators from all over the world. The fact that we won't get to hang out with each other can be solved somehow because I created a Facebook group where we can still hang out, share, collaborate and continue our lifetime learning process. Your more than welcome to join the group by adding me "Nando Beconi Delfino" on Facebook. We're already 6 on the group, and we've already share some interesting things. The only condition is that the reading and comments don't have deadlines like in the Webskills Online Course, :DLOL. Speaking of the course I can't thank Janine, and all of you enough for your incredible support, feedback and collaboration throughout the entire course. As I remember how happy I was when I got the mail from the US Embassy and the UO telling me that I got the scholarship to do the course. I must also thank the US Embassy and the University of Oregon for letting me participate on the course. I hope you understand that using my phone to type this post is driving me crazy so I'll keep my post short. I really wish to see you at least on Facebook and keep in touch and maybe someday, who knows, meet you personally all of you, somewhere in the world. Take care.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Many thanks to everyone.

I thought the best way to send my gratitude to Janine Sepulveda, my classmates, the University of Oregon and the US. Embassy is with a recorded message in my VOKI AVATAR. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Enhancing interaction, communication, and learners' autonomy with some tech tools.

On one of the last weeks of this online course we still learn new ways to use technology in teaching. I am sure there are tons of resources online to be discovered, and we , as teacher, we are long-life learners that need to discover new tools constantly. But so far I have learned about some interesting sites to enhance interaction, communication and autonomy. , , or google sites give you the possibilities to have online spaces to interact, communicate, evaluate, practice and promote autonomy. These three sites let you communicate and interact with students and parents. On posts can be publish and students or anybody can add comments. Google sites allow you to have a site of your course, like we have in our online course. I found this tutorial about becoming an e-teacher using Google sites . And last, but not least we have that permits you to have discussions about topics, share links and assignments.
Make exercises online to print out

Make exercises to use online or offline on a computer or to print out
Make exercises online to use online:
  • Web Poster Wizard - free website for teachers and students to use as part of a course. It uses a very plain format, but it's very easy to create something with text, one graphic, and links on each of 4   pages:
  • SMILE- a variety of web-based activity generators. Requires a free registration. Click on "I am a new user" on the opening page in order to register. The applications here are quite interesting, but they take more time to learn to do.
normal logo
ANVILL is a free Course Management System (CMS)  that has an array of possibilities. ANVILL is a speech-based toolbox for language teachers and its core are very modern web-based audio and video tools from duber dot com and the University of OregonVoiceboardsLiveChat, and Quizzes and Surveys and  TCast. Teachers can create media-rich lessons. There are templates for audio, video, and image tasks; there are also tools for text-based discussions like blogs and forums. Whether you're linking to existing web content, or uploading your own texts or media files. 
I have a lot to work on developing sites or activities for my courses, but it is really encouraging to work with tools that can enhance communication, interaction, autonomy and most importantly learning. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Learners' autonomy.

 In the article "What Is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered?" by Dimitrios Thanasoulas The author  provides a  definition of autonomy, from Holec (1981: 3, cited in Benson & Voller, 1997: 1) who describes it as 'the ability to take charge of one's learning'. On a general note, the term autonomy has come to be used in at least five ways (see Benson & Voller, 1997: 2):
  • for situations in which learners study entirely on their own;
  • for a set of skills which can be learned and applied in self-directed learning;
  • for an inborn capacity which is suppressed by institutional education;
  • for the exercise of learners' responsibility for their own learning;
  • for the right of learners to determine the direction of their own learning.
Within the context of education, though, there seem to be seven main attributes characterising autonomous learners (see Omaggio, 1978, cited in Wenden, 1998: 41-42):
  1. Autonomous learners have insights into their learning styles and strategies;
  2. take an active approach to the learning task at hand;
  3. are willing to take risks, i.e., to communicate in the target language at all costs;
  4. are good guessers;
  5. attend to form as well as to content, that is, place importance on accuracy as well as appropriacy;
  6. develop the target language into a separate reference system and are willing to revise and reject hypotheses and rules that do not apply; and
  7. have a tolerant and outgoing approach to the target language.
Dimitrios Thanasoulas also points out attitude,  motivation, and self esteem.   Which I consider very important because a learner needs these aspect to foster his/her learning process. On the other hand, Samuel P-H Sheu concludes that the paramount concern is that unless these conditions such as n examination-dominated system are remedied or teachers adopt appropriate activities, learner autonomy will remain a bird-in-the-bush rather than a bird-in-the-hand. One suggestion is leaving the development of learner autonomy until students reach the freer atmosphere of a university or college, and the increased maturity. 
In conclusion, learner autonomy is up to us to be implemented, even if we find  constrains, such as educational system, colleagues and so forth, we must foster autonomy in our learners. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our project is on GO!

This week has been fantastic. I finally launched my project with my students. My project consists of voki avatars, which are speaking avatars done on (like the one I have on my blog). Students have to create their own voki avatars and type the text for the voki avatar to speak them out. The text is a short real personal description of themselves, but they are not allowed to say their real names.  My students are college students, aged 18-35 years old. When they finish their voki avatars, they send the embedded code of their vokis to my e-mail account. When I get their vokis I post them on a blog I made specially for the project. . Students try to guess who the real person is begin the avatar by commenting on the blog posts.
On Wednesday I set up the class with a projector and a laptop to show my students a tutorial video on how to create a voki avatar as Janine suggested on a post on Nicenet . My students did not know about the project,  so I explained them that we were going to do a project which involved creating voki avatars. I had to do the explanation in Spanish, which I normally don't use in the class, but since explaining the project in English would have been very difficult for them to understand because is a beginners' class. The fact that I spoke Spanish I think it made them feel more comfortable, because I hardly use Spanish in my lessons. While I was explaining the  project I could feel that some of them were getting enthusiastic already. Some of them were a little puzzled but they were making questions and trying to understand how to create their voki avatars. I did not feel any resistance or reticence during my entire explanation. I showed them the tutorial video about how to create their voki avatars, and then I could feel a great vibe. They were all eager to explore and create their vokis. They have to create their them as homework because they all have internet access at home or cyber cafes.
On Wednesday evening I already got some vokis, that means that they went home and created their vokis right away because my class finished at 6 pm. Some of them sent me the link to their vokis, but those links are not good enough to post on the blog. I answered their mails and told them to send me the embedded code to be able to post them on the blog. On Thursday, two students brought their laptops with 3G internet access to explore and create their vokis. I had to stop my lesson  because students made questions on how to create, publish and things about the project. I used my students device to show them stuff.  Right then I fell I hit the right button. They were motivated about the project. .
Today, Friday,  one of my students asked me to post my own voki too. I agreed because I feel that they also want me to participate.  I expect them to send the rest of their vokis on the weekend. So hopefully by Monday I´ll have all their vokis posted on the blog.

Week 6: More interactive classes.

It's hard to believe that we're past halfway through this wonderful and enlightening online course. I have learned so much in every single week. Week 6 was not the exception. Teaching large clasess techniques have shed some light on how to manage big groups, give more interactive classes, and promote a student-centered environment.
In "Using Technology in Large Classes" some resources are cited. 
  • Online Assessment
  • Improving lectures with Technology
  • Course Websites 
  • Enriching discussions with Technology 

Online Assessment is one of the resources that I've never used. I find it really interesting to interact with students and also assess them at the same. I have to get deeper and learn more about Blackboard, and Respondus. I learned so far that I can create tests, surveys, and other possibilities. 
The article about Improving Lectures with Technology is also very instructive. It provides with lots of tips on how to prepare for your presentation, how to make your presentation more interactive. These tips are very enlightening. They have opened a new array of techniques and approaches to presentations. The most important thing about presentations is to student-centered and to foster students' engagement and participation. 
PowerPoint presentations can be more interactive. I am personally not very familiar with PowerPoint because I always thought that it was dull and passive to have PPT presentations, but after trying it out I learned that it has a lot of features I did not know about. I gave a workshop on a PARATESOL (Paraguay TESOL) Conference last year, and I immediately refused to use PowerPoint and I used Prezi instead. But now I have to recognize that PowerPoint has got good points that I need to explore more in depth.
In conclusion, as I reflected in prior posts, tools are out there to help us reach learning objectives.If those objectives can be reached with technology, it promotes motivation and engagement in our students. I can't wait to implement my project with my students.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Enamored with PBL, Alternative Assessment, and

Yes, I'm absolutely in love with PBL, alternative assessment and I'm thrilled to implement everything I learned in Week 6.
First of all, I strongly believe in alternative assessment to make our students active participants in learning and evaluation. Students used to be and still are evaluated by teachers or even school standard tests. But by implementing alternative assessment, students can evaluate each other in a same level, friendly environment different from the teacher-student evaluation.
Second of all, PBL (Project Based Learning) also enhances our students to be active participants of their learning by choosing topics that are interesting or relevant to them. I never knew that PBL can be evaluated in a systematic way with rubrics and alternative assessment.
And last but not least, since the very beginning I realize potential. I tried it myself and I had so much fun, so I figure my students will have so much fun creating their own voki avatars. My whole project is based in this simple tool that just lets me tackle some of the issues I have with my class. As I said before the tool itself is not really important but the learning objective. Here with I can address some of the issues I face with my students.
I'm really excited to implement this tool and to evaluate the outcomes and most importantly that my students enjoy the whole process while learning or reaching some objectives.