Monday, December 3, 2012

My First Podcast -- A Literature Review on Web 2.0

Welcome to my Podcast Station.

Literature Resource 

This week, we have read these two articles of Web 2.0, which is "the future of education". We are getting familiar with services,  applications, features, and educational values in Web 2.0. I love reading them, because they are very informative and illuminating. This podcast is a literature review about them. I think I still need more time to digest and develop them...Thank you for listening...

New thoughts on Web 2.0 from Bakhtinian view

With the development of internet, the way people perceive and generate information has greatly changed. For example, since the advent of web 2.0 services, like blogs, youtube, and social networks, people not only can get information online, but also become more connected. Dialogues in this digital age harness the power of the learning community with a blending of world views. Users have become more and more in charge of the information sharing, evaluation, and creation process and the networks enable them to interact and have all sorts of communication on this open cyber arena. Individuals act as agents, participating in the learning activities and constructing new knowledge in a more personalized way. In addition, these participant-generated information are available 24/7 and open to those who have the access to the internet, hence making it possible for readers to experience the heteroglossia in this changing world and consolidate, integrate, and synthesize a complex unity from a hybrid of utterances.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Using Podcasts in Language Classrooms

Podcasts can be used in language classrooms in the way of integrating the four main language skills (listening, reading, speaking, and writing)

In listening and speaking class, by employing podcasts, teachers can help students to improve note-taking and discussion skills. When they listen the first time, students need to listen and write down as much information as they can according to what they hear. They can listen again, when they need to pay special attention to catch the key words and try to make an outline of the podcast. Teachers can also design certain transcripts completion worksheets as scaffolding to help students to capture the missing information. Then, students will be required to compare the notes they took in groups and each group needs to give definition of the key/new concepts from the podcasts or reading material.  Hence, their speaking skills will be improved as well when exchanging their notes. 

In reading and writing class, teachers can use a podcast as a prompt, after which students will be given some other relevant reading materials of the same topic as the podcast's. Hence, students can get an reinforcement in understanding the theme based on the context of what they have heard and read. Also, teachers can design a series of questions involved higher order of thinking, like analyzing the reason and offering solutions, etc. For example, in a group discussion section, students will be asked to state their opinion by using the facts or expressions from the podcast or reading material to support their views. In the end, students will be required to summarize what they learned from the podcast and reading material. 

Here is a practice of using podcast in teaching Listening and Speaking: Dining at a Restaurant.

  I.         Listen to the podcast carefully and take note.
  II.       Compare notes with your partner  (Pair Work) and make an outline together.
  III.      Answer the questions according to your notes:
  1.   Why did the author go to the restaurant called Il Fornaio?
  2.   How is the hostess like? Explain why do you think so by using the information from the podcast.
  3.   Draw a picture of the silverware set up.
  4.   What did the author and his friend order for drinks?
  5.   What appetizer did the author consider as a must?

 IV.         Peer interview
1.     Who does the cooking in your family/ house?    
2.     What is your favourite food?
a.     How often you eat it

b.     How the food is made

c.     Whether you make it yourself 
d.     Why it is your favourite food.

3.     How often do you eat out?
4.     What is your favourite restaurant?
a.     Where the restaurant was
b.     Why you chose this restaurant
c.     What type of food you ate in this restaurant
d.     What you enjoyed about this place

5.     Many people say that cooking and eating at home is better for the individual and the family than eating out in restaurants or canteens. Do you agree or disagree?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

ePals -- Global Community Where Learners Connect

To "Safely Connect With Classrooms Around the World for Collaborative, Project-Based Learning", ePals has built a global community of social learning networks, making it possible to enhance students' engagement and raise their global awareness through collaboration. 

To start with, we can find a classroom and match the students according to their age group, location, first language, etc, enabling them to "break" the wall of traditional classroom, and invest their efforts to collaborate with students from different corners of the world to accomplish their projects. Hence, more and more students can become members in this global learning center and get engaged in this cultural exchange community. Through participation, they can not only share resources, but also contribute and complete projects as a team. Also, in this global community, learning happens 24/7  and beyond the physical boundary of the traditional classrooms.

After establishing an account on ePals, we can start a new project or join a project. Since students from different parts of the world can be connected, they can interpret an issue through multiple angles. It can give each individual participant a wider perspective and an open mind through intercultural dialogue, making it possible for them to have friends all over the world, through which their cross-cultural communication skills can be improved to a large extent. I find the cultural center fascinating, where we can find a wide range of cultural projects. For example, we can let students to create a cultural profile or make make a video of their daily lunch routine.  Moreover, I think it would be beneficial for students to get a sense of accountability as global citizens, if we could put the Global Citizens unit into our teaching practice, where students can know more about the outside world by exploring the facts about certain counties or global issues. For instance, we can let students to do this Global Community Country Investigation, in which students can have a closer look at the social, cultural, political, economic and physical aspects of their chosen countries.

We can use ePals in EFL classrooms at different grade levels. For example, if we teach American holidays to a group of middle school students in China, we can initiate a project with students from America (Jennifer Nypert's students for example), who have been brought up in the target culture. We can assign our students a task and let them to conduct a questionnaire or interview with the cultural partners and make a summary about the American traditions in terms of holidays according to the response from the partners. Plus, we can let the students from both classrooms to make a compare and contrast between two cultures together and present and publish their works via other social media, like Prezi or class Voice Thread. 

If we teach English speakers Chinese in an American high school, we can use ePals to build connections with a group of students in China (Peter Scott's class for example). We can design a series of cultural activities together. For example, we can let our students to do an examination of the Education systems in both countries. In this study, they need to do a research first to have certain background knowledge on the schooling system in the target culture. Then, they need to make a survey or conduct an interview with their partners to get a closer image of the given topic according to their partners' response. After they analyze the data they collected, they will be required to write a report and make a presentation on Prezi/ googledocs and share the link on class blogs. Hence, by completing this project, our students can not only get more authentic input from the interlocutors but also get more opportunities to use the target language, thus enabling them to improve their proficiency and communicative skills as a whole. Through interaction, students from both classrooms can learn new cultural knowledge from their partners.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Garden Walk Buffalo 2012 -- A practice of Using Animoto in Teaching

Make your own slideshow at Animoto.

Life a like a journey where our hearts wander.
Let's hug the tree, kiss the sunshine and smell the flower.
Delightful blooms fill our eyes and minds.
Let's take pictures, keeping the sweet memories fresh and last forever.

This is a demonstration of employing Animoto in the language classroom. We went to the Garden Walk with a group of ESL students this summer in Buffalo.  I think this video could have been used as a writing prompt after they came back, which might strike a chord and offer certain inspirational sparks to them to retrieve the shared memories and synthesize something original. They may find themselves engaged and motivated in the writing process. Eventually, they can create something to share with others because they experienced it together in such a beautiful occasion.

A good writer should be a good observer and observation enables students to think about the life and the world around them. Hence, they can learn and get new ideas from what they see and what they experience. This animated slides show with music was design to create a relaxing learning environment for the students to be engaged in the thinking and writing process about the how they like the Garden Walk. Also, students would be required to create their own Animoto show by using the pictures they took.

I think observation-based learning makes it possible for students to discover and explore their life. Thus, they can think and build the connection with their existing schema to form new understanding about the world. Each individual has different perspective and angle to see the world; hence they may have different interpretation about the same topic. In other words, they may hold various opinions, draw different conclusions, have different findings. As teachers, we can let them to work together to contribute as a whole to create a much more comprehensive image about certain topic.

Similarly, we can also implement to create other video clips to introduce holiday traditions in certain country. Alternatively, they can introduce some cultural elements in their home countries, like clothes, food, etc. Also, we can make let students to write a memoir since they were young.

Using Voicethread in Teaching

(Note: Please click my icon to listen to the instruction first, and then listen to your classmates' comments. You need to come up with new ideas which are different from others. Thank you!)

This is a practice of using Voicethread in language classrooms.  I regarded it as a discussion forum for brainstorming, inviting students to contribute together to figure out an action plan to tackle the given problem. I think voice thread can be largely used in speaking class. For example, we can raise some hot topics or popular phenomena around the world, like globalization or study abroad, and let students to analyze the reasons of them. Likewise, we can let them to further evaluate the pros and cons of them.  We can also conduct a debating activity via it, in which we can raise certain controversial issues and let students to take a stand and defense themselves.

I also find my classmates' Voice Thread very interesting. In Julia's work, she initiated a book review seminar, where students can share their favorite characters in the books they have read. I like it, because I think her practice is extremely suitable for readers' workshop or reading conference when we teach reading. In Ning's work, she created a cultural workshop and opened a window for students to know Chinese culture, also enabling students to make a compare and contrast with their own culture. In Alicia's work, she also made us to be aware of the cultural differences on school settings between countries. I like Ning's and Alicia's works, because they can raise students' cultural awareness through talking about specific cultural elements. Following their teaching modes, we can employ and develop more cultural topics for students to examine and present. I think students would like it and learn a lot from this activity.

Since it is an audio-visual presentation recorded in advanced and retrievable with the access to the Internet regardless of the limitation of time and space, it can be used to a large extent both inside and outside language classrooms.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Practice of Storybook

I made this storybook by using Bookr and Flickr images to tell a funny story. I planned to present certain scenario with dialogues, which is funny. After having an idea of the story, I was trying to figure out how Bookr works but I found it difficult to find the pictures that I want when I made this storybook. I tried my best to search different key words and evaluate all the pictures I saw and selected the best relevant ones. Also, when I turned back and I lost my data, so I have to redo it again. Maybe what I learned is how to try new methods and do new things through error and trials and keep on trying and never give up.

I would like to ask my students to create storybooks to tell jokes from their culture, because humors are culturally-embeded. Other students can give feedbacks or comments to the story. Alternatively, they can tell a fable or illustrate an idiom or proverb. Hence, they can appreciate the values in other cultures or find the relevancy among cultures.  The linguistics objective is to enable students to describe a scenario by using a second language in a meaningful context. The pedagogical objective is to give students an opportunity to appreciate the humor and value in other culture by reading other students' jokes, fables and idioms.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Educational Implications of Digital Storylines

Since we were young, we have been fascinated in reading storybooks, because the engaging scenarios and characters are so vivid that offers us lots of enjoyable reading and unforgettable learning experience. Also, the well-illustrated pictures always have a magic to lead our thoughts to another world, making it possible for us to spread the wings of imagination. Hence, we can use story-lines in our teaching to enhance study language skills, especially digital story-lines, since computer sciences are booming to such a large extent that we can not avoid the trend involving techonolgies in any way in modern education. It is a practical avenue for L2 educators and learners to present their ideas and voices.

7 Things You Should Know About Digital Storytelling gives us a comprehensive view about the rationale of using digital story-lines, in which the author pointed out that "The storyteller then assembles rich media to support the ideas and emotions in that script, including music or other audio effects, personal or public-domain images, animations or video, and other electronic elements." Hence, compared with the traditional storybook, digital story telling can apply the element of multi-media, like pictures, musics, and other visual effects, enabling students to enjoy a verbal, visual and audio feast when reading digital stories. We also read The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling in class. "Digital Storytelling is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories. " and the author gives us lots of inspiring ideas about the topics that can be used in the class room -  "historical events,  life in one's own community  or life in other corners of the universe."

As future L2 teachers, we can design a series of interactive activities and practical projects inside and outside the classrooms by using the digital story-lines. For example, we can let students to
1) describe a familiar place, like school or hometown
2) describe a person, like teacher, friend or family members.
3) describe an object that is special for you.
4) describe an unforgettable experience
5) tell a joke
6) tell a fable

Teaching Plan

Students Profile: International ESL adult learners / High Intermediate level

Topic: Describing a familiar place

Teaching objectives: 
1) Linguistic goal:
  • To be able to describe a place that is very familiar to the students, like hometown or school
  • Scrutinize specific cultural symbols or elements in that place, like buildings, transportation, people, signature products, etc.
2) Pedagogical goal:
  • Logical Chain: Expanding ideas and following a series of patterns to describe certain topics
  • Emotional factors: students will be motivated to describe something from their culture either school or the city they come from, because warm affection will be attached in it and the affective filter can be lowered down. 
3) Cultural goal:
  • Being aware of one's own culture 
  • Trying to appreciate others' cultures
Teaching procedure:
  • choosing a topic
  • initiating an outline 
  • selecting suitable pictures
  • creating a digital storybook
  • sharing it on class Twitter account
  • giving comments on classmates' works
  • The number of pages (Minimum: 6pages)
  • Pictures (quantity and quality)
  • Texts (quantity and quality)
  • Writing conventions and mechanics (grammar, spelling, capitalization, etc.)
  • Participation (posting on time and giving comments on others' work)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Digital Games: Entertainment or Education?

Whether digital games can be applied in L2 classrooms has long been a controversial issue among teachers and scholars. Some people think playing video games is a time-consuming entertaining practice, which might also increase the likelihood of making the kids more aggressive, while others maintain that certain video games of educational value can be employed in instructional settings. For example, serious games may facilitate students' learning, enabling them to solve problems and acquire certain knowledge or skills while playing. Similarly, strategy games ask for tactics and decision-making skills to win either individually or collectively. Hence, I think digital games are not 100% an evil. As teachers, we need to figure out the suitable genre and theme for the students to target our teaching objectives, if we want to employ cyber games in our classroom. 

I have tried SUPERBETTER (recommenced in Game for Change) for a couple of days which I found a pretty great game for people to stay healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. It really can change one's life little by little through a series of little actions, because there are lots of good ideas and healthy tips in this games, enabling players to transform their attitudes and life gradually. Hence, students can use game strategies to create a super better self. I think this game can be used in my future class room. The theme of the unit is Staying Healthy. 

The teaching objectives is that students need to be able to use  visual notes or diagrams (clusters for example), to illustrate different aspects in terms of staying healthy according to this game. Also, they should be able to collect and prioritize detailed suggestions from the game for maintaining physical, mental, emotional and social resilience. The linguistic teaching objective is to be able to use past tense to demonstrate their old habits and use present tense to say the change they do. As for the functional perspective, students need to be able to give suggestions by using functional phrases and structures.  

I will give the students a rubric and all the requirements in terms of the format for the visual aid, grammar especially using the correct tenses to show the contrast between the past and present, vocabulary relating health issue, coherence and cohesion in presenting a systematic topic, functional phrases in giving suggestions will be listed. If the time is limited and students' proficiency level is limited, group work or peer work can be conducted. Hence, self-assessment and peer assessment can be applied. 

Suggested video: Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Using Digital Games in L2 Classroom

Gamification is to use game elements and constructs to accomplish certain objectives in the non-entertaining settings, like business, education, etc., which has become a trend in languages learning and teaching.  Implementing digital games  L2 classrooms enjoys considerable merits in reaching the instructional goals. 

First of all, playing digital games could be an engaging and relaxing experience, which can lower learners' anxiety in learning. In Tom Chatfield's video, 7 ways games reward the brain, he points out playing games can compel, motive and transfix individuals. Games can generate emotional, individual and collective rewards, which increase individual emotional, psychological and neurological engagement. 

Moreover, during the process of game playing, learners must be motivated to try their best to move and excel with continuous efforts. The more familiar with the games they become, and the more they points they earn, and the more they want to play. The process of wanting and liking of the game increase learners’  ambition and delight in engaging in subjects. They are more likely to become motivated in the learning process.

Furthermore, I think games truly can help people develop themselves and make them smart by thinking and solving problems while playing. Players might also get excited to challenge themselves to the uncertain obstacles in the new game situation after they pass one.  In order to win, they need to reason and put consistent efforts to pass another task through errors and trials. Hence, this is like a circle, which makes them hardly to stop. 

Let's take teaching vocabulary for example. I like using Vocabulary Games, because there are many types of games (like Memory Match / Cross Word/ Word Search/ Which one/ Unscramble, etc.) arranged by themes and levels. Personally, I seldom play games, but when I clicked START button..I found myself getting hooked, because it is so easy to click the mouse and match the words. The animation makes the activity very interesting and interactive. There are always hints to make a guess and opportunities to learn when I gave a wrong answer. For example, if I teach Halloween vocabulary. I will make a word search grid to let students to play with it. The teaching objective is to aid students in learning new words and their spellings by intensively searching for them in the puzzle, letter by letter. Also, I can use the cross word to let students write the words based on the definition I provide. Hence, they need to read the English explanation and retrieve the word from the memory by spelling them correctly in the boxes. Students will find these games more engaging than read and copy the words. Teachers need to provide students assistance if possible to make sure students are on the right track. Also, walkthrough can be provided if the task is challenging, which can guide and facilitate students' thinking and output. Relevant pictures and musics can be provided as long as they can facilitate students' learning outcomes.

To assess whether students' learning outcomes match the teaching objectives or not, we need to make sure students fully participate in the activity at first hand. Hence, we can use peer work or group work to invite them to collaborate and get involved in the games. During the game process, we need to observe students' needs and give explanation if possible. After the game, we can recycle the words and  adapt them in another game genre that they are familiar with to see whether they can figure it out again. 

As for the supplement games for students to play outside classrooms, OGI Games is a good resource. If I teach a group students majoring in medical science, I will introduce Arm Surgery to them. There are a lot of vocabulary in the context of hospital. Also, students can learn a lot of verbs by following the instructions by immersing themselves in the virtual situation.  Moreover, they can learn the words about sequence by doing the operation. 

Hence, in this game, students can learn vocabularies in a meaningful context. Also, they can learn by doing, which benefits their understanding. Moreover, they will find it very relaxed. Digital games for L2 classrooms are like alliterative but powerful arrows for us to target the teaching objectives and students' needs.