Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Week #6: Web 2.0 Voice and video tools, podcasting

Within the vast world of Web 2.0 tools we can find audio and video tools. These tools are very useful when teaching a second language since they can improve the way we share information with our students.

A very popular tool used nowadays is podcast. A podcast is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and downloaded through web syndication (Wikipedia, 2009). During this week, we learned how to create podcasts using Audacity, a digital audio editor and recording application. Once recorded, we used a Podcast social subscribing site Podbean to publish our podcasts. It was a very interesting experience and I really enjoyed it. I would like to begin using this tool with my students and as soon as I do, I will share my comments with you.

This is the first podcast I created. Listen to it and leave your comments about it

Powered by Podbean.com

Our professor also told us to use another audio voice tool called Snapvine to create our own voice messages to connect with online friends and communities too. I leave you here my first Snapvine message

Comment | Copy This

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week #5: Web 2.0 - Wikis

As this short video shows, a wiki is a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites, to power community websites, and for personal note taking, among others.
Many things can be included in a wiki such as photos, videos, widgets, podcasts, etc. For educational purposes, in our case English Language Teaching, wikis work as a collaboration tool that teachers and students can use to contribute to building ideas together as a group. This tool allows everything (information, ideas, files, links) to be in one place and all members can have instant access to that place.

A Wiki is a portal for learning that:
  • promotes collaborative work
  • facilitates and develops the creation of group projects
  • allows edition. Anyone can make changes - (no more waiting for the Webmaster to get around to your requested changes)
  • encourages students' participation
  • improves the relationships among the members as well as communication and interaction

According to the creator of Wiki, Ward Cunningham, a wiki a) invites all users to edit any page or to create new pages within the wiki Web site, b) promotes meaningful topic associations between different pages by making page link creation almost intuitively easy and by showing whether an intended target page exists or not and c) is not a carefully crafted site for casual visitors. Instead, it seeks to involve the visitor in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the Web site landscape (1).

In our ICT course we just learned what a wiki is and we are currently working and developing our personal wiki projects. Mine refers to English for Scientists and it is under construction but if you are interested in its progress you can visit the following link: http://englishforscientists.wetpaint.com/

These are some wiki hosts you can visit

Wetpaint: http://www.wetpaint.com/

Pbworks: http://pbworks.com/

Wikispaces: http://www.wikispaces.com/

For more information about this topic:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Week #4: Web 2.0 Blogging

Our weekly topic this time was bloggin. You might be wondering what a blog is. Well, a blog (abbreviated from weblog) is often described as an online journal but blogs can also be better described as "web sites that are easily created and updated by those with even a minimum of technology know-how"(1). In other words, blogs are like online diaries.
For educational purposes blogs are an excellent tool teachers should use in their classrooms. Any post (topic published) can become a discussion and that is why participation is key in this process of knowledge exchange. As language teachers we have many possibilities when using blogs for and in our classes. We post our perspective of a topic, or a reading exercise, or just a simple question regarding the language we teach, and then students participate actively in the discussion of that post and that's how relationships and collaborative work are built.
In the field of Language Teaching, Aaron Campbell (2003) has outlined three types of blogs: the tutor blog, the class blog, and the learner blog (2). Each of these three types of blog can be used in language classes to provide students with the ideal space to share their thoughts, comments, knowledge, and discuss topics related to language learning.
Blogs are also a way to create different communities of bloggers (people that blog) and contact other teachers and students that do the same thing we do and have common interests. In simple words: blogs give people the power of the media, in this particular case the power of education and teaching. It'll depend on us to use it properly for the right purpose.
And you, what would you do with this power?
Check this video that shows, in a simple and illustrative way, this great tool.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Week #3: Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0

The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet. With a web browser, one can view Web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigate between them using hyperlinks (1). But what are the main features of those Web pages people see every day when surfing the net? Is there any difference among them? Yes, there is. Web sites can be classified into two types: Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. The first term refers to personal or institutional web sites that are mainly used to publish information. Some typical characteristics of a Web 1.0 site include:

  • Static pages instead of dynamic user-generated content.
  • The use of framesets.
  • There is no direct contact between the user and the site owner (limited contact with the webmaster).
  • Online guestbooks.
In contrast, Web 2.0 is commonly associated with web applications which facilitate interactive information sharing and collaboration on the WWW. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change website content. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, among others.
Web 2.0 websites allow users to do more than just retrieve information. They can build on the interactive facilities of Web 1.0 and own the data on a Web 2.0 site and exercise control over that data. Web 2.0 websites typically include some of the following features and techniques. Andrew McAfee used the acronym SLATES to refer to them:
  • Search: finding information through keyword search.
  • Links: guides to other related information.
  • Authoring: the ability to create and update content leads to the collaborative work of many rather than just a few web authors. In wikis, users may extend, undo and redo each other's work. In blogs, posts and the comments of individuals build up over time.
  • Tags: categorization of content by users adding one-word descriptions to facilitate searching, without dependence on pre-made categories.
  • Extensions: software that makes the Web an application platform as well as a document server.
  • Signals: The use of syndication technology such as RSS to notify users of content changes.

In our ICT course, the weekly task regarding this topic consisted of creating a static web page using a Web 2.0 application (a blog in http://www.wordpress.com/). We had to build a portfolio in which we show our profile as an English teacher and as a professional in the ELT field. This site has academic information that might be of interest to the ELT world. This was a good experience and we learned how to combine new tools and adding, modifying and even deleting information.

My URL in Wordpress is: http://cireneramirez.wordpress.com/ Feel free to visit it and enjoy it.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web

Week #2: ICTs in ELT

This week, we learned and discussed the topic of ICT in the field of English Language Teaching. ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology and it covers all technical means for processing and communicating information. This term is often used to describe digital technologies including methods for communication (transmission techniques, communications equipment, media) as well as techniques for storing and processing information (computing, data storage, etc.)
In our world, technology is changing so fast that people need to adjust and adapt to new trends and innovations in order for them to be updated and not to get left behind. In the case of education, both teachers and students should know how to use the new tools offered by technology and apply them in their daily life, specially in their learning/teaching contexts.
Nowadays, there are many associations around the world that integrate technology with language teaching in order to engage students in the language learning process. To fulfill this task, certain conditions are required. For example, it is mandatory at least to have Internet access and a computer. And it is also important to know the web tools available for this purpose and how to use them. A combination of all these aspects allow people to make use of ICTs in ELT effectively. However, this is an ideal context. In many cases teachers and/or students do not have either the money or the facilities to use ICTs.

In Venezuela, it is very difficult to use ICTs in all teaching contexts since most schools and universities need money and infrastructure in the first place. In my case, I teach at the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC) and the availability of technological facilities is reasonable. There is one English lab with 15 computers approximately with free Internet access. Students have English lessons twice a week and can make use of the lab any time they want. Audio and video tools are also used in class as well as the Moodle platform to have extra practice and reinforce what learned in class. Nevertheless, I have never used with my students blogs or wikis to engage them in collaborative and interactive tasks. I think it would be interesting to create a wiki or a class blog aimed at students of science to promote active participation and collaboration while learning English.