Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week #11: Web-based lessons and e-portfolios

Our ICT in ELT course is coming to its end but in this amazing experience we have learned many things regarding technology and all the possibilities to use it within the field of education, especially to teach English. One of the most useful tool to be used and integrated into the classroom is the Web. During this week, the facilitator taught about Web-based lessons and E-portfolios and their importance for teaching and learning.

Web-based lessons are lessons that integrate the use of one or more Websites for different purposes including research, reading, writing, communication and collaboration with teachers and learners around the world. These type of lessons can bring into the classroom new opportunities for students to develop ideas, knowledge and digital skills. There is so much information on the Web that many creative and original activities/lessons can be done. Different learning styles and language skills can be developed by using texts, videos and sound.

When integrating Web-based lessons into our classroom an important aspect should be taken into account: to include specific steps that describe how and when the Website will be used. In other words, it is important to include and design a Web-based Lesson Plan. A lesson plan should contain:

  • date
  • teacher
  • class/level
  • lesson length
  • topic
  • objectives (learning goals)
  • materials
  • description of the activities
  • websites to be used
  • description of follow-up activities

Example of a Web-based lesson plan to be used with the students of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC)

Teacher: Cirene Ramírez

Level: intermediate - 10 students

Lesson lenght: 90 minutes

Topic: global warming (specifically greenhouse gases)

Aim: students will recognize the theme of an oral text given in English


  1. to practice listening skills using audio and video tools via Internet
  2. to relate visual images with spoken narration in English
  3. to practice speaking skills

Materials: 10 computers with Internet access, headsets

Description of the activities: students will be asked to access Internet in order to watch a short video narrated in English. They will relate the narration with the visual aids provided in the video and then will recognize the main topic.

Website to be used: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/

Follow-up activities: students will practice speaking by sharing their comments and opinions about the video watched in class.

Regarding e-portfolios, these are a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user on the Web. Such electronic evidence may include electronic files, images, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. The process of producing an e-portfolio (writing, typing, recording, etc.) usually requires the synthesis of ideas, reflection on achievements, self-awareness and forward planning; with the potential for educational, developmental or other benefits. E-portfolios, like traditional portfolios, can facilitate students' reflection on their own learning, leading to more awareness of learning strategies and needs. By using e-portfolios, students can develop creativity and increase their motivation. Collaborative and group work are promoted and ICTs are integrated into the traditional classroom.






Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Week #10: Exploring Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)

The potential of technology is so huge that it allows teachers and facilitators to use as many available tools as possible to enlarge and improve education. Virtual learning environments (VLE) are a good example. These are "virtual places" that normally work over the Internet and provide a collection of tools for communication, uploading of content, peer assesment, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing questionnaires, among other things. The virtual space where educational interactions occur is explicitly represented: the representation of this information/social space can vary from text to 3D immersive worlds.

While originally created for distance education, VLEs are now most often used to supplement traditional face to face clasroom activities, commonly known as Blended Learning. In these environments students play an important role since they are not only active but also actors. They co-construct the virtual space.
Many universities and other institutions of higher education are increasingly turning to VLEs in order to:
  • economize on the time of teaching staff.
  • provide a service for students who increansingly look to the internet as the natural medium for finding information and resources.
  • facilitate the integration of distance and campus-based learning or of learning on different campuses.

There are different virtual environments for learning among which the most used are: Moodle, Elluminate, WiZiQ, and the virtual world Second Life. In our ICT in ELT course we have been working with WiZiQ for online lessons in which we listen and interact with our teacher and classmates using a webcam and microphones besides the different tools provided by the platform. I think this has been a very interesting topic for all language teachers that want to begin using and applying technology into their classes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Week #9: Communities of practice (CoPs) - Exploring Web 2.0 tools for Social Networks

Community of practice (CoP), according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lavee and Etienne Wenger, is a term that describes a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the member's common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. However, as Wenger stresses, not everything called a community is a community of practice. A neighborhood for instance, is often called a community, but is usually not a community of practice. Therefore, three characteristics are crucial:
  • Domain - a domain of knowledge creates common ground, inspires members to participate, guides their learning and gives meaning to their actions.
  • Community - the notion of a community creates the social fabric for that learning. A strong community fosters interactions and encourages a willingness to share ideas.
  • Practice - that while the domain provides the general area of interest for the community, the practice is the specific focus around which the community develops, shares and maintains its core of knowledge.
This important concept has found a number of practical applications in different fields such as education which is key for teachers and educators who want to improve and integrate ICTs in the classroom. The first applications of communities of practice regarding education have been in teacher training and in providing isolated administrators with access to colleagues. There is a wave of interest in these peer-to-peer professional-development activities.
Based on the previous information, there have been efforts in the educational field to create and apply this concept to improve the way languages, for example are taught. This is an example of a Community of Practice:
For more information about the topic, you can visit these links:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Week #8: Social networking - Webconferences

One of the most striking features of the web 2.0 is its power to help create and spawn communication channels on the web. These online channels are known as social networks and they provide people with connections that allow them to share or expand their interests and knowledge on a certain subject. From an educational point of view, social networks can be used as a tool for creating and sharing ideas and information as well as developing students' interest in a particular topic. In other words, they can become an excellent resource for language sessions and training.
Social networking is a powerful educational resource for language teachers and students not only because it encourages the development of much needed social and communication skills required in academic and professional environments online (Communities of Practice), but because it responds to a different way of processing the exponentially growing information on the net. AVEALMEC and ARCALL are two Latin-American associations interested in promoting the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the language classroom. They have joined forces to organize this first regional event to help spread the word on the role of ICT in the language classroom. Twelve video-conferences focuse on social networks, web tools and their potential to create Communities of Practice to share, communicate without barriers and enhance the teaching-learning process in the language classroom.
I had the opportunity to attend some of the conferences which I consider interesting and useful specially for those who are working, developing, applying and integrating ICTs into their teaching/learning contexts. I summarized three of the twelve video-conferences and if you are interested in knowing more about them visit the following link

Nellie Müller Deustch
University of Phoenix
WikiEducator: A community of Educators
Wikis are revolutionizing the way learners and teachers interact with information and in this presentation its speaker discusses WikiEducator as a powerful collaborative community that connects and engages learners and teachers in the process of sharing content. According to Nellie Müller Deustch (the speaker), WikiEducator(WE) is a communitiy of educators and learners who are passionate about collaborative learning. This Wiki has a structure including a Council with members responsible for providing the organizational framework to support the community in the achievements of its aims, maintaining the essential freedoms of the project resources, and making these available on the Internet.
This useful community is organized in groups (workgroups) in which the members discuss different issues and work on them. Nellie stresses the importance of WE specially because it is a platform where teachers and learners and all the participants can collaborate and share information. One of the most important WE pages is the community portal in which important information about the community can be found.
Since the idea of a wiki is collaborative work for a common interest, WE offers online workshops that promote collaboration through different topics regarding education. Nellie has been facilitator of many online and face to face workshops such as blending learning environments, social networks like moodle for teachers, among others.
In summary, this wiki offers the opportunity for teachers and students to become part of it and collaborate while getting ideas for education and teaching.
Carla Arena
Flickr - Design that connects

Flickr is much more than just an online photo sharing space. It's a hub for educational experiments, networking and visually appealing inspiration to any educator. According to Carla Arena, who describes herself as a passionate of Flickr, this tool has a great potential for the classroom. She explains that "it´s all about narrative, showing who we are, it´s about stories, it´s about us".

With these short definitions, Arena begins her presentation and shows support for using Flickr in education. She gave many examples and ideas to teachers of the possible uses of it. For example, you can become part of a group in which people share pictures regarding a specific topic or interest. From one single photo a big conversation can be created. Teachers may choose a topic and students can join the discussion commenting on the photos of that topic and debating on pics. Labels and tags are also useful to learn and practice English specially for beginners.

In summary, Flickr should be explored more in depth by teachers to engage students in the process of learning the language more actively.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Week #7: Web 3.0 Virtual worlds - Tour to Second Life - My SL Experience

Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that launched on June 23, 2003. Its users (called residents) can interact with each others through avatars exploring, meeting other residents, socializing, participating in individual and group activities among other things.
During this week of the course, our professor gave us an introduction to SL. We created our avatars and visited some interesting places where we learned how to walk, communicate and even fly with our avatars. It was an interesting experience for me. There´s still plenty left, though. We have to continue working on SL and using it as a tool for education. In fact, this is the important aspect here since we are English Language teachers and want to develop other types of activities with our students.
These are some of the snapshots taken during the visit. The whole ICT in ELT group is there receiving instructions from our professor and learning from the different tutorials.