26 September, 2010

Ning.com--who knew?!

So, when I realized that one of the objectives for this week was to go to Ning.com and search groups to join I was unable to see the benefits of this task.  Not even one.  Well, I was completely wrong!  I did have some difficulty navigating the site initially; prompts were repeatedly popping up whenever I wanted to view something.  Finally, I simply clicked on links for individual networks after perusing an extensive and long list.  Some that I viewed are the following: Classroom 2.0EFL Classroom 2.0, Teachers Using Message Boards or Blogging, Professional Development

I was apprehensive about following the link to the EFL classroom simply because I am interested in ESL and while there are similarities, I was concerned about the numerous differences.  If anyone else is feeling this way, ignore it! This group is fantasic--so here is the link again.  EFL Classroom 2.0 

Professionals in the ESL & EFL fields actively participate in discussions and post links to relevant issues.  Along the side there are options to view daily lessons, "lessons in a can," an English tutor (how helpful is that for ESL students?!) and even study music!!  We as ESL educators can gradully introduce our students to this technology; they can access all of these tools and blog about any issues they may be facing during the second language acquisition process or any thoughts they may have.  I highly reccommed this site despite my initial hesitancy.  If nothing else, sign up to the network and see what I'm talking about first hand.

25 September, 2010

A learner is like being a switchboard operator!

A learner today is like being a switchboard operator of the 20th century.  Switchboard operators continuously made and forged connections between people, ideas and therefore networks.  In the 21st century, students are relentlessly making connections between their previous experiences and new ones; alterations of schema is a result.  The wires that would be plugged into the switchboard can be the equivalent of relationships between humans and others as well as their surroundings; conversations are representations of the transmission of knowledge.

The changing nature of knowledge is based upon the basis of connectivism in the learning environment; the man discussing the topic is Siemens, the developer of the connectivism theory.  In this YouTube excerpt, Siemens actually states that "the learners themselves, the connections they form with each other, the connections that they form with databases, other sources of knowledge, is really the primary point of learning so in essence the network becomes the learning."  In his article explaining the differences between connectivism and other prominent, yet according to Siemens,outdated, theories evident proof exists to support my notion of a learner equaling a switchboard operator.  Click here to read the article in full.

"Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing" (Siemens, 2005).  I believe that the network referred to is actually the interconnections that exist between humans and all of their surroundings.  It appears to be the case that Siemens has actually integrated some of the sociocultural theory into his connectivism theory in that Vygotsky claimed that humans learn through all interactions between the self and the environment.

20 September, 2010

Pay Attention!

After viewing Pay Attention on YouTube I realized that I hadn't actually thought about paying attention in this manner.  I have heard about the various and numerous types of learners that I should anticipate in my future classroom, digital however was not one of them.  I understand that most students have experienced countless hours on computers or video game systems.  I just have one slight problem, or at least I believe its a problem. 

I am studying to be an English as a second language educator, I realize that some of my students will have been raised here, simply in homes that speak other languages.  There are others whoever who would not be familiar with such technology and could easily be overwhelmed by it especially during the acculturation process.  During my senior year for undergraduate school, I had an internship which put me in the position to interact daily with refugees; for this I feel privileged.  A job fair was taking place at one of the local malls so I accompanied several refugees there to fill out applications.  Since we were there already, I figured it would be alright to walk around the mall, try and provide them with a new experience.  It back fired! They were extremely intimidated and wanted nothing more than to sit on a bench. 

While this may not be entirely related, I feel that if such lessons where students are required to participate in activities dominated by technology were used in the classroom they could prove to be counterproductive.  Many ESL students, especially the refugee population are not familiar with texting and creating an environment where this would generate a grade could cause unnecessary stress.  I do believe that if baby-steps were to be taken then students would benefit tremendously since technology and being able to manipulate it are requirements for success in professional settings.

One segment in the film that most bothered me was that students get to ask one question per 10 hours. I do not understand how that is possible, but then again I am lacking experience in the field.  Either way, I find it extremely upsetting if a student has a question and is unable to ask it.  I do believe that students' lack of self-confidence prevents the asking of questions; in that respect I can understand once every 10 hours; some students do not want to share personal information, such as not understanding a concept, with classmates.  This would be a wonderful opportunity for teachers to take advantage of technology in the classroom.  Let the self-conscious students send e-mails, or maybe post anonymously to a discussion board any questions or clarifications needed about lessons.

Click here to visit Pay Attention.

13 September, 2010

blogging safely

1) Keep your password safe! Don't tell anyone with the exception of a parent or guardian.

2) Be sure not to share any personal information, ie address, phone number.  You never know what people's intentions are when reading blogs.

3) Blog with care.  Do not post anything which may be hurtful or harmful to another person.

4) Be appropriate.  This blog is to be used for school use and the content and language should reflect that.

5) Don't make regrets! Think about what is being posted on the Internet; once something is out there you can't take it back.

12 September, 2010

jumping on the blogging band wagon!

Technology has intimidated me for as long as I can remember; I have done the basic networking things such as Facebook, e-mailing and AIM but that is typically it.  It used to be the case where I would just tell myself "you don't do anything more on the Internet-why worry about what you don't know" or "there's plenty of time to learn things...later."  After reading the first three chapters in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson, I realized just how much I have been missing out on not to mention how I would be effecting and limiting my future students'.  Presently I do not have any teaching experience which may result in some ideas which may not necessarily be practical to implement in the classroom.  However, being somewhat naive, I believe they are possible!
I am studying to be an ESL teacher and am quite close to obtaining certification.  Throughout my studies differentiated instruction is constantly discussed and often noted as the preferred teaching method.  Incorporating blogs into the classroom will not only help draw connections from the curriculum to the students but they would be able to progress at a comfortable rate.  I understand that teaching students the details of blogging and the importance of being knowledgeable about a topic would be time consuming--I believe it would be worth it.  These students are in a challenging and often times intimidating position both in and out of school; they should be provided with every opportunity possible to be successful.  Familiarizing them with technology that their peers utilize daily is imperative.  The effort dedicated to teaching these technological resources will be well worth it.
Receiving feedback on blogs from people outside the classroom reminds me of having a pen-pal when I was a child.  I got to know my pen-pal by means of hand writing and mailing letters back and forth; I feel that this experience could be duplicated to a certain extent, via the blogosphere.  The idea is to cooperate and collaborate with other ESL teachers in that their students would comment on my students' blogs and vice versa.  Students would eventually become technologically savvy enough to create blogs independently which would lead to greater focus on writing form, clarity, audience, critical analysis of information, etc.  I feel that this could provide ESL students who may feel isolated to create bonds and a community.
In the text scaffolding blogging was mentioned and a research project or something of that sort with a long duration was suggested for older students.  In the ESL field I feel that a beginner would be intimidated by such a task regardless of age.  I think a task of that magnitude would be best suited for students who are at the advanced level, but that doesn't mean that intermediate level students wouldn't be able to do something similar.  From reading Richardson's text, I believe that blogging daily on a subject does cause students to become more knowledgeable due in part to the fact that the audience will hold them accountable--something students should learn at an early age.  Such an activity elicits confidence due to acquiring knowledge and increases one's language capabilities.  
Richardson has indicated that blogs are a type of website and that it "can include graphics, photos, video and audio files" (2010, p.19).  The first four New York State ESL standards are met by taking advantage of this technology in the classroom and depending upon the activity the fifth cultural standard can be also.  Students will listen, speak, read, and write in English for... is how the first four standards begin.  All of these tasks can be accomplished using blogs with students! Students will demonstrate cross-cultural knowledge and understanding is standard 5.  For some students, even using the Internet may be a cross-cultural activity that is new and will enable them to gain some understanding of American culture. 
I don't want my lack of understanding to hold future students back, especially having just discovered what a wonderful and practical tool blogging can be.All in all, I feel that it is time to join the blogosphere!