Thursday, February 28, 2013

Materials Development 1: Grockit Answers

Below you'll find links to the overview, lesson plan, and technology tool used in my first materials development assignment.  I used this lesson in class this week, and it worked well, despite a few students not getting signed in (I saw them typing their answers in class, but I'm not sure where those answers went).  I was planning to do something different in class that day, but decided to use this lesson instead.  It turned out to be a great way to encourage (and require) participation from all students without causing too much anxiety for those who are accustomed to a more teacher-centered classroom.  Students continued to talk about the Grockit Video throughout the week.  In a class that starts at 7:55am, it's important to give students a task to do while watching a video.  Otherwise, it may be tempting for some students to close their eyes and fall asleep.... I'm glad I learned about this tool.

Here are the links to the materials:



Technology (Grockit Answers):

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week 6: Corpora

This week we previewed and explored corpora resources on the web, such as:
-BYU Corpora
-Compleat Lexical Tutor

I was especially interested in the Michigan Corpus of Upper-Level Student Papers (MICUSP), thinking that students in EAP programs might be motivated by the context of successful upper-level papers that can be searched by discipline and genre.  Teaching composition has taught me the importance of teaching students to think critically about purpose, a community of readers, and the conventions that meet the expectations of communities and help the writer achieve his/her purpose.  I see potential in using a student-paper corpus like MICUSP to encourage student investigation into these ideas.  Flowerdew's article outlined some concerns/criticisms of using corpora, one of them being that corpus data can present language out of its original context.  However, I think a resource like MICUSP could allow a teacher to create activities with the objective of teaching students to think critically about context.  Before incorporating MICUSP activities, students should be familiar with different genres and could even do research on the types of writing in their disciples/fields.

Sometimes we joke about topic-based ESL textbooks that include an SLA chapter, knowing that a chapter on SLA is probably only interesting to teachers, not students.  I think we have to be careful not to cater to our own interests and preferences for learning when teaching our students to investigate language use through corpora.  As MA-TESL students and ESL teachers, we may find corpus activities motivating and interesting, but some of our students may not.  Additionally, Flowerdew points out that an inductive approach to learning may not be the preferred way of learning for all students.  Corpora is a great tool for both teachers and learners, but as with any other classroom activity/tool/material, we must evaluate student attitudes and learning outcomes.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week 5, Part 2: Tasks, Activity Theory and Electronic Literacy

At the end of week 4, I gave a brief presentation on an optional reading (Muller-Hartmann & Schocker-v. Ditfurth, 2010) about TBLT research in CMC.  The authors outlined the socioculturally oriented framework of activity theory (AT) and examined research through an AT lens.  It was my first encounter with the term AT, so I was a little surprised to see it again in our DuBravac reading for this week.  It was helpful to look back at the Muller-Hartmann & Schocker-v. Ditfurth article and review their argument for framing TBLT in AT.  What I found especially interesting was the initial discussion on the expansion of computer literacy to electronic literacy and multi-literacies.  

In the past, I have been an advocate for computer literacy, organizing and volunteering with computer classes for adults in my community.  In these classes, the goal was to master the machine/software/websites necessary for completing tasks at work, school, or home.  But electronic literacy seems to be less about "reading the machine" and more about reading the meanings conveyed through CMC tasks (and learning to express meaning as well).  For me, this is key.  Language mediates the task, yet the tool of technology has the ability to impact the language user's behavior and even transform the task.  

We also discussed tasks in our Curriculum and Administration class this week, noting that there is no clear consensus in the field as to the definitions of tasks and TBLT.  With this in mind, I was interested in how DuBravac would define a task, and I appreciated his distinction between tasks, or "linguistic activity... oriented toward a non-linguistic goal" (p. 84), and exercises, which are also linguistic activities, but oriented instead toward linguistic goals.  I thought about these definitions in light of what I've heard throughout the semester-- that technology is to facilitate language learning, not vice-versa.  If we include electronic literacy in our definition of language learning, and if we acknowledge that both tasks and exercises are valuable in language learning, then I think these definitions work well, especially in an AT framework.  Perhaps an exercise could prepare learners for a task, but in a task (whether computer-mediated or face-to-face), the role of language is to mediate.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Week 5, Part 1: Socrative activity

Yesterday in class we spent some time learning about two free, web-based resources: Socrative and Grockit Answers.  After class I created a 10-item multiple choice quiz on Socrative and used it in my L2 writing class this morning.

Last week students wrote discovery drafts and met with me individually to discuss them, so for today's class I created an interactive PowerPoint presentation addressing some common themes from our discussions last week.

When students arrived to class, they already had their phones and tablets out.  I wrote the socrative website and class number on the board, and students were able to easily access the quiz (I used a space race).  I assigned groups and monitored while students' worked and discussed the questions.

After the quiz, I asked if any of the questions were challenging.  Several students answered that the "claim" question was hard (I listed several sentences and asked which one was NOT a claim).  After discussing the claim question, I asked what types of claims students should include in their papers.  Then students individually identified one claim from their drafts and shared their examples with partners and eventually the whole class.  The "hard" quiz question gave me insight on what students needed more practice with, and it provided a way to link the quiz to the students' drafts.  After this, I began the PowerPoint and stopped at points that were linked in some way to a quiz question.  Students expressed that they liked the activity.  

After reflecting on today's class, I made a short list of some benefits of using socrative quizzes:

-The activity allowed students to use their devices at the beginning of the class and then transition to no devices.  Students who were using their phones for, say, texting at the beginning of class transitioned to using their phones to access the quiz.  After the quiz, I told students they wouldn't need their phones anymore and they could put them away.

-One quiz question provided a starting point for introducing content.

-Student performance gave me insight on what students do and don't know.

-Students were active participants right away.  This is important at 7:55am on a snowy morning! 

-The quiz did not take long to create, and it did not take up much class time.  The website was easy to use and students could access it on their smartphones and tablets. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 4, Part 2: Incorporating technology into a teaching philosophy

This week we were encouraged to consider how technology fits into a teaching philosophy. The thoughts I've outlined below certainly do not cover everything, but they serve as a starting place for answering the central question of why teachers should incorporate technology in the L2 classroom.

Language use does not happen in a vacuum.  We communicate ideas and needs to others.  Even if we are only using language to hash out our own ideas, for our own personal development or enjoyment, we are hashing out ideas that are impacted by the world around us.  Language learning does not happen in a vacuum either.  Students who come to language classes come with goals and motivations that are always, in some way, linked to a larger community. 

The role of community is central in my philosophy of teaching. Students need the appropriate linguistic tools to participate in communities of practice, with the language classroom itself being one of those communities.  Therefore, in order to successfully learn a new language, we need each other.  While learners need a teacher to provide direction, scaffolding, and language expertise, they also need their classmates if they are to interact, negotiate for meaning, provide and receive feedback, solve problems, complete tasks, and own the fact that they are part of a community of English users. 

As technology finds its way into more and more of these communities of practice, it must also find its way into our teaching philosophies.  Teachers must acknowledge that technology is both shaping communication and becoming a prerequisite for educational and vocational success.  And, by considering how technology factors into students’ needs, lacks, and wants, teachers may have a better idea about (a) what technologies students know and need to learn, and (b) how to use technology as a tool to meet language needs and wants. 

Technology does not replace people; rather, it connects people and ideas in new ways.  Technology also does not replace good teaching.  If anything, it requires even more thoughtfulness and intentionality from the teacher.  Teachers who incorporate technology must continue to build community and provide the scaffolding and support for students’ language needs as well as their technology needs.  If the classroom has already been established as a place where learners work together and need each other, then technology can be an extension of that—it is one way learners can work together, and it can also extend the community of learners to other speakers and learners.  The Internet and Web 2.0 technologies provide new forms of collaboration, allow learners to communicate with new interlocutors for new purposes, and offer opportunities for learners to explore topics of interest in their L2. 

Obviously, teachers must always take inventory of what is feasible.  Classrooms have technology limitations, and learners may have insecurities about language abilities and anxieties about using technology.  If everyone in a community of learners needs each other, then they must be sensitive to each other.  Teachers must be sensitive to affective considerations and be aware that technology has the potential to distract from learning.  They must make decisions and guide a community of learners, and decision-making in the L2 classroom should be informed by research as well as the learners (or the community members) themselves.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Week 4, Part 1: Digital Stories for teaching

After playing around with digital story websites and brainstorming ways that students could use these resources for various activities and projects, we were assigned, as teachers, to create a digital story that would help us present new information in the classroom.  Because part of our current module in ENG 205 requires a presentation, and because (as I think I mentioned in an earlier post) I'm encouraging students to explore new topics and new ways of presenting information, I decided to model this in class.  Everyone has used PowerPoint for presentations, but there are other (free) ways to present information.  Last week I showed students how to use Prezi, and this week I'm going to demonstrate Storybird with a short story of my own.  This story will serve not only as an example of how the website can be used, but also as a way to establish a context for presenting tips on using NAU's library website.

As ESL teachers, we know the importance of teaching language in context, and we often put a lot of thought into how we'll set that context in the classroom.  This year I've been learning the importance of "setting the stage" in L1 writing classes as well.  Students can see how the skills they're learning have been applied in real situations.  And, hopefully, an authentic context will keep students engaged-- a story, for example, can bring a set of "how-to's" to life.  The short story I created on Storybird models how my own curiosity led me to choose a topic, and it sets a context for exploring ideas through library searches.

You can find my digital story within the presentation I've posted to slideshare (another new--to me--resource).
 My slideshare (see slide 4 of "Profiles and library research" for a link to the Storybird digital story)

To wrap this up, here's a list of my reasons for incorporating a digital story into this lesson:
* Set a context for the information I'm about to present
* Show students, through my story, that I practice what I teach: I explore what interests me through writing and research
* Provide an example of using new technology in a presentation
* Provide an example of sharing a personal story in a presentation