Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Week 6: Audio and Video tools: Podcasting

What is podcasting?
According to Lee LeFever, the difference between broadcasting (traditional media) and podcasting is that while broadcasting has given us the opportunity to reach out for TV and radio shows following a time schedule, podcasting has made it possible for users not to stick to time schedules in order to watch or listen to web-created shows, also called podcasts.

Thanks to podcasting, people can now have access to podcasts anytime they want, they can download these podcasts and save them on computers or portable devices (MP3 players or I-pods) and watch or listen to them when they have time to do so. That is to say, podcasting has made the whole process of broadcasting personal and available on demand, that is what the word Pod could stand for: Personal on demand. People have different opinions about the origin of the word pod.

Reasons why podcasting has become so popular
1. Anyone can do it: Satellites, radio towers or studios are no longer needed. Most people only need a microphone or a video camera, a computer and a connection to Internet. With all those things people can create their own shows that could be open to anyone. The consequence of this is a wide variety of podcasts from online lessons to flower exhibitions.
2. Subscriptions: If people visit a website that has a great podcast, they can subscribe to receive future shows automatically. The only thing one needs is a pod-catcher like I-Tunes, which is a free tool that captures the show.
3. Gadgetry: People can download a podcast onto a computer, an MP3 player or other portable devices and take it with them anywhere they want. Nowadays with podcasting everyone can have a voice!

Educational uses
There are many websites that post podcasts for students to learn and practice English like www.podcastsinenglish.com which is a very good website created by Richard Cain and Jackie McAvoy, who have almost thirty years of teaching English as a foreign language and teacher training experience.

Podcasts are also a great accessory in the classroom and when doing presentations. Lately, a group of students had to interpret and present a poem written in Jamaican patois. They downloaded a podcast of a Jamaican woman reading the poem in patois, and we were all thrilled to hear the Jamaican poem being read by a native Jamaican! These are only two examples of how podcasts can be used with educational purposes.

If you want to learn how to record podcasts go to this webpage http://www.slideshare.net/EvelynIzquierdo/podcasting-2360874 where you can follow the instructions posted by our professor Evelyn Izquierdo, and create your own podcasts.

  • Izquierdo, E. (2009). Web 2.0: Audio and video podcasting – First steps. http://www.slideshare.net/EvelynIzquierdo/podcasting-2360874
  • LeFever, L. (2008). Podcasting in plain English. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-MSL42NV3c
  • Listen to English and learn English with podcasts. http://www.podcastsinenglish.com/index.shtml
This is the first podcast I have ever recorded!
I recorded it during one of our ICT classes using the web tools audacity and podbean.com
It is the audio to my welcome message written at the beginning of this blog. Enjoy it!

Snapvine is another audio tool. This is my first snapvine voice message for my blog!
Check it out!

Week 5: Wikis

What are Wikis?
“Wiki” is a short form of the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki which means quick (http://abpc.wikispaces.com/Beginning+Wikis). According to Prof. Evelyn Izquierdo (2009), a Wiki is “an interactive and dynamic website with pages that anyone can create, edit and contribute to.” For instance, a group of English teachers can create a Wiki to add information about a topic, as well as delete or modify the information that other members have published in their Wiki, if the group has agreed to work in this way.

The key words for Wikis are coordination and co-operation: It is not about changing other people’s points of view about a topic (as it is funnily depicted in the above-posted cartoon), on the opposite, it is about sharing your knowledge to improve the information that the group has agreed on posting and feeding about, and, therefore, it should be an enriching experience because members of a group would not only add text but they can also include pictures, videos, and cartoons, among others.

A Wiki has a group leader, who is the original creator of the Wiki. S/he invites or accepts other members to be part of his/her wiki. Members of a group can see who changed what in each modification by using the history feature. The best known Wiki in practice is the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia (go to http://en.wikipedia.org where you will see it described as “the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit”).
Some rules borrowed from Wikipedia are:
• Make others feel welcome (even those you dislike),
• Create and continue a friendly environment,
• Turn the other cheek (which includes walking away from potential edit wars), and
• Give praise, especially to those you do not know (most people like to know they are wanted and appreciated).

Educational uses
Educators can not only use Wikis to collaborate with other colleagues about certain topics or course syllabi, course projects, and workshops, among others, they can also use wikis with their pupils in any instance where these students have to research and/or share knowledge.
In this ICT for ELT course our professor encouraged us to create a Wiki that we could use with our students. I created a Wiki aimed at my second- and third-year students where I will post information about learning idiomatic expressions, and I will invite my colleagues and classmates to help me feed this Wiki.
My Wiki is still under construction and you can check it out or ask me to be a member clicking on this following address: http://teachingidiomaticexpressions.wetpaint.com/


Week 4: Web 2.0: Blogging

What is a blog?
According to Piers Evans, the web log or blog, “where internet pioneers first recorded their daily lives in on-line diaries, has been a significant part of the internet since 1999, when software from blogger.com put blogging within the reach of all web-users” (p. 32). There are now more than a million blogs out there in cyberspace.

 Types of blogs
According to Douglas Jasch, blogs come in two forms. The first is an “internet diary” blog in which people write what happen to them on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and others can read it. The second is a “notice board” blog; this is an internet site “where people surfing the net can write something on a particular theme, such as football, and other people can respond to their comments” (p. 12).
Blogs are great if someone is passionate about a particular interest, and there are blogs on almost every topic from parkour to bouldering.

According to Professor Carla Arena (2008), blogging is really about learning how to enhance and develop communication among people. Edu-blogging is a reflecting process, that is to say, it takes time. For instance, students write about topics (e.g. freewriting), teachers check their blogs and comment about them, and then students add more or change the information they wrote before.
Edu-blogging at different ages
According to Professor Carla Arena (2008), teenagers do not have problems with technology. They blog swiftly about what they have in mind. Adults, on the other hand, will only start blogging if they really see that they are going to gain something from the experience. However, once they see they can profit from it, they are eager learners and bloggers. For learners, in general, it is a chance to have a real audience and to express their own voice; they can share things on a blog that otherwise they would never share in the classroom.

My first experience with blogging: Blogger versus Wordpress
Although I had read and followed some blogs before taking this course, I had never had the experience of creating and having my own blog :-) Prof. Izquierdo taught us how to open accounts and feed two different kinds of blogs: One in wordpress.com (you may visit it on http://jackelinemelendez.wordpress.com/) and another on this website. The experience I have had on each blog has been very different; the blog on wordpress.com was aimed at putting ourselves on the market and telling about our studies, professional experience and teaching interests. The blog you are reading now is aimed at reflecting on our experience and learning process during our ICT in ELT course, as it is well explained in my welcome post.

 Goals and expectations in the blogging world
Personal goals
When I finish this course I would like to create a personal blog where I could publish about my interests, such as the teaching of idiomatic expressions, which is the topic that calls my attention the most in the field of ELT, and about my cultural interchange experiences when I lived in Germany and in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Professional expectations
Following the advice of Prof. Arena, I would like to experience edu-blogging with my students. I teach American and British history and Caribbean culture in English to second- and third-year students in the School of Modern Languages at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, and I am looking forward to apply this tool with my students.
A good question to start blogging could be: What are the best things about your country that you would recommend to others? This question offers many topics that could be mentioned by them from the weather to geographical descriptions. After blogging about different topics related to this question, students could share their blogs with other students of other universities around the world, this way, students would not only profit from the experience of expressing themselves and learning how to write about their country and culture in English, but they can also learn about cultural differences reading similar blogs from people of other cultures.

  • Arena, C. About Edublogging. Retrieved on November 20, 2009 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyMPLAurOGs
  • Jasch, D. Blogs, jobs & meditation. Think in English magazine. No. 72. Year VI. Madrid: Ediciones Mejora, S.L.
  • Piers, E. Web diaries: To blog or not to blog? Speak up magazine. No. 230. Year XX. Madrid: RBA Revistas, S.A.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 3: Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0

Web 1.0
Some of the Web tools available on the net receive the name of “Web 1.0” and “Web 2.0” tools. According to Wikipedia, Web 1.0 is “a general term created to describe the web before the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001.” However, the key word to define these tools is “interaction.” The term “Web 1.0” is commonly associated with websites that digital citizens can visit and read but they can neither interact with other people through them nor modify their content, so they are called non-interactive websites. A good example of a Web 1.0 site could be answers.com, where net surfers can look for information, read it and use it for their own benefit but there is not direct contact between them and the site owner, and if there is any contact, it is very limited.

Web 2.0
On the other hand, the term “Web 2.0” is commonly associated with “web applications which facilitate interactive information sharing” (Wikipedia); that is to say, people can interact with other users through Web 2.0 sites with messages, emails, or chats, and they can also change the content of these websites. Some examples of Web 2.0 tools are social networking sites, such as facebook, youtube.com, wikis and blogs, among a vast number of others.

My experience in wordpress.com
I have been surfing Web 1.0 sites as well as using Web 2.0 sites for years, however, I did not have the experience of creating my own static website before, until two weeks ago when I was assigned to create my first professional website on wordpress.com for my ICT in ELT course of the Master’s. Although I was exploring a new and unknown terrain, I had fun and I found the experience of building up my own professional website very satisfying. I thank my professor and my fellow classmates/colleagues for helping me fulfilling these tasks!

Week 2: Current trends on ICT in ELT

International and national contexts
There are many international organizations that are concerned in the teaching of English through the use of New Technologies, such as the European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL), the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO), the International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) and the Japan Association for Language Education and Technology (LET), among others.
In Latin America, there are also some organizations which concerned themselves with the teaching of English through ICT, such as, Latin Call in Mexico, Arcall in Argentina, and Avealmec in Venezuela, among others.

My local Context
I have been a witness of how the School of Modern Languages of the Universidad Central de Venezuela has been updating their ICT resources, first as a student from 1993 to 1998 and then as an English teacher since I graduated. The ICT resources I could have never imagined to have as a student are now available for my students. The School of Modern Languages has two labs and a library with computers and Internet access where students can do their homework or surf the net as they please. Recently I had the opportunity to give three lessons one after the other in one of the computer labs. I showed my students a PowerPoint presentation about the US Civil War, and then I gave them some questions and told them to look for their answers searching the net using different engines, such as yahoo.com, google.com, and answers.com. The experience was very satisfying. As teachers, we can not turn a blind eye to ICT, we have to make use of it to our own advantage.

My ICT project in the School of Modern Languages
Although I teach history, literature and culture of the USA, Britain and the Caribbean, I have been concerning myself during the last two years with the teaching of idiomatic expressions. My students will be translators, interpreters or researchers; therefore, I would like to create a Wiki aimed at my second- and third-year students where I will post information about learning idiomatic expressions. I think this Wiki will be a big contribution not only to my students but to the whole school because idiomatic expressions are not taught on a regular basis; on the contrary, students have to learn them by mistake when translating idiomatic expressions from Spanish into English or out of their own curiosity.

Week 1: What is Digital Literacy?

According to the Microsoft Corporation, Digital Literacy is to have a fundamental understanding of computers “from using the Internet, to sending e-mail, to creating a résumé.” In this sense –and since this company is the creator of Windows–, Microsoft offers a Digital Literacy Curriculum to help anyone develop the essential skills one needs to begin computing with confidence.

According to Wikipedia, Digital Literacy is “the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology.” In this sense, digitally literate people –also called digital citizens– know how to use computer hardware and computer software, the Internet and its web tools, cell phones and other digital devices to communicate and work more efficiently with those who possess the same knowledge and skills.

Web tools are all tools available on the net; they can be Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 tools. I will deepen on their definition on Week 3. Social networks are Web 2.0 tools that focus on “building online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.” Such is the case of facebook or of blogger, for instance.

In education, schools in developed countries, as well as in some developing countries, are continually updating their curriculum for digital literacy to keep up with accelerating technological developments. This often includes computers in the classroom, the use of educational software to teach curriculum, and course materials available to students online. Teachers often teach digital literacy skills to students who use computers for research, which include how to quote from Web sites and to verify reliable sources; this way they could prevent plagiarism among students.

In the workforce, digital citizens have more opportunities to be hired and promoted because nowadays many jobs require knowledge of computers, the Internet and portable devices, such as cell phones, to perform basic functions. That is why; many of these jobs require proof of digital literacy. Sometimes companies will administer their own tests to employees, or official certification will be required. There are also official certifications in digital literacy, such as the International Computer Driving License. However, certification curricula often change as technology advances, making it necessary for many to re-certify to remain competitive.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Welcome to my ICT in ELT experience!

Hi dear followers! Welcome to my blog!

This blog has been created to post my weekly reflections on the topics discussed during the ICT in ELT course of the Master’s the “Teaching of English as a Foreign Language” that I am taking during this winter semester in the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. You are welcome to follow my blog and accompany me in my experience.
ICT: Information & Communication Technology.
ELT: English Language Teaching.