Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 10: Wrap-up

Week 10 has come to the end and it is time to say good-bye. I can't believe we are finishing what has been a wonderful journey, full of learning, amazing discoveries, incredible web experiences, and new friends. Today, I feel totally renewed, with fresh ideas in my mind and a strong desire to put into practice all what I have learned. Every week has been well designed and thought; but definitively, I loved the way it introduced us in a reflective process. All readings (carefully selected) and the weekly discussions provided me with the appropriate environment to make reflections on what I do in my classroom and how I can enliven my teaching practice. If I had to choose one week or a specific content, that would be very difficult; however, I can mention what I enjoyed the most per week:

Week 3: Skill-building websites for oral communication
Week 4: Skill-building websites for reading and writing
Week 5: Project-based learning and rubrics
Week 6: Interactive Powerpoint
Week 7: Learner autonomy
Week 8: Project plan, peer review
Week 9: The final project

I really enjoyed the whole the course, in spite of all pressure I felt due to personal and professional reasons. In my country, we are living a hard economic crisis. That is pushing all universities to work with very low budgets, less people and many responsibilities in a  few hands. I did my very best to read, participate in the discussions and do my weekly tasks; however, something that was not in plans happened. That is what people calls "Muphy's law". My Internet connection died! Yes! No Internet service at home until now. So, I have had to visit cyber caf├ęs at nights after my university work to do my Webskills course duties. It was hard but worth the effort. It represented a valuable and unique opportunity that I could not miss. Today, looking at the bright side of the story, I see that this situation allowed me to put on my students'shoes and feel what they feel, mainly when they cannot connect to do their English course tasks. It made me think on flexibility. In underdeveloped countries like Venezuela, the Internet failure or power blackouts are very common, that means I have to be more flexible when designing my online activities.

In general, I can stand that developing webskills requires persistency, a positive attitude, a lot of enthusiasm, colaborative work and a sharing spirit; but also an inner part based on motivation,deep reflections on our daily practice, self-evaluation and  flexibility. For future course participants, I would suggest to:

1. Read all the details and information about the course, including evaluation, before starting.
2. Create a schedule and dedicate the right time for readings and weekly discussions.
3. Have a plan B in case of Internet failure. That has been my case. I have lived a nightmare during all these weeks. I didn't have (and I don't have yet) a plan B. There are no many options around here (Venezuela) to solve Internet connection problems or power blackouts. That is very frustrating when taking an online course.
3. Start writing your final project in advance. Follow the schedule and use templates from the very beginning.
4. Add your coursemates' blog links to your own, so they can be easily found. Read their posts and leave comments.
5. Keep in touch with your course facilitators and ask for help if needed.
6. Enjoy as much as possible. There are tons of new things you will learn.

Finally, I want to thank Courtney for her prompt feedback, effort, enthusiasm and dedication to each one of us; the University of Oregon and the US Embassy for such a wonderful professional development opportunity; and of course, all my coursemates for such interesting discussions and contributions. Let's keep in touch and growing together!

That's all, friends!
Evelyn (Venezuela)
@eveweb

Friday, December 5, 2014

Week 9: Learning styles - Technology connections


According to Howard Gardner, intelligence refers to the human ability to solve problems or make something that is valued in one or more cultures. He considers that human beings have different ways to solve those problems, but some people are more successful than others when approaching a situation  because their brains work in a different way. That is, they have a specific ability that may help them solve the problem or they lack of it and that makes the problem-solving process more difficult. That is what he called Multiple Intelligences and has developed a complete theory about that.

After reading about his theory, we definitively agree that not everybody learns in the same way. Some learners are better at reading, others at calculating, some are excellent in creating a concept map and others by doing things with their hands, listening or discussing with others. For this reason, when teaching a second language, we should provide the students with materials, activities and tasks that can fit to their intelligences and/or learning styles. The use of technology can help us in this task. We can use authentic texts, videos, podcasts, web tools to create mind maps, or work collaboratively in different formats or shapes. It is also necessary to generate situations or learning moments in which the students can be creative and put into practice the target language by using their abilities and skills. Consequently, they can learn in a more friendly way, and feel more motivated and engaged.

In my classes, for instance, although we are mainly focused on reading comprehension, I always design materials or tasks for the students to develop their reading skill; however, I also include some materials and activities that can support their learning process and develop listening, speaking, writing, and grammar. Since we our course is set up in Moodle, I embed videos or podcasts related to the texts they are reading or I ask them to create glogs to graphically represent the main ideas of a text. In their glogs, they can also write short texts,  embed videos or songs related to the topic discussed, and images or photos that represent the main idea. We also have synchronous classes through Blackboard, our official platform, or WiZiQ. In both cases, students can use the board to write sentences, underline or highlight, kw words in a text, or create graphic representations.

Using authentic materials in different formats helps the learners approach and learn the target language in a more interesting and enjoyable way. They feel there abilities and needs are taking into consideration and


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Week 8: Teacher Resources Online


 This week looks very exciting. We were asked to put into practice all what we have learned during the course. Based on this, I created a blog on Blogger for my English III students. This is the URL: http://myenglish3journey.blogspot.com/

As you might remember, I teach ESP/EAP at the School of Education of Universidad Central de Venezuela, the largest and oldest public university of my country (almost 300 years now). We deliver the instruction under two modalities: the traditional face-to-face (f2f) modality and the distance education one. Almost all courses offered under the distance education program are blended. They include a f2f component (four encounters a semester, mainly for evaluations) combined with online activities developed on Moodle and Blackboard, our official LMS.

Within the distance education program, the Foreign Languages Faculty offers a three-level English course distributed in three semesters. English III is the third of them. The course is focused on reading and summarizing academic texts.

The blog created is a support to the Moodle activities. It is aimed to guide the students in the process of a) reading and understanding academic texts (originally written in the English language), and b) summarizing them in Spanish. The blog is still under construction, but I hope to have it ready at the end of week 9. It will offer a space for the students to discuss the topic developed in each of the course readings. Among the information to include will be the mandatory readings, links to the students' blogs with their corresponding tasks, how-to tutorials, and resources to learn and practice the target language.

Hope to have the time to feed the blog with all artifacts I have planned.
 ______

Besides this, we were also asked to review our partner's project plan or report. I am working with Virginia Canabal from Uruguay. She gave me some valuable insights concerning my work, which is still under construction like hers. Although we are teaching, we are both working with plans. We are both planning for future academic terms. In my case, for instance, I am planning to implement the whole project next semester. We already started the semester and have covered more than 60% of our content. We are following a chronogram that includes face-to-face encounters and online activities previously established and cannot be changed at this moment.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Week 7: Learner Autonomy, the One-computer Classroom, and Mobile Devices

Week 7: Learner Autonomy, the One-computer Classroom, and Mobile Devices


Learner autonomy:


One of the main issues in education is learner autonomy. Depending on the students' discipline, autonomy, responsibility, motivation, time-management and self-determination,  he or she will succeed in a traditional face-to-face class or in a distance program. During this week, we were asked to read about learner autonomy, precisely a hard discussion point in my teaching context and one of the major problems we face. The students' lack of learning autonomy brings about lots of problems, among them, the abandonment of their studies. For years, we have discussed which would be the best way to approach this situation. We don't have a final answer but we are clear in that learner autonomy depends on many factors, but mainly on the student and the school.

According to Godwin-Jones (2011):
...developing learner autonomy does not just involve putting appropriate learning materials in front of a student, but necessitates helping the student develop the skills and mindset that can lead to successful self-guided language study. Part of that
effort has a psychological side; the student needs to have the proper motivation for independent study. Partly the process is political and has to do with educational or school policies and the degree of individual freedom afforded learners to engage in autonomous learning...
Based on Godwin-Jones's words, learner autonomy basically depends on the student's motivation and on the school policies to make the student feel engaged in his/her own learning. In order to enable learner autonomy, teachers should provide opportunities for the student to develop effective learning strategies. That would guide the student on the way to be conscious of his/her own learning process. For example, writing traditional diaries or journals leads the student to make reflections on his/her language learning progress. Technology also becomes a means of great help. The use of  web tools like Google docs or e-portfolios, for instance, are effective tools for the student to document personal achievements. These documents can be shared later with the teacher and other students.

In this sense,  trying to support my students in their way to develop learner autonomy, I use polls, journals, Google docs and e-portfolios in my courses. I use polls to find out about the students expectations and their background knowledge. Based on the results, I include in the course several activities that can meet the students' needs and wants. Consequently, they feel more engaged and motivated.

I also use journals. These are resources available for teachers in our university Moodle platform. They are great for the students to make reflections on their own language learning progress. I always ask them to self-evaluate their English language learning process and make reflections on that.  In case of facing any problem with the target language, they are asked to design a plan to solve it. Journals are only read by the student and me, nobody else. I provide feedback and students really appreciate it.

Besides this, I have also used Google Docs and Wikis to create text typology e-portfolios, a group project based on text types. What I have seen from this project is that my students really enjoy working collaboratively while they develop the skills to analyze different types of texts and summarize them. Before starting the project, I ask them to set group rules, create a group identity with glogs, and distribute responsibilities based on individual roles.  I also ask them to evaluate their language learning process during and after the project.

As additional resources, I add online dictionaries and interesting links that might help them to study. They also have to Websearch and find English sites to be shared with their peers.

In summary, there are many strategies, activities and resources that can make students feel motivated and engaged in their learning process. They are more active when their needs are taken into account, as well as when they receive a constant feedback from the teacher. Therefore, if schools want to have autonomous learners, they must provide opportunities for the students to create, analyze, and make reflections by using critical thinking and meta-cognitive strategies. Thus, the paths for academic success are open.

Reference:
Godwin-Jones, R. (2011). Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Language Learning. Language Learning & Technology. October 2011, Volume 15, Number 3, pp. 4–11. Available at: http://llt.msu.edu/issues/october2011/emerging.pdf 

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The one-computer classroom
In the XXI Century, many people might think that not having a computer lab with Internet access in a school or having a low tech infrastructure unable teachers and students to carry out any technological project. However, technology is not only Internet. We may develop exciting and engaging tech projects even with one computer in the classroom and/or without Internet. In my context, classes are offered under a blended modality; it means that working with one computer in the classroom can only be applied during the face-to-face encounters, which are very limited. Three of those encounters are used for workshops and evaluations, and one for the final test. In my opinion, the one-computer classroom activities are excellent for the traditional f2f class; but, perhaps, they do not fit into a distance education program.

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Mobile Devices
I love using mobile phones with my students from the f2f program, but I cannot use them with my distance education ones, since many of them live in remote areas where there is no access to telephone or Internet. Some students might have mobile phones, but only a few have smartphones, not even thinking in tablets or digital cameras. In virtue of this, using mobile learning is not a feasible option at this moment. We might think of it in the long term.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week 6: Creating Student-centered Classes and Interactive PowerPoint


Week 6: During this week we were asked to share ideas about what techniques might be useful in our own settings to create a student-centered environment. It is quite exciting to read and think of different possibilities to enliven my classes.


As you might remember, I teach reading comprehension courses. I teach all levels of an ESP course aimed at students majoring in Education. Well, thinking about what techniques and technology I could use to make my English III course more interactive, I think I can combine glogs and blogs. Yes! I think I can use glogs with small groups to make students more engaged and motivated in the reading activities. As soon as they have understood the readings, I would introduce blogs as a web tool for the students to summarize academic texts and make reflections about their language learning process.

Glogs are interactive and very attractive online posters. They are created on Glogster or EduGlogster. I have used glogs before and students love them; but I have never used glogs with my English III course. For many years, I have addressed my teaching practice towards summary techniques only, and I think it is time for a change. It is important to mention that I am currently teaching the subject and we are in the middle of a plan already set; therefore, I am not sure if I can implement the Webskills course project during this mini-semester due to time limitations. Anyway, I will do my very best, but if I can't, I will set up everything to implement it in the upcoming one.

Project Week 6: Implement the change

First, I will ask my students to create their intro glogs. This is something students love because they not only get familiar with the tool, but also have the opportunity to be creative and introduce themselves in a very original way. In their intro glogs, students will be allowed to use images, videos, audio and text. Here is my intro glog as an example. My plan is to start this week adding this task to their course in Moodle. I would add a tutorial on how to create a glog to support the students.

As soon as the students know how to create a glog, I will design a group project based on the PBL standards discussed last week. Besides, following the recommendations from Rick Finnan and Donna Shaw in their article Enhancing Learning by Engaging Students, I will set up five (5) small groups of three (3) students. Randomly chosen, each group will create a glog for one of the five (5) readings previously given in the course.  They will be asked to create a glog that reflects the main ideas of the text given. They will be allowed to use mind maps, graphics, images, audio and very short texts. They might also contextualize the topic with a YouTube video.

Finally, I will introduce blogs. Since this would be the first time blogging in my English III course, I have thought of creating a video-tutorial on how to create a blog on Blogger. I would use  Screencast-O-omatic and YouTube to upload the video.

Once the students know how to create a blog, I would ask them to create the course blog and make the weekly summaries. The glogs previously created in small groups will be of great help to organize the main ideas and write the text summaries. I also think I might create an interactive PowerPoint presentation on main steps to read and then summarize an academic text.


Interactive PowerPoint Presentation

During this week were also asked to create an interactive PPT. Mine is aimed at ESP  students who are majoring in Education. The presentation is focused on the main steps to successfully read and understand original academic texts written in the English language. The course "English III" starts with a review of the reading process already studied and practiced in English I and II. A second part of this PPT would focus on summarizing those texts in Spanish. In this PPT, I added several hyperlinks that jump from one page to another, two QuickWrite exercises as pre-reading and post-reading activities, basic questions for discussions, links to the Reading #2 that jump to an e-book I created on Issuu, and finally a reflection moment to make students think about what they have learned. For this, I was to supposed to design a survey on Google Form (Docs).
Hope you like the PPT. I added it to the Webskills wiki.  As soon as I finish the actual presentation, I will upload an updated version to Slideshare.net, meanwhile, you may see it here:



I'm going to use this PowerPoint presentation with my current students. I think it will be very useful for future courses too. Thanks to Courtney and all her suggested readings, I can offer more enthusiastic, dynamic and interactive classes. You are cordially invited to have a look at it. Please, let me know what you think. 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Week 5: Project-based Learning, WebQuests, and rubrics






Week 5

This week was quite interesting indeed. We had the opportunity to explore and discuss about Project-based learning (PBL), rubrics and Webquests. The first one, as a method to engage the students in their own learning process through active participation; the second and third ones, as alternative tools to assess and follow up our students' language learning progress.




Project-based learning
Project-based learning is well known as a teaching method focused on a class project. It is aimed at developing specific skills on the student,s during a specific time, and under specific conditions.  According to Allan and Stoller (2005):
The implementation of project work differs greatly from one instructional setting to another. In some settings, fairly non-elaborated tasks, confined to a single class session, are labeled as projects. In other settings, elaborate sets of tasks establish the process for completing the project and span an entire instructional unit; in settings like these, the benefits of project work are maximized because students are actively engaged in information gathering, processing, and reporting over a period of time, and the outcome is increased content knowledge and language mastery. In addition, students experience increased motivation, autonomy, engagement, and a more positive attitude toward English. (p. 1)

In their article "Maximizing the benefits of Project Work in Foreign Language Classrooms", Allan and Stoller (2005) stand that, in some settings, project work is simply a classroom task to break from the classroom routine, which leads the students to take care only to the visual attractiveness of their projects missing the importance of content or language learning. On the contrary, in other settings, projects are based on skills and competency development but teachers exert an excessive control of every step of the projects; consequently, the students do not take responsibility in their learning process and do not develop a sense of belonging.

In order to be effective and guarantee the students' engagement in project-based learning, the authors recommend to:

1. Focus tasks on real-world subject matters and significant content.
2. Give the students some degree of responsibility and allow them to make choices.
3. Design purposeful activities focused on form and other aspects on language in a detailed and well explained sequence.
4. Integrate skills in a process and product oriented  including final reflections.


To maximize the potential benefits of project work and structure the project process, Allan and Stoller (2005) suggest a 10-step sequence advocated by Stoller (1997), and Sheppard and Stoller (1995):
Step 1: Students and instructor agree on a project
Step 2: Students and instructor determine the final outcome of the project
Step 3: Students and instructor structure the project
Step 4: Instructor prepares students for information gathering
Step 5: Students gather information
Step 6: Instructor prepares students for compiling and analyzing data
Step 7: Students compile and analyze information
Step 8: Instructor prepares students for the final activity
Step 9: Students present final product
Step 10: Students evaluate the project
Based on these steps, students will have the opportunity to participate in their own language learning process. Both, teachers and students will focus on language, content, strategy, and skill used; the evaluation process will be more dynamic and interactive, and equally valuable. As a result, the project will gain authenticity, the students will improve language and content knowledge, critical thinking and decision-making abilities will be developed, and the students' motivation  will be increased.


In virtue of this, incorporating technology to my classes would mean developing a project that can meet the students' needs but also accomplish the course objectives. That has never been an issue, but there are three main limitations that make me think about its actual feasibility: a) Time, b) my students' digital skills, and c) Internet access. What worries me the most is time, since I teach distance courses that have a very tight schedule; however, I think I might reduce the number of tasks and concentrate in a small but effective language project. This term, for instance, we will have a mini-semester (10-12 weeks), that definitively limits our creativity.

In English II, for example,  students usually work on text-typology e-portfolios. I wonder how much technology I am going to use this term, since my students don't seem to have well developed digital skills and we won;t have the proper time for training.  Another limitation is Internet access. They are 20 students in my course and we only have a 10-working-station lab. Consequently, PBL seems to be an interesting method for our class, but we should plan something really feasible in terms of time and our setting limitations. ;)

Reference:  Allan, B. and Stoller, F. (2005). Maximizing the benefits of Project Work in Foreign Language Classrooms. English Teaching Forum, 43 (4). Available on: http://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/05-43-4-c.pdf


Rubrics and Webquests
Regarding the rubrics and alternative assessment, I think they offer excellent opportunities for authentic and fair evaluation. They are excellent for my context, since they make my job easier. Once we have created one rubric it can be reused or adapted to other courses or projects. Rubrics for instance, allow us to provide the students with a well structured evaluation. Have a look at this one I created and make some comments if possible. 

My "Reading and Summarizing Written Academic Texts" rubric created with Rubistar

Webquests
Webquests help us promote independent learning and make our students more autonomous. They are generally based on group work. The activities designed are based on web sites. According to Professor Bernie Dodge from San Diego State University a WebQuest is:

"as an inquiry-oriented activity that uses resources on the World Wide Web. WebQuests pull together the most effective instructional practices into one integrated student activity. These Web-based projects use World Wide Web sites to help students develop problem-solving and decision-making skills. WebQuests are interesting and motivating to teachers and students.An effective WebQuest develops critical thinking skills and often includes a cooperative learning component. Students learn as they search for information using the Web, following a prescribed format that focuses on problem solving and authentic assessment. A well-written WebQuest requires students to go beyond simple fact finding. It asks them to analyze a variety of resources and use their creativity and critical-thinking skills to solve a problem. WebQuests help students analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. "
A webquest usually includes six elements:
  1. Introduction
  2. Task
  3. Process
  4. Evaluation
  5. Conclusion
  6. Teacher Page
Still working on a Webquest... :)

Reference: What is a webquest? Zunal.com Available on http://zunal.com/zunal-help/help-about-whatiswebquest.php


Project Task 4

 As I had mentioned in previous posts, I had decided to work with my English III course. This course is mainly based on reading comprehension and summarizing written academic texts. I decided to include the use of blogs for the first time. However, there are three main issues I have to consider when planning the project:  a) Time, b) my students' digital skills, and c) Internet access. These issues certainly determine the feasibility of what I am thinking of.


Evelyn :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Week 4: Skill-building Websites for Reading/Writing Skills and Technology-enhanced Lesson Plans



Week 4 

 Skill-building Websites for Reading/Writing Skills and Technology-enhanced Lesson Plans

This week promises to be even more exciting than the previous ones. Why? Because is focused on reading, writing, lesson plans and our project task. Let´s see!



TASK 1: Reading/Writing Skill-Building Websites

As in previous weeks, we were asked to make comments on the weekly readings. This week, we focused our attention on building reading, writing and vocabulary skills. From the readings available, I chose "Weaving the Web into an EAP Reading Program" by Bonnie Ellinger, Simone Sandler, Debbie Chayen, Keren Goldfrad, and Jackie Yarosky (Israel) to make my reflections here. It is a must to mention that this article trapped all my attention from the very beginning. While reading, it seemed to be the authors were describing my own context. I have taught EAP for almost 18 years now, 16 of them at the School of Education of the UCV. During all these years, I have firmly thought that all teachers should work collaboratively, as a team, in order to join efforts and obtain the best results from their work; but, it is not an easy task. Teachers are always busy and it seems that the course design process is truly exhausting. However, academic experiences like this one, read in Ellinger et all (2001), are an inspiration to many teachers who are in the same track. This article describes, step by step, how English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is taught at Bar Ilan University in Israel and how they successfully designed an EAP program that could satisfy both teachers and students´ needs. 

Like us, the EFL Department at Bar Ilan University focuses EAP on reading academic texts:
This focus on reading has not allowed for a holistic approach in our curriculum, so the courses tend to lack variety. Even with carefully chosen materials, we often encounter low interest and motivation among both students and teachers when an entire course is based on teaching the skills needed for the comprehension of academic texts. (Ellinger et all, 2001; p.1). 
Based on this, they decided to design a new EAP program and explore the possibilities of combining English language learning with the use of Internet, both essential tools new citizens have to manage nowadays, They started dividing the content delivered in a year into several units. Each member of the EFL Department designed a unit based on several Internet sites and on a particular topic. They selected topics that could be appealing and relevant to the students and available on the Web. They finally integrated the new units into their EAP program and evaluated the implementation. 

During the implementation phase, the teachers faced two major problems. Firtsly, they did not have the possibility of using a lab with Internet access because it was shared with so many other subjects. Their classes were alotted every three weeks. Secondly, teachers discovered their students were not familiar with computers. They were totally shocked by the students´ lack of computer literacy, since "Israel is a technology-friendly society". That meant, teachers had to include another unit at the beginning of the program to develop computer skills.

At the end of all this process, teachers were pleased with the results. They observed an increased autonomy in the students. They gained expertise with the Internet and were enthusiatically engaged in the different tasks. Teachers attribute their success to the purposeful and autonomous nature of the tasks (Ehrman 1996 & McDevitt 1997, cited in Elliger et al, 2001). Students showed enjoyment when reading in English since the use of Internet gave them the freedom to choose what they like and provided access to topics relevant to them. Ellinger et al (2001) conclude that, when using the Internet as part of the teaching and learning process, it must be flexible process, adaptable to change.  
Good teachers regularly review and revise their materials, but the degree to which materials must be revamped once the Internet is routinely used may surprise even the most conscientious planner. Internet-related innovations appear regularly, and as we continue to learn more about this evolving medium, we will adapt our material accordingly. 
References:
Ellinger, B., Sandler, S., Chayen, D., Goldfrad, K., & Yarosky, J. (2001, April). Weaving the web into an EAP reading program. In English teaching forum online (Vol. 39, No. 2).


Favorite websites

Regarding the favorite websites explored, I really liked three of them: 1) ESL Independent Study Lab by Mickael Krauss, 2) Dave ESL Cafe and 3) Activities for ESL Students.

Michael's website is one of my favorites. It is very complete. It offers exercises to develop the four basic skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing),  but also subskills like pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. It also includes games, preparation for the TOEFL exam, and resources for teachers and young learners. I clicked on Reading and wow!!! I discovered this amazing site: Adult Learning Activities! There are tons of short readings that I can use with my university students, mainly those in English III. What I like the most is that all readings include the audio option.  Fantastic!

On Dave's site, I clicked on Grammar and it was amazing to see the enormous variety of exercises available for learners at all proficiency levels. This website is perfect for my distance education students. It offers tons of  explanations, exercises and quizzes to self-evaluate the language learning progress. I think I will use it with all the three reading courses I have.

Activities for ESL is also a great website where we can find resources for grammar and vocabulary. This website is aimed at beginner, intermediate and advanced learners. I think it can be used with adolescents and adults. I also consider it a great collection of exercises and quizzes I can use with English I and II.

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TASK 2:  Preparing a Technology-Enhanced Lesson Plan

After reading about technology-enhanced lesson plans, we were asked to create a technology-enhanced lesson plan. 

Sample Lesson Plan with Technology



Your Name:    Evelyn Izquierdo         
Class name:            English III - EAP course
Type of student:       Adult
Duration of lesson:  Two sessions of 45 minutes each


Class description


1) Setting: Universidad Central de Venezuela, School of Education, Distance Education Program (EUS, Campus: Barcelona (VE)


2) Course: English for Academic Purposes (EAP III), focused on reading comprehension only


3) Course goals:
- Review the contents studied in English I and English II in relation to pre-reading, reading and post-reading activities
- Develop in the students the ability to extract the main ideas of a written text
- Develop the ability to produce a summary of an original written academic text


4) Modality:
Blended learning, four f2f encounters a semester. Course materials available online (Moodle)


5) Learners (Audience):
Undergraduate students majoring in Education, Based in Barcelona or surrounded areas located in the eastern part of the country, five (5) hours or more from the capital where the university main campus is.  Age: 30-50


6) Students' needs:
- Understanding academic texts related to Education, originally written in English
- Identifying the text topic and main ideas
- Summarizing main ideas in Spanish


7) Number of students: 18


ABCD objectives

Given an original academic text, written in English, (C) the students (A) will

1. identify the text topic and main ideas (B)

2. determine the main argument (B), and

3. write a 300-word summary, in Spanish, (B) containing the main argument and supportive ideas, and organized in five logic and coherent paragraphs. (D) 

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MATERIALS:  Online and printed materials provided, YouTube, Screencast-O-matic, Blogger platforms


TECHNOLOGY COMPONENT:
  • Computer lab in EUS Barcelona Campus, Universidad Central de Venezuela
  • Video beam
  • Internet access


OTHER MATERIAL: Readings available on the Moodle platform, dictionaries (hard copies or online)


INTRODUCTION:
The following lesson plan aims at enhancing the reading comprehension and summarizing skills that UCV distance education students have concerning original academic texts  written in the English language.


Objectives of the lesson:  


Session 1. After creating a blog on Blogger for the English III class, the students will do the activities assigned for Text 1 available on their Moodle course.

Session 2. Given the explanations on how to write the main argument of an academic text, the students will read the text No. 1 and will post on their class blog, in Spanish, the title and a three-sentence paragraph containing the text main argument.


TECHNOLOGY OBJECTIVES: Given the corresponding explanations on how to create a blogs and its uses, the students will use them for posting summaries and making reflections of their language learning progress.


PROCEDURES: Steps of the presentation of lesson
  1. Warming up by reviewing last lessons of English II
  2. Creating tutorials and upload them to YouTube
  3. Training the students on how to create and use a blog for academic purposes
  4. Teaching the students how to extract the main ideas of a text
  5. Summarizing practice
  6. Practicing summary skills
  7. Posting a summary and making reflections

STUDENTS’ ACTIVITY:
  1. Watching the tutorial on how to create a blog and its uses in education
  2. Creating a class blog
  3. Read the explanations on how to extract the main argument of a written text.
  4. Reading Text 1
  5. Extracting the three most important ideas of the text, organize them in coherent and logic order
  6. Posting a three-sentence paragragh containing the main ideas of the text on the course blog.
  7. Making reflections on your language learning process and post them below your post.
  8. Leaving comments in at least two of your peers’ blogs.
  9. Doing homework

ASSESSMENT: Formal. Summative evaluation


BACK UP PLAN: In case the use of blogs cannot be possible, I would ask my students to create a document on Google docs and upload the summary. An option C would be to ask my students to create a word document and send it to me by email.

HOMEWORK / FOLLOW UP:  Repeat the process with Text 2.

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TASK 3: Describe a class issue that technology might be able to help with.

In week 2, I described English III, one of my distance education EAP courses at the School of Education of Universidad Central de Venezuela. One of the main problems I face when delivering this course is the students' low ability to produce a summary of a written academic text. I think this issue is due to their lack in reading comprehension and low experience in writing. Most of these students are in the second year of their career and are not mature enough to produce well written texts.

Since this course is offered under a blended learning modality, I think I could plan online activities that can help them develop their writing skills. We have a small lab with Internet connection and the campus has wifi. At this level, most students have already been trained in the use of the computer and manage basic skills such as: web searching, emailing and the use of virtual environments like Moodle.

It is important to mention that this EAP course is focused on reading comprehension of academic texts written in "English", but the students have to write summaries in "Spanish". The course demands from the students:
 
- Understanding academic texts related to Education, originally written in English
- Identifying the text topic and main ideas
- Summarizing main ideas in Spanish  
 



Although you might think developing writing skills can be different in both English and Spanish, it seems to be more alike than thought. That is why we use almost the same strategies when teaching writing composition in English. The main reason is that most of our students do not have opportunities to develop their writing skills in English while pursuing their secondary school studies.

There are several web tools that I might use to enhance both the students' reading comprehension abilities and summarizing. One of them is a blog. I have never used blogs with my undergraduate students for time reasons, mainly. But I think it would be a good idea to try for the first time. Of course, a training session is needed before starting blogging, or I might create tutorials instead. Later, I would give them instructions on how to  write a summary and give them several opportunities to edit their work and evaluate their learning progress.

I am not sure if this has to be an individual or group work. I vote for individual, but thinking of time management, working with so many blogs at the same time might be hard for me. Well, I still need to think how I would deal with this because this is just one of the three course I work with.

Have you ever blogged? Do you use blogs with your students? How do you manage students' blogs? I would manage 18 blogs in this case.