Digital Divide

The notion of digital divide means the lack of skill or capability to use the technology that was being integrated, especially in learning activities. Training on how to use the Internet is critical to closing the digital gap. Being digitally literate is more than having access to technology. It means using the digital devices appropriately. One should possess cognitive and technical skills in order to find, understand, create, communicate, and evaluate digital information in various forms. A teacher must consider that technology in the classroom can be all three. Certainly using technology and media is more entertaining that using a textbook or listening to a monotonous lecture but beyond the entertainment value, how can technology be integrated for Project-based learning or for critical thinking skills?

The educational value, then, of technology is how it empowers students to go beyond the original content and construct new knowledge. Granted, behind the technology–especially media–lies finances, but with open courses at universities, TED talks, and free software which allows teachers and students to use technology to introduce learning, deepen learning, and expand learning, economics is not as important the relationship between technology, media and education. Nowadays the majority of students in the K-12 system cannot remember a time when they did not have computers and Internet to help them in their studies and all other phases of their lives. In this light, the divide seems less threatening. And though there will always be a new app to learn or a new operating system to get used to.

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Student Engagement through Online discussions

Hello everyone,

I found this video quite helpful because it provides educators with skill development and strategies for managing and facilitating effective online discussions and how to engage students in the process.

Discussions that are incorporated into curriculum for online courses can build student engagement and support higher levels of achievement and learning. Educators should plan  discussions that are successful and not viewed as busy work by students. Discussions  need to be facilitated and monitored once the course is underway.

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Social Media

Hello fellow bloggers,

I have not been around for awhile due to dealing with health issues and trying to keep my head above water. I just finished a major digital project for one of my 5 courses, which literally took me days to complete. In reality, though, are teachers given so much time to plan? The answer is “No”. Anyways, I had fun while working on it and learned a lot about the use of various software to facilitate learning and teaching.

Let’s focus on social media.

What is social media? It is any web-based application that allows you to communicate, collaborate, and share resources with other people. Nowadays teachers are realizing the benefits of Web 2.0 tools, such as educational blogs, wikis, and podcasts. They offer students with opportunities for greater learner control, active construction of knowledge, and access to collaborative learning environments (Solomon & Schrum, 2007). Using Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom may give teachers another way of connecting with the latest generation of learners who are already heavily immersed in the Web 2.0 world outside of the classroom (Downes, 2005). The Web 2.0 may provide necessary connections between the learning resources and students, as well as empower students to collaboratively develop educational knowledge and content (De Weber et al., 2007).

According to Godwin-Jones (2005) teachers facilitate language learning in the classroom through the use of Web 2.0 tools such as instant messaging. They are incorporated for text-based interaction with native speakers and downloadable podcasts are being made available to students for listening skills and word recognition. Web-based gaming environments provide a space for students to assume an online identity and interact with others in the foreign language.

I was intrigued by the Cisco Webex tool and definitely would see myself using it in the language classroom to create collaborative learning environments. Interaction with native speakers is important for foreign language learning. It provides students with opportunities to experience real communication without having to travel long distances. It allows students to collaborate through meaningful language use which is very important in the process of learning a second language. The ability to see each other through the video option makes it personal and motivates students to practice their speaking skills.

 

 

 

De Weber, B., Mechant, P., Veevaete, P., & Hauttekeete, L. (2007). Web 2.0: Social software for educational use. Paper presented at Ninth IEEE International Symposium on Multimedia 2007, Taichung, Taiwan.

 

Downes, S. (2005). Web 2.0. E-Learn Magazine, Retrieved from http://elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&article=29-1 on October 31, 2013.

 

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0—New Tools, New Schools. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

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Assessment

The assessment as learning concept outlines that students should be respected participants in their own learning. They receive constructive feedback and are able to identify what they need to improve on and solve their learning needs, with teacher facilitation. Through this practice students can develop skills for life-long learning and be self-motivated by learning self and peer assessment strategies. Torrance (2007) advises against focusing entirely on predefined success criteria and making learning according to this list. One of the most challenging tasks for me as a language teacher is finding effective ways to determine what and how much my students are actually learning. Even though project based learning and collaborative learning have proven to have many advantages for students can reliable assessment of what an individual student is able to do exist where class sizes are increasing and resources for teachers are diminishing?

I acknowledge that assessment plays an essential role in teaching and that I need to have both theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge in my classroom assessment practice, which will benefit student learning. Through study and practical experiences I should be able to develop capabilities in assessment language, strategies, approaches and skills. This learning is ongoing and will continue to develop over the course of my career.

After viewing the video I ask myself “Why has the student learned anything?” Knowledge is less likely to be retained if it has been acquired so that one will perform well on a test, as opposed to learning in the context of pursuing projects and solving problems that are personally meaningful. So what have we taken for granted in our assessment practices?

 

Torrance, H. (2007). Assessment as learning? How the use of explicit learning objectives, assessment criteria and feedback in post-secondary education and training can come to dominate learning. Assessment in Education, 14(3), 281-294.

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Designing an online course: The importance of presence

I consider presence as naturally occurring phenomenon in the regular classroom. This week’s readings showed me that as an online instructor I should make an effort to design my online course keeping in mind the concept of presence. Learners need to perceive something tangible, which may include the type of technology used for the course, the instructional strategies chosen by the instructor, and the role of the instructor. Lehman and Conceicao promote thoughtful, intentional design and participation of the learning environment by the instructor, the support team, and the learners, mostly through frequent communication and interaction of groups. In many face-to-face classes, such connection of thought, emotion, and behavior is almost automatic. But in online classes, it must be created. When it is, students and instructors not only learn the skills and content better, but they enjoy the experience and stay the course toward degree and career goals.

 When I was attending university classes I had a handful of professors who were able to keep me stimulated  and engaged during their traditional direct teaching/lectures. Instructors should choose their presentation  formats not based on tradition but on a careful consideration of the needs and capacities of themselves, their students, their content, and their tools. As Lehmann and Conceicao (2010) point out the role of the instructor is to provide students with an environment where they are engaged in numerous discussions about thought provoking questions.

 

Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R. (2009). Managing online instructor workload: Strategies for finding balance and success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 Lehmann, R. & Conceicao, S. (2010). Creating a sense of presence in online teaching: How to “be there” for distance learners. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

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Online Communities of Practice

LanguagePartners5

This week’s theme of communities of practice made me think of the term used in most schools in the Calgary area: a professional learning community (PLC). When I first heard it a few years ago, I thought: “Yay, another acronym” with a sense of sarcasm. Another jargon word was introduced to teachers and they had to figure out how it would fit into their busy schedules. As defined by Cranston (2001), such group develops relationships in order to promote change in the classrooms across an entire school. In order for change to occur the members of this community must regularly work together to continue to improve students’ needs. This can be done by having a shared vision of the schools curriculum. It is beneficial to learning because of the collaborative nature in which the ideas of more than one individual are expressed and the best ideas can be selected to be incorporated into an individual teacher’s style. This helps to keep a teacher creative and innovative.  All teachers want to provide the best environment for their students where maximum learning can occur.

At first I was sceptical about PLCs because I did not know how exactly they operated. Currently my school’s main priority around PLCs is to meet regularly and share concrete example of how to improve students’ learning. A good example of PLCs would be EdCamp (https://sites.google.com/site/edcampcalgary/) where teachers from various schools in the Calgary area met on April 19th, 2013 in order to facilitate sessions on particular topics or simply attend engaging conversations about transformation of education. It was a great learning experience and a creation of an online network community that continues to exit through Twitter.

Technology can be seen as an enhancement in these communities. Hanson-Smith (2013) arues that blogs, wikis, Facebook, instant messaging and other social networking tools are important in developing online Communities of Practice because teachers can communicate informally with each other and share ideas, knowledge, and therefore create a personal learning network. When I return to my workplace after completing my sabbatical, I intend to make a proposal to my principal to establish online learning communities with French schools locally (Québec) or internationally (France). Hanson-Smith (2013) points out that students benefit from the online environment because they are able to discover social relations with peers from various locations and learn to work collaboratively in a virtual world.

Skype activities, for example, can be a very beneficial tool for students because they promote cross-cultural communication and understanding. As an alternative to dealing with the issues of overseas chat, including time differences and poor connections, I will most likely search for a school from a French-speaking city in Canada (i.e.Fredericton, Halifax, Quebec, Ottawa, or Churchill). This type of communication is an effective way for students to practice the material learned in class with a native speaker without feeling anxious to talk in front of a large group. Ozdener and Satar (2008) state that communication facilitated through technology is used by teachers to improve students’ speaking skills and to build their self-confidence to share their ideas in the foreign language more fluently. I am excited to see the outcomes of this project and the attitudes of the students who are resistant learners of second language.

 

Cranston, Jerome.  (2011).  Relational Trust:  The Glue that Binds a Professional Learning Community.  Alberta Journal of Educational Research, Vol.57 No. 1, p59-72.

Hanson-Smith, E. (2013). Online communities of practice. In Chapelle, C. (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Ozdener, N . and Satar, M .H . (2008) . Computer-mediated communication in foreign language education: Use of Target Language and Learner Perceptions . Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 9 (2), Article 9. Retrieved from http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde30/articles/article_9.htm

 

 

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Online Learning

This week I found the chapters on Profile of the Online Learner and Learning Theory quite enlightening (Stavredes, 2011). I started reflecting about online learning and how it is perceived differently among people in individualist vs. collectivist societies around the world. As a teacher I can attest that some of my students coming from countries such as China, Korea, and Vietnam for example, rely solely on me to deliver the information they would need in order to be successful on a quiz or a final exam. Typically they prefer to work independently, which can become a challenge in a second language class. I often use collaborative project based approach in my teaching. In that type of learning there are aspects of uncertainty and risk taking. Therefore, I agree with the author of the book that the more tools I provide for them (checklists, templates, and worksheets) the more comfortable those students would feel towards new environments and various kinds of learning (Stavredes, 2011).

I must admit that when I first looked at the course syllabus and did not see a rigid outline of weekly readings of what kind of information I would be required to write about on my blog, I felt I was going to be lost. After reading Laura’a post on the Blog Assignment I am more at ease and this aspect of the course seems a lot more manageable. It makes sense to me now that as teachers we are not obliged to have everything structured for our students. We need to give them the freedom to openly write about their experiences through blogging. My job as a teacher would be to set up the expectations for creating a positive online learning environment for students to express their thoughts and get an immediate constructive feedback.

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Assignment One: My Introduction

blog

Hello colleagues,

My name is Guergana and I am originally from Bulgaria (Eastern Europe). Language learning is one of my passions. I speak four languages (Bulgarian, English, Russian, and French) and would like to learn Spanish soon. I currently teach French as a Second Language and Social Studies to Grade 5 and 6 French Immersion students at Elboya School in Calgary. I have mostly taught at the elementary level (Grade 2 to Grade 7).

I chose to complete the Master’s of Education program specializing in second language teaching because I wanted to work directly with teachers and students and provide them with the most effective tools for teaching and learning a foreign language. I often use technology  in my classroom in order to encourage oral production among the students (creating digital stories in French using “Story kit” on the school ipods). I would like to acquire more knowledge about how digital tools can be used to motivate students who are uninterested in learning a second language.

I am currently in Europe (Lucerne/Switzerland) taking a sabbatical in order to complete my degree. I chose my Gravatar to be a picture of me in sunny Lucerne. In my free time I go climbing at the local gym or in the mountains when weather permitting.

I am excited to learn new things from this course and apply them in my teaching. I am also looking forward to engaging discussions with all of you.

“See” you soon,

Guergana

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