Friday, September 30, 2011

Social Network Group for L2 Teachers

Among the social network groups, I find the EFL Classroom 2.0 most useful for me. I really like this idea to build up a social group among EFL teachers on internet. In this way we create a third space for L2 teachers so that they can discuss and share information without limitation of time and distance. Teachers can share their information about language teaching, discuss questions, and seek problem solving from this community. For example, I find that one teacher posted an information about a free TEFL course he provides for students. Not only teachers can gain from this community, but also students can learn a lot from it. It is also amazing that EFL teachers from different countries can communicate with each other bring new thoughts and different ideas from their own country. The forum in the community is a good place where teachers can communicate freely.

I am amazed by the vast information contained in this community. So much knowledge concerning English learning can be found in it, like in teach, we can find elementary, grammar, listening, phonetics etc. There are also many other different kinds of information including images, English musics, videos, games etc. There are all good resources for English teachers. Another good idea is the small groups in this community, such as teaching young learners group. This is very good. Take me as an example. I used to teach adults and don't have too much experience in teaching kids. If I want to know something about teaching kids, I can go to this group to read their articles, watch the videos, ask questions etc. 

I love this community and hope more EFL teachers will know this community so that all of us can contribute to and benefit from this community. 

Teachers' Role in the Tech Age

What's teachers' role in the Tech Age?

The environment of learning is changing now with the development of technology. So is the way of learning. George Siemens argues that because of the changing ways and environment of learning, educators need to rethink about a new theory which can fit in the learning environment in this technology age.  In his milestone article, Siemens proposes a new theory-connectivism to explain how learning is conducted in this technology age. However, as teachers ourselves, we need to think about what teachers' role will be. Is teachers' role changed in this new environment? How should teacher react to this change? 

For me, I don't think teachers role will be changed drastically in this new learning environment. Many teachers  worry about teachers will be replaced by technology. It is not necessary at all for teachers to panic, for teachers' role won't be undervalued by technology. In turn, teachers' role is more important to help students survive this fundamental change of learning and guide students to gain the ability to stay current while knowledge is changing fast. Teachers is still like a guide to guide students and introduce them ways and methods to acquire the ability to share and connect with each other.

The way of learning is changed from linear learning to a more complex way. As Siemens mentioned in his video that: "The network is the learning." (Siemens video) What teachers should do is to concern students' desire to express their ideas and guide them how to find an efficient and appropriate way to contact with others and build up a net work so that they can stay current with the knowledge. As Siemens indicated in his article Connetivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age that: "This amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of connectivism." (p 8).

Therefore I think teachers role as a guide is vital to lead students survive the chaos information in digital age and master the ability to stay current with their knowledge by connecting with people. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Don't use tech because it is there!

The name of the post on which I commented is Better 'the Five Ws' than 'Because it's there' in the blog named Blog-efl. I am interested in it because it raises a very important issue of using technology in one's classroom. I think it is good for us learners to think about questions like when do we need to use technology in teaching, why do we need to use it, will it be beneficial for us to use it. That's what the author talks about. There are people who use tech in their class only because it is there. Instead, the author argued that teachers need to make it clear when they present ideas for using technology rather than falling into the trap of 'because it is there'.

Also the author provides two ways to help teachers make it clear why they need technology. One is Sue's check-list and the other is five Ws.  
Sue's list. 
Teachers can also justify their using of technology by asking questions including: "1. Why use the technology? 2. Who is the technology best for? 3. What is the technology best used for? 4. Where should it be used? 5. When should the technology be used? 6. How should the technology be used?" (blog-efl)
I think these questions are helpful for teachers to examine their motivation to use technology in their teaching. Using these questions can ensure that teachers won't use technology for technology's sake and make the teaching more beneficial for students. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Be Aware of Our Digital Learners!

I have to commit that I am startled by those numbers listed in both videos. It's like you know that there is something going on, but you don't have a clear picture of what is going on here. These two videos provide a clear picture of what now is happening to our younger generation. 

These two videos provide us educators a clear view of what is going on in the field of education by using multimedia. They visualize one of the big problems in 21st century education. By inviting the kids holding those questions and numbers, these video makes me realize that the kids today are different from their predecessors. The lives of people are changed, so are our kids. The way of life of nowadays teachers is greatly different from that of their students. These videos warn us that we cannot teach students as the way our teacher taught us. There is a need of change in our education because of these changes. If we cannot understand the current situation of our kids, if we cannot realize there is an urgent need of changing in teaching, then we cannot engage our students and we cannot fit in the 21st century's way of education. Not only should teachers understand this, but the government official should also realize this and support teachers financially and politically. 

SLA, Language Teaching, and Technology--my response to chapter 1

I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of Brave New Digital Classroom. In this chapter Blake first talked about why L2 students needs technology for their language study. Then He discussed the four myths or misunderstanding of technology in SLA. And finally the author gave us a brief review of SLA theories, especially Krashen's i+1 theory about SLA. By using Krashen's input hypothesis, Black pointed out his view that technology can facilitate SLA are grounded on the theoretical bases.

The FSI (the Foreign Service Institute) numbers of hours a L2 student need to learn a new language given by Black at the beginning of the chapter makes it clear that most of the L2 students don't have sufficient hours to study the language. However, according to my own experience, even the 1320 hours estimated by FSI are not even enough for a student to master a new language. I used to teach university students in China. All of them at least started learning English from their seventh grade and to the end of their high school. Six years of studying English would need them allot at lease more than 1200 hours to study English. However, their English is still far from satisfactory. One reason is, as Black stated, there is no sufficient contact for students with the target language. In the past ten years, internet and computer is not as popular as they are now in China, and also English educators has no idea of using Internet as their source of language teaching. Therefore, what students learned is the isolated language which has relationship with exam. Another reason is that since what they learned were isolated and only connected with their tests, most of the students lack the motivation of learning English. Lack of motivation is another problem for students.

For me, technology is a good way to solve both of the problems. Because of the internet, students now can feel that what they learned is not isolated. They study English in school and then find that when they go back home and get online, they can read the English website by using what they learned today or they can chat with their cyber friends who are from Australia. In this way, students not only have a good chance to get in touch with the language, but also will be greatly motivated by the things they can do through internet by using the language they learned. Furthermore, the language they contact with through internet is vivid and fresh English people use today. This also solves one of the dilemma of teaching language that what we teach are outdated language, which native speakers no longer use. Also, as the author mentioned technology for students who are brought up in the way of using these technologies would be "the preferred tool" (p.5) for them. This generation would feel much comfortable than us using technology in their life, for they are brought in this way.

I agree with the author of the four misunderstandings of using technologies in L2 education. However, I think there are some problems and misunderstandings which are not mentioned by the author. First, although it is good that students can get much more information through internet and technology, they need to learn to survive from the vast amount of information. Surely, it is good that we can get access to the information. Nonetheless, what people, especially our young students, need to think and learnt to survive from too much information. The skill that to get the information they need and not be drawn in sea of information is crucial for people in nowadays information explosion. Second, teachers might abuse using technologies in their language teaching. Though it is good that technology can facilitate language teachers for their classes, some teachers have the tendency to use too much in their classes. Some irresponsible teachers even play movies for the whole class without any lecture. I admit that watching target language movie is indeed a good way for students to practice their listening ability. However, I believe that it will be more beneficial for students if teachers can use movie as listening materials plus some guidance and instructions.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Internet Safety

Though it would be wonderful that educators can apply internet in their teaching, there still exits a big problem in this new way-- safety. The vast sources of internet exists some harmful information for kids. In addition, it is easy for students especially kids and teenagers to abuse the convenience of internet to communicate with the unknown outside world. So safety should be a big concern for educators. It is important for us to discuss how to keep our students safe while they are studying through web. Here are some tips for students to keep safe on web.

1. NEVER give our your personal informations like address, phone number. Keep your identity private online.
2. NEVER answer the email from strangers and DO NOT meet people you met from web in person.
3. Don't use your full name on line.
4. Always let your parents know what you are doing on web.
5. Find a safe online password and don't give it to anyone else.
6. Don't type your password in computer you don't control.
7. DO remember log off, like emails, blogs, facebook, etc.
8. Mind your own manners online. Please always be respectful.
9. If something uncomfortable or bad happen online, please make sure to talk with some adults like your parents, your teachers, etc.

For more information please consult

Three ways to use blog in ESL classroom

Technology is changing people's way of life and education is not an exception. The younger generation is under a different experience of receiving information from their teachers, which makes this time a big challenging for educators. In order to narrow the big gap with students, teachers need to consider using technologies in their teaching so as to make the education adaptable and beneficial to their students in this age. To be an ESL teacher, we also need to think about using website tools in our language teaching. I personally view that the new technology will activate students passion and motivation for language learning and providing a innovative way of learning English to language learners. However, language educator needs to think about the details of using technology in classroom, like: Would this new way of learning beneficial?
How can L2 teachers use blog in their teaching?Would this new way of teaching appropriate? Here are my suggestions of three ways to use blog in ESL classroom.

No. 1-- By using blogs teachers can create an online learning community for student.
Actually this new cyberspace provide teachers a chance to create a new language learning opportunities to language learners outside classrooms. The traditional way of teaching make the communication outside classroom impossible for learners and teachers. However, blog provides a new platform for them to communicate opinion, discuss questions and share their learning experience. This is a good for way language learners to learn another language. 

This would support the Standard 1.1 of national standard for foreign language education.Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions. 

No.2-- Teachers can put authentic language articles on their blog communities for students to read.
It will be a good way for teachers provide good articles on their blogs. Students might be more interested in reading materials and articles in this way than in reading articles in the traditional ways, with which students are more familiar and comfortable with. In addition, other forms of materials can be posted in the blog, which can enhance students understanding in language from other perspectives. Another strong point is that students can discuss and share their understanding of the readings on their blogs not only with their peers but also teachers too. 

This would support the standard 3: English for critical analysis and evaluation develops students' abilities to read, write, listen and speak in English to analyze and evaluate complex texts and issues.

No.3--Constantly blog writing can enhance students' writing ability in language.
Teachers can assign students a daily writing practice of keeping blogs. In this way, on one hand this can help students form a habit of writing and on the other hand with this writing habit, students can benefit a lot from it concerning their writing ability in their L2. The most important thing is that student might not view this task tedious and boring, for the viewing of their blogs from outside like their classmate, their friends, family members and even strangers other than only their teacher will motivate and encourage students in writing. 

This would support the standard 3: English for critical analysis and evaluation develops students' abilities to read, write, listen and speak in English to analyze and evaluate complex texts and issues.