Monday, September 27, 2010

Mod 7. How might I use microblogs for teaching?

I registered for Twitter more than 3 years ago, but within a week after registration, I have stopped using it even in my first language. The reason was because I had to check overwhelming amount of updated posts every day and could not keep up with the speed of posting.
In class activities, teachers can use micro-blogs for taking a survey simply asking if students think yes/no or multiple choices. In addition, if students need opinions and comments from outsiders for completing projects, they might use the tool effectively.
Honestly, I do not think using micro-blogging for classroom activities is highly beneficial, because tweets might be mere piles of shallower-thought posts than blogging.  If you compare these two tools, blogging would need a certain consideration and elaboration for publishing our thoughts. On the other hand, micro-blogging might not have to be such a thoughtful post because hundreds of tweets appear and disappear in an instant; or rather, ‘quickness’ of posting and reply might be a key characteristic for any activities using micro-blogging. Therefore, there might be some problems when you use micro-blogging in class activities. For example, if some people in a class have smartphones and some do not, those who do not have ones need to sit in front of a computer when they want to access it; otherwise, they will miss opportunity to join a conversation.
Two articles I have read for writing this post (1) "Can we use Twitter for educational activities?" and 2) "7 things you should know about microblogging") also discussed both advantages and disadvantages of micro-blogging. I would focus on bad points here; for example, microblogging might make students, especially who can access it via smartphones, addictive to the Internet. Since they do not know when new information arrives in their devices, they need to check their teacher’s micro-blog many times a day. It will not be an appropriate use of technology because the purpose of using technology in a classroom is to make them smart users of technology not technology ‘geeks.’
I guess it is difficult for micro-blogging to survive as an excellent learning tool in the future because it does not have many advantages when compared with facebook, Voice thread, or blogging, because micro-blogging originally aimed at communicating one’s thoughts or state to others privately not publicly such as social networking. Just like you might not want to read teachers hundreds of private tweets only for finding deadline for submitting an assignment. In this case, e-mail would be a better tool to send the message to students. Teachers should be careful for making proper use of the useful tools.
On the other hand, as for professional development, yes, you can meet many people online through micro-blogs who you could not have met otherwise. You can build your community and ask questions to your followers or other users there. This is a wonderful tool!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mod 6. My favorite blog post

I like the blog named "TEFL" Especially, when I read a post “Lesson plan 64: World Water Facts” which was posted on July 2nd, 2010, I found this post was really useful for ESL/EFL teachers who look for teaching materials. Teachers can make use of this video clip in a content-based lesson or simply an English teaching lesson. Since this post (most of posts actually!) suggests language level and learning type of students, furthermore, lesson plan and handout are also attached to the post, you can easily adopt them in your classroom only by adjusting the difficulty level of handout based on your students’ ability. I will definitely recommend future colleagues to read this post and facilitate teachers' work!!
(You also might need to add some comments on the video clip while playing it in order to make it not only instructive but also interesting to your students!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mod 4 Post #2 Join in “EFL Classroom 2.0”

After inputting “ESL, EFL, teachers” in a search box on Ning website, I found “EFL Classroom 2.0” was the biggest group (more than 17,000 members in it) which applied to the categories I was searching for. Most of the members are teachers all over the globe, and you can find and share lots of sources you can use in class, e.g., stories, games, quizzes, video clips, audio, software, flash cards, and more others!  Furthermore, you can also ask questions on a forum board online. This must be a useful tool for especially new teachers, like me, who do not know helpful colleagues and seniors who can advise them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mod 4 Post#1 An analogy of the learner of today

A learner is like an airport. As similar as airplanes come from all over the world with lots of cargos and passengers using airway, you can also acquire knowledge from all over the world via your connection. Since you cannot experience everything you want to know, airplanes can bring cargos and passengers (information and knowledge) from everywhere.
Needless to say, all airports in the world can be connected with each other somehow. Siemens similarly stated in a video clip about “the external component of network,” “which is the learning we do when we form and make connections with other individuals and with other sources of information.” In that sense, you can access everywhere by using network effectively, even if you do not have a direct connection to a place (knowledge).
Of course, an airport is not only for arrivals but also for departures. You can also send information using your connections to all over the globe. As Siemens mentions in his article, “[i]n a knowledge economy, the flow of information is the equivalent of the oil pipe in an industrial economy. Creating, preserving, and utilizing information flow should be a key organizational activity.” In that, output is also regarded as an important aspect of learning. 
The most interesting analogy Siemens stated in his article was “[t]he pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.” If I were to use my analogy here, having various routes to many places is more important than what kind of airplane you have in your airport. As long as you have the connection, you can get to the place you would like to visit, and acquire information you need.
Thus, an effective learner is like a hub airport which many airplanes come from various cities and countries carrying various kinds of cargos and people that you usually cannot see or meet without going there by yourself. In addition, a hub airport is “an integrated whole” which needs a high level of management skills with time, place, people, money, and systems. This is also similar to what Siemens stated; “[c]onnectivism also addresses the challenges that many corporations face in knowledge management activities. Knowledge that resides in a database needs to be connected with the right people in the right context in order to be classified as learning.” All in all, these analogies well describe several factors which can highly contribute to learners of today being effective in learning.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mod 3 Entry#3 My reaction to a video clip, "21st Century Education"

I watched all video clips on the list. Some of them shared the same information, and all of them were interesting to me. Among these clips, I thought “Educational Change Challenge 21st Century Education in New Brunswick, Canada” was the most interesting video clip. It included a lot of impressive phrases (Quotes), some of which were really meaningful for educators in that they might feel necessity of adopting new technology into their classroom in order to fulfill students’ needs in the 21st century.
The most impressive quote in this video was what Molebash stated, “if you put a doctor of a hundred years ago in today’s operating room, she would be lost, yet if you placed a teacher of a hundred years ago into one of today’s classroom, she wouldn’t skip a beat.” You can say that this is overstatement, however, in terms of technology, teaching methods of English teaching might have not been developed enough to inspire students and are still traditional in comparison with one which used in the medical field. It might be both good and bad in some reasons. Philosophy or objectives of teaching which contemporary teachers should have in their mind can be similar to those of a hundred years ago if they fit the students’ needs, however, in terms of contents (and, of course, teaching methods as well), teachers need to adopt new things into their classroom, especially when they can facilitate students’ positive learning experience.
In addition, the narrator of the video also stated that “in education, the use it or lose it may mean, if you don’t use technology for learning you may lose relevance. An educator must be relevant.” From these points of view, the video clip, again, suggested teachers should use technology simply in order for satisfying students’ needs. Otherwise, students miss chances of learning what they are supposed to know by the time they graduate from the school.
I liked this video clip also because it presents neutral viewpoint, in that it did not explicitly mention that you should use technology, although others did say so clearly. Therefore, the video did not suggest specific examples which teachers can use by adopting technology into their classroom; however, it was obvious that you can use youtube, podcasts, SNS, twitter, wikis, and some more others.  I felt a bit awkward at first when I heard teachers can use texting in their class, but, yes, my impression might also have come from a “primitive” way of thinking in the 21st century. Now that it is time to “change” our minds and ways of teaching for the sake of students’ needs, educators need to discard old thinking and adapt to new ways.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mod 2 Entry#2 Internet safety/Safe blogging

Not only in the US, Cybercrime is a big issue in Japan as well. Especially for kids, the Internet can be seen as one aspect of the ‘real’ world but it is not exactly true. When using the Internet, even adults can meet a trouble which could rarely happen in the real world, for example, hacking, phishing, cyberbullying, peer harassment, child pornography, and so on and so forth. Of course, by accessing this virtual world, students can communicate and socialize with people all around the world; however, they also have a risk of being involved with crimes. To prevent them from the risk, as a teacher, you can refer to Common Sense Media website ( which discusses 5 things to keep kids safe in the virtual world.

1. Keep personal information private.

2. Use privacy settings and don't share passwords

3. Kids need to think before they post because anything can be copied, and sent broadly

These are fundamental and the most important rules in the virtual world. If your information is stolen, your identity can also be soon found and stolen (identity theft). As an adult, you can help kids set up their passwords as it is hard for people to guess.

4. What goes around comes around: no humiliating posts

5. It's best to self-reflect before self-revealing

I believe students should get to know the virtual world before joining in. In doing so, teachers need to have students think what kind of internet crime can happen and why. Identity theft can happen when you write your information on your blog space carelessly. Then, if you write everything you think without caring about what others might think after reading it, what will happen? It might hurt somebody. By thinking critically, they gradually understand that they are exposed to the risk of hurting somebody or being hurt by somebody. Of course, kids should respect for themselves, but they also need to respect others’ privacy and identity as much as in the real world.

These are the significant rules which all of us should know when we make use of the Internet appropriately in class.The Internet can be an appropriate place to practice communication for kids, if teachers can support the students adequately.

Mod 2 Entry#1 How Can I Use Blogging in my Class?

I have never used blogging for my class because I have never thought that blogging could be used as a convenient tool for students to encourage their learning. However, after reading the textbook, I came up with several ideas of how to use blogging in my class.

First of all, using computer, especially the Internet, is the best need for English learners living in a country which English is rarely spoken. When you want to see around the world, you can search the Internet and find pictures and videos. When you want to make friends all over the world, you can search for an appropriate website. When you do not know how to say a certain expression, then you can google it, and find frequently used expression. Especially in Japan, the students do not have many chances to talk to English native speakers so the Internet is a useful tool for them to keep in touch with English and English speaking people and keep motivating themselves. Simply, I can say that keeping blogs is a good practice for them to get accustomed to using the Internet.

When it comes to examples of using blogging in my class, I would use it as a discussion board; for example, students write something on the board (blogging space), and other students make some comments on it. They can write whatever they want to share with friends (about English, of course,) such as, English grammar they studied recently, funny expressions, new words and phrases, or any other topics. Students can share title of books or links which they find interesting and useful.

Of course, English teachers and English native speaking teachers can also participate in the discussion if needed. However, it might hinder their active discussion if they answer the students’ questions immediately. Effective way of helping students online might be that they can drop a subtle hint about the questions and activate the discussion.

I also think blogging can be used as a tool of communicating with classmates when they collaborate with each other for a group project. Online Chatting can also work as a similar type of communication tool, however, each of you need to sit in front of the screen at the same time when they start chatting. In contrast, you can access the blog website whenever you have time and can take some time to think what to write. From that point of view, each member might be able to contribute to the project more greatly and equally than when using online chat which needs intuition rather than consideration.

Another way of using blogging might be a review of what students learned in the previous lesson. They write the topic and key words, and explain what they learned and what they could not understand. After reading their blogs, a teacher can see how fully they understood the lesson. If they have some problems in understanding a certain point, s/he can adjust upcoming lesson to make students understand more easily. In addition, if students say that a handout was difficult to understand, the teacher might need to change the format and make it clearer to them. By the way, it is also possible a teacher keeps blogs as well which are concerned with the previous lessons and s/he writes what they taught. By reading this, students can review what they have learned and can fill in the gap between what they ‘believed’ they learned and what they actually should have learned.

In this way, students can receive much benefit from blogging and all of these activities meet the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning (1993, *See footnote) in that they satisfy 5C’s (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities). However, one big problem might be “information disparity (digital divide.)” All students need to have similar chance to access the Internet; that means, a teacher needs to check whether all of them can connect to the Internet at home or, at least, at school on almost equal terms with other students.

*footnote: the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the American Association of Teachers of French, the American Association of Teachers of German, and the American Association of
Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese