Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exciting 19th Literature with 21st Century Web Tools

I could be here telling you how a session and some ideas can be taken to the next level by a team of creative educators. However, no words are needed when all the details and web tools are there for you to explore. Two dear friends and co-moderators of our EVO Digital Storytelling session in Jan/Feb 2011 used some of the ideas explored in our online session to explore 19th literature with their students in a fun, meaningful, digitally comprehensive way.

With you, Jane Petring's and Mary Hilli's

Using 21st Century Tools to Explore 19th Century Literature

By accessing their wiki page, you'll understand why I don't have to say much here...Be inspired and take some action!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Design Series - eLearning Design

When we work in the eLearning area, we have the regular instructional design issues, plus some others related to technology and interaction in an arena in which we rely on hypertext in its many forms and shapes and the human interactions for a successful learning program. is one place I go for inspiration and the latest elearning trends. Just today I was browsing the site and came across this 24tips series that is a wonderful resources for anybody interested in the area:

24tips -

Don't miss it! You will certainly find inspiration and very practical tips for your elearning session.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beyond the 4th Wall - In the Classroom with NO Technology

Interesting process has been occurring with me. I work with technology, I breathe, dream and think about it, but not just for the sake of it, but because I want to find ways to connect with my students and with peers around the globe. Undoubtedly I see its connective value.


However, I can feel a twist, those moments of change coming...Last year, I spent my teaching time being an online facilitator for educators, as well as for my online students. I had no face2face classes. Now, I am back to that physical space of magic, gestures and heartfelt laughs. That area in which you connect every second with eye contact, body language, the tone of your voice. You feel if things are working or not, you see if there is a question mark on students' faces, if they are relaxed, tense or bored. If they are worried about time or if they don't even notice the minutes ticking. This is the space that I'm back and totally excited about it. I spend my time preparing my lessons, talking to peers, planning our classes together. It is always a reminder of why you decided to be an educator. And for the past decade I've been an advocate of the power of technology in the classroom, I've been training teachers to integrate technology in the classroom, to be sensible decision-makers on to choose when to use it in a pedagogically-sound way. I still believe in all that.

But, with my adults class, I'm a much more careful user of technology in the classroom, for what they really want is to have you there, entirely focused to help them, to listen to them, to talk to them, and not worried if this video will work, or the file on the computer will open, or if they will be able to do the craziest projects using a computer. NO. They need us as human beings and not machine operators. So, that's why my approach has been much less tech in the classroom, but much more beyond the physical classroom boundaries. Now, I realize how powerful it is what Salman Khan has been piloting with his incredible open learning platform and open-minded ideas about education. In his TED Talk, he mentions the shift that has occurred in some math classes in which teachers have been using his videos as homework assignment and have used class time to do what was once homework - working on solving math problems. By doing that, teachers have become true learning facilitators and students have been working collaboratively in the classroom for a common goal, to succeed. Success as a collective endeavor and not as a lonely journey. Teachers have realized that by adding the youtube videos beyond the classroom, students have control of their learning, can playback explanations, can go back or move forward on a concept. And the classroom becomes that liquid, fluid network of wonderful minds achieving their academic goals with the helping hand of an educator.

So, back to my own adult class, I've realized that, in this case, technology is of a much broader reach if I encourage my students to work on our class wiki, if we connect through emails (Yes, they are heavy email users and not so much in the realm of social media), if we share with one another videos, texts, stories of our interest. In fact, just yesterday two of my students were saying that because of our contact beyond the classroom through email and wiki, they've been pushed to do more in their English practice than they generally do, they've been sharing with friends the videos I share with the group. They've been discussing the concepts they watch on the videos and they've even surprised their kids by knowing about the latest music hits and pop stars in the billboards. Isn't this exactly what we need and preach for? Students who are engaged, challenged and willing to move forward through the constant contact with the language? That's what we can get by using more technology beyond class time and more humanly connections in class. All of this doesn't mean I'm not using at all Tech tools in class. I am! But as a much more sensible user and educator.

Group work - the relaxed way

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Warm-up or Follow-up? Just Do it!

Mission Amy is a blog I follow for inspiration. It makes me want to do things. It makes me feel like moving, taking action.

One of Amy's questions to her community of readers was the following?

What are your Do's, Don'ts and Duhs?

Here is the result she compiled and the present she gave back to the community: a blog to whomever wants to feed it. Motivational, as always, reading all the life statements the readers wrote.

Now, what if we did this in class with our students? A simple question, just some minutes in class to write their answers. Afterwards, students might create a class poster, a collage, a scrapbook page to become a class album, a digital collage in Glogster, post-its on Wallwisher or Squareleaf, a video...Let you and your students go wild!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Design Series - Learning Design

In my last post, I talked about the importance of thinking about design in two different levels in our classrooms. The first and essential one, instructional design - planning our classes to convey meaning and to arise interest, engagement. Another aspect of design that we should be more aware of is adding elements that are visually-appealing to the eyes and all the senses. One example I just had in my class was simply adding a wonderful music clip of Adele. First, my students didn't know her, then the video is an example of an upbeat well-designed videoclip. Plus, the music itself was an activation for learning. My students were glued.

Add to design the learner himself. The third level. Many times, we simply take for granted how the learner is dealing with his learning process. We, as educators, need to make them aware of learning strategies that might work for them, that might help them take their language production to the next level. It is all about helping them design their own learning paths through tips, suggestions and constant support.

This is an example of what I generally do. I take a picture of our collective work on the board and post it on our class wiki. However, my handwriting is not a masterpiece on the board. It might be helpful for students, but not that visually-appealing:

Musical Genres

Let's turn this option more student-centered and well-designed to help students explore class content more effectively.

Take, for example, a site like It is very simple to register, students can add their class entries in a color-coded fashion. It is a clean, straightforward, ad-free online space. Students gain in mobility as they can access their notes wherever they are. Plus, they are the ones creating their language lists in any way they feel might be more profitable for them, including editing the colors for each box. So, here's the twist from my previous image:

What do you think? How might this affect the whole learning process? Isn't it going to help in our students' own learning design?