Friday, April 12, 2013

ESL Podcasting!

Hello everyone!
As many others have done, I often engage in listening to podcasts. In order to learn Korean, I listened to the podcasts provided by the website Talk To Me In Korean. As an L1 English speaker, broadening my linguistic horizons through the Korean language was very successful due to the podcasts I continuously listen to. The same can be said about ESL podcasts; English language learners may use English language learning podcasts as supplements in their everyday learning. On the website ESL Pod, there were several podcasts that included several scenarios in which English language learners may encounter and it featured learning guides, blogs, pages for teachers, and a listing of scenarios for English language learners to listen to. Two podcasts that caught my eye in particular were the scenarios, "Shopping at the Supermarket" and "Passing Through Airport Security". These caught my mind because I kept in mind the many international friends I've made, who had to deal with several things at the points in which their English speaking abilities were not at their best. 
The first scenario mentioned, "Shopping at the Supermarket" can be applied in the classroom for English language learners of varying grades. For learners who may have come with their families or are shopping alone, understanding key words, such as the different foods that may be in the supermarket, or words used in markets such as "aisle" or "brand", would be important. Although some of the vocabulary used in these podcasts are somewhat lengthy and advanced, the podcasts themselves can be applied to ESL classrooms. In terms of the second scenario, I understand that many English language learners who go to school or work in English speaking countries may encounter issues in passing through airport security. At times they may take longer to get through due to limited capabilities in speaking English or the airport may not have staff that can communicate with them in their L1. The podcasts feature every day words and speech patterns that English language learners can adapt to and adopt in their linguistic capability. 
Learning about both the everyday speech patterns of a certain culture as well as achieving an increase in vocabulary is included in most language learning podcasts. They also serve as a great supplement for classrooms and can be used for homework. In my classroom, I would use these two particular podcasts to raise questions to my English language learners on what they would ask or say if they were in those particular situations. An assignment I'd make in particular would be to listen to these podcasts, point out any words or structures they do or do not understand and to make a podcast of their own in response to these podcasts. 
Podcasts serve as a new way of communicating and learning; with that, although as teachers we come from a traditionally structured system, we are at a point where we have more resources coming to us that school systems themselves may not be able to provide on their own. Let's embrace these new waves of learning that come our way in order to positively reinforce English language learning on our students!

Have a great day everyone!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Let's explore ePals!!

Hello everyone!
I came across a website, known as ePals, that focuses on the use of technological resources with the intention of the collaboration of classrooms around the world. The site featured projects such as: "Class in Canada Seeks Russian-Speaking Students for Culture and Language Exchange Project", which was described with the objective of establishing a connection with students from Russia with students from Canada through e-mail and Skype. The intention was to educate the English-speaking students on what Russian terms were commonly used among the Russian students in their age range. Another project featured was titled as: "Class in Illinois, USA Seeks Skype Partners in Quebec, Canada", which was described with the objective of discussion via Skype the cultural differences between that of Quebec, Canada and Illinois, USA. In addition, the site also included many features,, including:
Finding a Classroom: It offers a match for teachers to collaborate on a project that would meet the interests of both classrooms.
Teaching Resources: Offers instructions for teachers to include the use of ePals in their classrooms, as well as a listing of resources, with subcategories including subjects, age range, topics and types of resources.
Learning Resources: Includes resources, games, discussions and activities for students to use in the classrooms. This is feature I would definitely utilize from this website, especially the subcategory "Global Citizens". The page features articles that discuss the varying independence day celebrations from different countries. I found this to be very interesting, especially that this website's use of global education coincides with the ideas presented by Ethan Zuckerman in his TEDtalk video "How to listen to global voices". I viewed the video prior to viewing the site's features so it was interesting that the site itself answers some of the questions posed by Zuckerman in the video.

The website features many resources that I will be sure to utilize in the future and definitely explore. This is a site that emphasizes global collaboration, which, as Zuckerman pointed out in his lecture, is a factor that must be taken into more serious consideration in the world, and its classrooms.

Have a good night everyone!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Photo stories in the classroom

Hello everyone!
Tonight I explored the idea of using photo stories in the classroom. Using Windows Movie Maker on my computer, I was able to create a photo story and upload it here on YouTube. The featured video was made with the intention of teaching, through visual association, emotions in an English language setting. Photo stories, if applied with the appropriate photos and text can be made to fit as a tool in any classroom environment. I have seen through the creation of photo stories from my colleagues that with appropriate visual material, the lessons in which they are featured or supplementing can provide a viable source. In addition, students who would be able to use photo stories for individual and group projects, would also find it enjoyable; especially those who are tech savvy or are interesting in using the media to express themselves. In my classroom, as an extended introductory homework assignment, I would ask for students to introduce themselves through pictures, captions and music to better acquaint each other. In terms of further projects, I would use it in grammar practice activities through the use of pictures and captions. The use of visuals would allow for students to be stimulated in understanding the materials presented. As technology continues to grow, I expect to see more photo stories being implemented in classrooms that have the resources.

Have a good weekend everyone!

The Wonders of VoiceThread

Hello everyone!
I came across two particular VoiceThreads, created by my colleagues Ci He and Miao Gu that used the tools within VoiceThreads in an appropriate classroom setting. What I enjoyed about these threads was that I was able to express myself and continue to feel as though I was a student in a classroom. Miao's thread served as an icebreaker, which often happens within classrooms from early childhood through Graduate school. In getting to know your classmates, acquaintances and colleagues, small icebreakers are very appropriate. In addition, with the setting being made mostly for international students, it offered a lending hand to that audience in discussing their feelings of homesickness, and their overall adjustment in being in a different land. Ci's thread included a sheet of expectations and thoughts on my academic objectives and interest in topics in the position of a student learning Second Language Acquisition. I felt that this was a different form of an icebreaker, with a thicker tone leaning towards an early linking of academic understanding between the teacher and student. Both threads included tasks that I would expect to see featured in courses on the first day of a semester. For teaching, an understanding of teacher and student must be established, may it be the expectations of the teacher or the student; or the background in which the student comes from. These threads formed connections with the participating students and the distributing teachers. A sense of connection formed early between students and teachers must be made in order for it not to waver as time moves along.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bookr! Digital Storytelling: Part 2

I found Bookr to be a very interesting and useful tool. Although it has some restrictions and not a wide variety of photos, regardless of the usage of tags, it still provides a way for students to express themselves using online tools that they are more familiar with. Learning objectives such as educating each other on certain topics that individual students would be familiar with. Sharing educational interests, for example, can be utilized through this tool. As some L2 classrooms have students from different cultural backgrounds, Bookr can be used as a way for students to tell stories of their families and cultures in order to expand the minds of their fellow students. I would use the story above to open the floor to the students to talk or create their own stories about their homes or where they have lived. In my personal experience, living in different environments bring about a change of mind in certain elements of everyday life and this may be applicable for students. With each student they can present stories of their homes and lifestyles as well as the change once they had to adjust to using English along with their L1. Bookr would be a useful starter tool and with limited space for writing, it would not give any pressure to students to write extensively.

If you haven't used Bookr already, try it out! It may be a little frustrating at times but the end result is quite satisfying in my opinion. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Flickr and Digital Storytelling: Part 1

Day 240: Classroom in Korea by Cali4beach
Day 240: Classroom in Korea, a photo by Cali4beach on Flickr.

The photo above is from a classroom in Korea; an environment that I hope to teach English in within a couple of years. 

     The saying that "A picture says a thousand words" is still applicable to today. Although photos are now mostly digital, the saying still applies. Storytelling has existed as a means of communication between people, as it has been used for sharing wisdom, entertainment, or personal experiences. Since then, it has been passed down and storytelling holds no limits; parents and teachers alike tell stories to children in order to sustain a moral compass within their children or students. With technology being heavily involved in our lives, the practice of "Digital Storytelling" is on the rise. What separates Digital Storytelling from physical storytelling is the various ways in which the stories can be told through visuals. Storytelling with books includes visuals, although they do not contain any audio or video elements that are included in Digital Storytelling. Just as the preceding methods of storytelling, Digital Storytelling is described by the online article, "7 Things You Should Know About Digital Storytelling as being "instructional, persuasive, historical, or reflective. The resources available to incorporate into a digital story are virtually limitless, giving the storyteller enormous creative latitude." 
      Digital Storytelling allows for students to express themselves in an appropriate environment. As many students turn to social networking to voice their personal problems or feelings, students may harness that voice and apply it into storytelling or poetry through Digital Storytelling. Social networks are dangerous places for youths to express themselves, while Digital stories told by students to teachers can allow for some guidance or exposure to others on possibly hidden artistic talents. For teaching, as described by the article, "Creating and watching digital stories has the potential to increase the information literacy of a wide range of students. Moreover, digital stories are a natural fit for e-portfolios, allowing students not only to select representative artifacts from their academic careers but also to create compelling resources that demonstrate the student’s learning and growth." 
      As it can be seen from this quote, students can take pictures like the one above, build a collection of it and use it to create their own stories and increase possibilities of enhancing their literary senses. Applying Digital Storytelling would also be very suitable for an L2 classroom environment. Students who may not be confident with their English in a classroom setting would be able to take time to be by themselves and put together a digital story in a comfortable setting. In addition, with digital stories, students who may not find the activities in the classroom interesting would have a tool that they would be able to take interest in. As technology today has made personal video more accessible and easier to use as well as society's investment in the media, students would take interest in creating their own videos and digital stories as opposed to the older methods which many may have a lack of interest in. With the Flickr image above in mind, as well as the practice of digital storytelling; how can we combine the two?     

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Acculturation through Serious Games

A serious game that I would absolutely love to use in my L2 classroom would be this game, called Trace Effects. An educational game supported by the United States Government, Trace Effects uses 3-D interactive adventures in order to be used as a means of English language learning. The game includes an integration of the American English dictionary, as well as educating learners on the diversity of the English language that exists within the United States. Moreover, learners are educated in different aspects of American culture. Although I was unable to play the game, as an account must be set up, I was able to read up on it and view a trailer of it off of YouTube

Objectives from this game would include the following: acculturation, social interaction, English immersion, and expansion in learning. Acculturation would be through the game's inclusion of American culture, along with social interaction being accomplished through the multi-player modes that the game includes. As the game is in English and includes full sentences and vocabulary set to the ages between 12 and 16 years old, immersion is very much possible. Expansion in learning would be through the many activities included in the game. 

Assessment of these objectives would be through the utilization of the teacher manuals included in the game. The point-based scoring system included in the game's instructions would prove useful for assessing that these objectives are met, as well as further examination of the learners' processed acculturation.

Serious games such as Trace Effects would be great to use in L2 classrooms; although this game is more a more matured audience of L2 learners. Acculturation also proves beneficial as learners would be educated on aspects of American culture that other L2 classroom environments may not include. When learning a language, I think it's beneficial to learn about the culture as well so you may have insight on why sentences may be structured a certain way or why context matters.

Have a good weekend everyone!