Friday, November 27, 2009

New developments

Once again the class has provided many new insights into the possibilities of technology. The use of blogs, wikis and the rest for English courses is an exciting field for new experiences. The idea of the e-portfolio is a very elegant solution to present the different experiences to possible sponsors or employers.

We also talked about our projects for the course. I have decided to work with my Mision Sucre guys the following way:

1) I'll pass them a questionnaire asking whether they have computers/internet at home, if they know how to use it, and what products they use. I predict 90% will say no to the former, but in the remaining 10% there may be surprises.

2)I'll pick a group, because an on-line project, especially being your first one, entails certain risks, and it's better to start with a small group. The chosen ones.

3)Depending on their literacy, I'll train them on the uses of the different tools we've learned. We'll start with plain Web 1.0 searches and retrievals, and then go on to blogs and wikis. It all depends on the results of the questionnaire

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SL: Definitely not my cup of tea

I'd like to share two reflections after my last experience with SL: first, I'm more of a blogger man, and the capability to create blogs has been the most rewarding of the many things I've learned in this course. The blogger is more individualistic and focused on writing content. Second, my current interests in ELT refer to adult, life-long learning and ESP; and I don't see how to conciliate those realities with SL's ludic interactivity.
I appreciate SL's educative potential, especially with the children of this era of technological revolution. And of course those children will grow up and there will be something beyond Web 3.0 tools for them, for playing and learning. And I especially appreciate the posibility of learning and having fun.
I'd like to share the technical problem I had, that made me waste over one hour and a half of the class: WizIq was asking me to download the latest version of Adobe Flash Player, and I tried to do it, but couldn't. There is some kind of incompatibility of that program with the navigator I use (Firefox), or maybe the Firefox version I had was faulty. At any rate, I had to go back to Internet Explorer in order to access the class. I have deleted my old Firefox and install a new version of it. I still have to find out if it works properly with WizIq and the other tools we use (I don't see why not). But anyway, it was very frustrating and when I finally entered the class, I was really tired.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conference III: Etienne Wenger on CoPs

CoPs means Communities of Practice, i. e., a group of people sharing common interests, interacting regularly, learning from each other, and seeking to improve their ability to do what they all do. There is a learning partnership between them, there is a link between knowledge and the people who know. These two cannot be separated. It is a way of living in practice and to have fun with knowledge.
The most influential teachers are those who invite you to join a community with a social discipline of learning. The SDL includes as key dimensions the Domain (negotiation on the topics that keep the group together), the Community (definition of who is a part of it and what roles are played by whom)and the Practice (shared experiences which create identity).
Technology stewards are people who understand the community's technological needs and lead technological implementation. Their first task is to understand the community in order to determine the right technology for it. Then they help the adoption and everyday use of the technology chosen.
Digital habitats are configurations of tools. Different communities need different technologies. Technologies simply help to keep them togeteher. There must be a balance between the group and the individuals. Blogs are a more individualistic sort of technology, while discussion boards and wikis are more collective. Wenger also recommends the use of open-source software.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Conference II: Nellie Deutsch and WikiEducators

Again I missed the fun of participating on-line. Nellie and Gladys Gahona introduced themselves as volunteers who want to share knowledge on-line. On-line teaching breaks the limits of the classroom. Teachers and students from different fields and countries can learn from each other.
WikiEducator is an attempt to integrate technologies for collaborative learning. It has over 11 thousand users. It is sponsored by the Open Educational Resources foundation. These resources are basically digitalized materials for teachers and students from all over the world. It uses free software and doesn't admit Windows (Bravo!).
WikiEd works as a community council, Nellie is the executive secretary. Its teaching platform is a Wiki. It has a Community Portal providing info on its activities. The contents are decided by workgroups of editors who reach consensus through discussion pages. WikiEd offers workshops, both on-line and F2F, on different subjects like blended e-learning environments, interaction, learning English on line (LEO), and the use of tools such as Moodle. Blended On-Line Learning (BOL) is what its philosphy is called.

Conference I: George Siemens on Connectedness

I could not attend this class live, but I checked the recording. In the beginning, as usual, there were technical adjustments. The work done today is pioneering, I'm sure in 5 years these technical flaws will be overcome.
The conference is on connectivism and social networking. 15 minutes passed before the speaker could start. There were complaints about the audio, Siemens himself commented that perhaps video interfered with audio.
The idea of connectedness implies global, lifelong learning. Being connected seems to be part of being human nowadays. Connectivity is an issue with the military, whose Future Combat Systems depend on it. We see everywhere large-scale, centralized systems being replaced by small, loosely connected elements. Being connected has become a social need. Not knowing might be catastrophic in many ways.
The old paradgims are being shattered. One of them, the experts, who are becoming increasingly ineffectual, and are losing their influence. The information flood forces us to try to make sense out of it. It is a matter of quantity vs. quality. More is diverse, and this brings down many myths. Today we wonder whether classrooms or offices are really indispensable. Participation now can be physical or virtual. Social, informational networks replace experts. Teaching in a networked world demands revising all former ideologies.

My assessment of the course so far

It has been an enriching experience. I feel like a different person (and I'm not just saying it). Evelyn has been a facilitator in the best sense of the word. She has shown us a new way to be a teacher. I see now that, although I thought I was a fairly good user of computers, I was 20 years behind. I lacked fluency with the new possibilities of connectivity. The blog is actually what I had been looking for for years. It's the best way to create your own magazine, and keep it going for free.

With the new knowledge gained, I designed a blog in the university I work at (UCSAR) and another one for my Greek class. Since that is a small class and the people at least have their own computers, I could try interactive teaching with them.

My English classes, as you know, are for people the majority of whom neither own computers nor have access to technology in general. It is a shame, because I have also learned the limtiations of technology. There's a long way to go before society in general can profit from the technological revolution.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Me and my boat on Help Island

With my feet on the water

Podcast No. 1

It has been tough

SL and schizophrenia

Is it conceivable that you design your second identity, your SL avatar, as everything you would want to be, but can't? I think it is, and I see no problem with that. Phantasy is free. You don't even need SL to create a phantasy world. This tool allows you to have it and share it.

It could even help you soothe your schizophrenia.

I understand there is a code of ethics in this medium. Violence and ruthlesness are not allowed. Offensive behavior in general is not tolerated.

Am I becoming an old conservative-minded moron? I hope not.

I must admit I haven't used SL yet. I will post something else once I've worked with it a little.

Web 3.0: Second Life/Part I

Since I am critically minded, I will not sing the automatic praisings of Second Life. First, I will list the problems I've had installing it: well, none, really, except that it warns me that my equipment does not fit all of the requirements. These requirements are beyond the memory capacities of my computer (AMD Sempron, 3200+, 1.79 GHz, 960 MB RAM). They will probably refer to the graphical interphase, which is a matter I cannot handle. It is beyond my technical literacy.

But it works anyway. It looks like the classic video game. I have nothing against that, in fact, I agree with Game Theory philosophy: every human activity can be compared to a game with a set of rules and winning/losing criteria. The idea to use games for instructional purposes is also inobjectable. Don't traditional teachers say that kids don't study because they're playing all the time? This tool offers a way to reverse that situation.

So what's my critique? The following: At the present time, this is not for everybody. For instance, if you live in Guarenas and there is no ABA (yet, because it is a matter of time) you cannot play/teach/learn with this beautiful toy. At least not yet. But you risk flunking the course for a technical problem which is unsolvable for you.

Because the technical problems are there. Perhaps they appear bigger to you if you are not a young hacker, or at least a technologically literate contemporary adult.