About Me

My photo
I am a translator and interpreter for English, French and Spanish and an ESP/EFL teacher as well. I teach at the Social Communication School at the Central University of Venezuela. Currently, I am doing a master’s program in Teaching of English as a Foreign Language, which has been helping me to improve and complete my expertise on the teaching of second languages. I have taught English and French for eleven years now and I have worked with students of all different ages, meeting their needs on areas such as speaking, reading, listening and writing. I also teach private sessions for professionals who need to learn or improve their language level. Nowadays, most of my students are doctors and engineers who want to develop their skills to keep updated with their fields. I also translate a variety of texts for individuals and companies which require the service.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

11. Web-based lessons

A web-based lesson is, as you can see, a lesson in which a Web site is incorporated. These types of lesson are conducted either in a traditional face to face class or in an educational online platform such as Moodle or WizIQ. We, the ICT course students, have had these web-based lessons with professor Izquierdo.
Here you have an example of a Web-based lesson plan.

Web-based lesson plan
Teacher: Beatriz Peñín.
Level: English I (undergraduate ESP students, UCV).
Lesson length: 90 min.
Topic: Nominal phrase in the subject position.
Aim: to identify nominal groups within a given text.

- Students will be able to remember the structure of nominal phrases.
- Student will recognize nominal phrases in the subject position.
- Students will be able to look for nominal phrases in a text using a Web site.

A computer with Internet access and headsets for each student in a classroom or in an online session.

Description of activities:
First of all, the teacher will create a WizIQ session for the class and a course Wiki, which will be used for the entire semester.
1. Since students will recognize nominal phrases in the subject position, they will be asked to watch a video on Youtube about the subject so they can bring to mind what the structure of the English sentence is. Being this an ESP class taught in Spanish, the teacher will simultaneously translate the video to students as they watch it.
2. Students will have the opportunity to ask any question.
3. The teacher will do a presentation on Power point about nominal phrases (core, pre/post modifiers).
4. By using an example text (text), which will be displayed on the WizIQ board, the teacher will use the tools the platform offers to highlight some nominal phrases.
5. Students will have the floor to ask questions.
6. Another text (text) will be displayed and students will have the chance, one by one, to highlight some nominal phrases in the subject position.
7. Finally, both teacher and students’ microphones will be on to have a 10 minute feedback session.

Follow-up activity and assignment:
Students will access to the course Wiki. Some texts will be posted, so students will find nominal phrases in the subject position and propose a suitable translation of the nominal phrases in Spanish.

Monday, November 16, 2009

10. Exploring virtual learning environments (VLE)

Mohan Baruwal Chhetri, Shonali Krishnaswamy and Seng Wai Loke in their book entitled Smart Virtual Counterparts for Learning Communities, define VLE as “a social space in which teachers and students interact both synchronously and asynchronously”. You may be wondering what this means. A VLE is in plain a virtual space in which students are active participant of the class process without being face to face with the teacher or facilitator. It is therefore not only a distance online classroom, but also an improved innovative place where a bunch of technological educational activities takes place. Moodle, WizIQ, Elluminate, Aladonet and, as mentioned before, Second life are some of the VLEs that can be used for learning.
In the case of ESL teaching, Godwin-Jones believes that teachers “have embraced the world of collaborative opportunities the Internet has introduced” and it definitely offers powerful online opportunities for dialectic collaboration for language professionals as well as learners.
As any other Internet tool, VLEs have pros and cons that are still being debated by many education experts. However, it is important to highlight that VLEs help to incorporate the Internet to the class times instead of using it as just an information source, to facilitate students’ accessibility to live online environments, among many other things.
Professor Izquierdo has used WiZiQ for online lessons in which we listen and interact with our teacher and classmates using a webcam and microphones. Although, not all of us have either webcams and/or microphones, the experiences have been enriching and very interesting. I would really like to incorporate this tool into my class planning.
From my point of view, a VLE is an excellent tool to make students active actors of their learning process, but my only concern is that in the future VLEs totally replace traditional face to face classes in which teachers have the opportunity to meet students and use their words and body language to communicate without doing it through a webcam. I still believe that ecliptic methods always work better.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

9. Communities of Practice: Facebook

We shall begin by defining what Communities of Practice (CoPs) are. According to Professor Etienne Wenger, CoPs are groups of people who have a common interest in a particular domain, interact regularly, and learn from/with each other. They exit online and can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to a specific field. Many CoPs have been created in the most popular social networking sites, such MySpace or Facebook.

Students, who are highly likely to use the Internet for chatting, sending emails, viewing images or watching videos, do this commonly through these social networking sites. Therefore, why cannot Facebook be used with educational purposes?
Facebook has become one of the most highly used networking sites in the world and due to its expansion, more and more teachers are beginning to incorporate it into their teaching practices. Of course there are many factors that are both positive and negative when Facebook is considered to be used as a classroom tool. Nevertheless, if it is used effectively and carefully, it can easily enhance classroom learning and help build positive interactions between students and teachers as the teaching/learning process develops.
It is extremely interesting to mention that the origin of this popular social networking site is educative. It was created in 2004 by a student at Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg, in order to communicate with other students within Harvard's campus. The site was an instant success and it went public a year after, having more than 60 million active users worldwide.
Due to the fact that in today's fast growing society more and more children and young people are relying heavily on electronic sources to learn and communicate, Facebook is, hence, a great way to incorporate education with technology. We teachers can use it to encourage online discussion among students, to provide links to educational resources or to send and post materials. It also allows an easier and faster way to connect out of the classroom or the class itself, so students can talk to teachers online about any questions or concerns they might have. Thus, Facebook is an invaluable asset for education
My colleague, Jesus Bastidas, has created a group in Facebook called Inglés en UCV. It is still under construction, but it is a great beginning.
http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?id=526798784&gv=2#/profile.php?v=info&ref=search&id=1381118827. Way to go Jesus!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

8. Webconference on Social Networking (2009). AVEALMEC and ARCALL

The Webconference on Social Networking 2009 was the first online forum organized by AVEALMEC (Asociación Venezolana para la Enseñanza y Aprendizaje de Lenguas Mediados por el Computador) and ARCALL (Argentine Association of Computer Assisted Language Learning) and it was held from November 5th to 8th in order to discuss the role of ICT in the ESL classroom. This first online conferences consisted of 12 video-conferences, which were offered through the Web tool WizIQ and are still available in AVEALMEC’s blog. The purpose of the Webconference focused on “social networks and their potential to create communities of practice to share, communicate without barriers and enhance the teaching-learning process in the language classroom” (http://avealmec.org.ve/moodle/file.php/1/Social_Networking_2009revised.pdf).

Before and After Twitter: Personal Learning Environments

By Graham Stanley from the British Council

According to Professor Stanley a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) “is a system that helps people take control of and manage their own learning” and in his presentation he affirmed that the rise of Twitter as well as some other Web 2.0 social networking tools have facilitated for teachers the management of “their own learning and professional development” and the communication “with others in the process”. Therefore, the use of Twitter or any other social networking tools can help learners to do the same.
In 2009, Twitter was the first more used social network, displacing even blogging. In fact, he affirms that after Twitter people are blogging less, since this tool connects you with other people. He also recognized that he bloggs less.
In this regard, he stated that by twitting you can keep in touch with your community on regular bases, ask questions and get answers on real time, send and receive links, know about events, etc.
Although Twitter has so many advantages, Professor Stanley also thinks that this tool can take away time from other things, so the wisely used of it must be taken into account.

Flickr: Design that Connnects
By Carla Arena

Professor Carla Arena is an educational technology teacher from Brazil. She presented in AVEALMEC’s webconference her impressions and possible educational uses of Flickr. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to be in her conference due to personal reasons, but after listening to Professor Izquierdo in our ICT class talking about this conference specifically, I had no doubt to watch it. Being totally honest, I had not had a clue about what Flickr was, so before watching the recorded conference, I first looked up for a definition.
According to Wikipedia, Flickr is a very popular image and video hosting website. This technological platform was develop to connect people and provides a space to keep in touch with others through mails and conversations. As any other social platform, you only need to create an account, and even create your own group with the idea of sharing pictures, talk with others about your own images, etc. This account can be free, in which you have some limit, or “pro”, which offer unlimited space.
In her conference, Professor Arena asserted that an image can be more than what it just is and Flickr, an online photo sharing space, is much more than just a social networking, but “it’s a hub for educational experiments, networking and visually appealing inspiration to any educator” (Arena, 2009).
She also believes that Flickr is one of the most powerful web 2.0 sites that really promotes interaction among people online. She affirms that we learn a lot through pictures because we share stories with then and, by sharing pictures, we share also our stories, our world, our culture in such a way that we build an intercultural mosaic.
Regarding educational uses, Arenas thinks that Flickr can be used to create online flashcards for classes, making them much more appealing than the traditional ones, in fact she said that “Flickr is my substitute for the old flash cards”.
It can also develop critical thinking through pictures because we teachers can encourage our students to become part of intercultural groups with students of other countries and/or other schools around the world. Flickr also promotes discussions and conversations about any topic by using the pictures, among a huge variety of activities that can enhance our work beyond the walls of a classroom.

Connectivism and Social Networking
By George Siemens

Before watching this conference, I tried to know more about George Siemens. Just by googling his name, one is able to find a lot of information. Siemens is from Canada and he is a writer and researcher, whose line of research is technology, organizational effectiveness in digital environments and learning networks. In his presentation in AVEALMEC, he talked about the use of new technologies in education. His main ideas went to the fact that education has change or must change in order to adapt to the evolution of new technologies. He believes that it is time to think about the role of the classroom because it can be possibly substitute by virtual environments and we have even rethink about the role of the teacher. The teacher has always been considered as the “expert”, the one with the appropriate expertise on a topic. Nevertheless, information and knowledge are nowadays shared and even created very fast, so Siemens proposes the question if whether communities of knowledge or networks in today’s connected world could substitute teachers or experts.
He asserted that today, more than ever before, we have opportunities to be connected and therefore to have access to knowledge and it is through such connections that learning takes or should take place, because “as a community with a shared interest, humans make sense and manage ideas that otherwise exist separately”.
He truly believes that today’s educational problem can be solved by individuals’ interaction with each other in meaningful way in order to approach problems. He affirms that we should rely on social interactions to solve problems or even to educate, changing somehow the whole education system.
Finally, Siemens closed his presentation by stating that social networks will not replace teachers, but the learning process needs to be interactive. All individuals involved in the learning process must learn from one another and the teacher should merge to the network.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

7. Second Life

Fantasy is an innate ability of our brains. In my opinion, Second Life (SL) is the materialization of fantasy. It is a 3D virtual world created and launched by Linded Lab in San Francisco, USA, in 2003, in which anybody can create an identity (an avatar and also called “resident”), meet people, interact with them, buy land and build their own environment or purchase an existing one, as if they were living another life. In other words and as PC magazine defines it, “it is a massively multiplayer online role playing game". This is one of the most popular Web 3.0 tools available for people worldwide on the Internet.
As any other innovative idea, SL has defenders and detractors and it is obvious that it has advantages and disadvantages.
Education in SL has been used for teachers and students all over the world in many different fields of study. In fact, I, as a student of the Master’s the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language, have experienced three online lessons with our teacher in SL. In our first lesson, she took us to an island in where we learnt the basics of the game, like communicating, walking, flying, dancing, etc. Honestly, it was not easy for me and I felt really frustrated at the beginning, but I am pretty sure that anybody can manage to learn how to use this tool properly. It just requires a little time and patience.
Here you have some pictures of me in SL.

Educational uses
As an educational platform, SL has been used by any kind of institutions, universities and schools all over the world. If you are fond to join this virtual community, you will have the opportunity to meet other teachers and even to go to places virtually created to learn a second language. In fact, there are places with educational purposes, such classrooms, conference rooms, and so on. One of the huge advantages of SL in second language learning is the fact that there are not physical barriers to be part of a class and you are able to develop all the skills due to the fact that writing and speaking are used to communicate with others. Here you have a picture of me in a conference room so you can have an idea of all the places destined to education in SL.

However, I must say that fantasy will always be perfect and this fantasy virtual world is still not perfect. As it was mentioned above, this is a powerful teaching/learning tool, but it needs certain technical requirements that not all lot of people neither have nor have access to. What is more, it takes quite a time to just manage the basic skills like walking for example and this could be a time consuming element if not everybody in the class is familiarized with the tool.
To summarize, I think that maybe SL needs some more time to finally be part of our curricula.