Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Learner is Like.....

We've always been told that children are like sponges, that they absorb any information that we ever give them. After reading Connectivism: A Learning Theory by the Digital Age and watching The Conflict of Learning Theories with Human Nature , both by George Siemens I've reconstructed the old saying. 
A learner is like a sponge in pebbly, muddy water.
Here's why:
According to Siemens, one of the principles of connectivism is "Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen though the lens of shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be the wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision." The water and pebbles represent the ability to choose what information a learner decides to absorb. A sponge will pick up water and some very small pebbles, however it cannot absorb it all. This is much like a learner who chooses what they want to learn.
As we all know, a sponge not only absorbs but when you squeeze it, it will release whatever it has absorbed. According to Siemens, "As human beings we desire, or crave the ability to externalize what's in our heads." Squeezing a sponge is much like externalization. You are taking what you have learned and putting it back out into the world. It is basic human nature to want to share what we have learned. 
The process of absorbing and releasing or learning and externalizing can be done over and over.
This should be kept in mind when teaching. You need to make the information you are presenting to your students appealing because ultimately it is up to them what they want to do with the information you are giving them. They can choose to absorb it or leave it behind. It is also very important to give your students a chance to externalize what they have learned. It is basic human nature and should not be ignored. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Interactive Online Communities

Hello again!

Today I've explored Google+ Communities. I've been hearing about them for a while so I decided today was the day to actually dive into the Google+ world. Needless to say, it was  much easier than I thought and extremely helpful. 

I joined two Google+ communities: Teachers for Interactive Language Learning and English Language Teaching. As a future ESOL teacher I found these communities extremely helpful. From what I saw it was teachers for future teachers sharing their ideas, literature, questions, and resources with one another. I actually found it very similar to a Facebook group. You join a group, can see who else is a part of the group, post text and photos on the wall, and comment on other peoples posts. 

As a teacher you're always looking to better yourself. Joining a Google+ community gives you the opportunity to always keep learning new things about education. You'd also be surprised how many people are willing to help and give ideas. For example, I could post a question "I'm looking to teach my students modals. Does anyone have any suggestions of an interactive website I could use to teach these?" Even if someone may not have a website they can share, they would share ideas or success stories they've had in their classroom. It's always enlightening to get new ideas.

I also like that you can change your settings to be notified when people post on the page or not. If you don't want to be bombarded with notifications, opting out is as easy as clicking a button. 

Needless today, joining a Google+ community gives you the opportunity for constant teacher development without having to pay any fees or having to leave your house and change out of your pajamas!

Friday, September 26, 2014

New and Improved Pen Pals

For this blog, I’ve been asked to explore the website ePals! ePals is a web-based tool that helps students from grades K-12 interact with other students from around the world.
Features of ePals
The main feature of this site is for teachers to find other classrooms that their class can interact with. I found a lot of teachers create an account for their specific class. For example, while browsing the site I came across this ad:
As you can see the teacher gives a brief description of their class stating the age, native language, and goals. There were DOZENS of these postings from countries all over the world. 

There is also a feature called ePals Clubhouse. This is a place where students can connect with each other and publish their writing, play games, create art. The website is incredibly interactive and gives students the opportunity to speak and work with other students.
Parents are largely concerned about who their children are speaking to on the internet. A nice feature about ePals is that it is a protected space for student interaction. The teachers can manage and monitor what the students are able to see and interact with. ePals complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
How I'd Implement it in My Classroom
One activity I found on the site that I was really liked was creating your own cultural profile. First, I would find a teacher who had English speaking children in their classroom that were willing to partake in an e-mail exchange. What I would do is have each student in my class and the other teacher’s class create a cultural profile. This is where a student fills out a Cultural Profile Worksheet that has information about them as well as photos. Each student in my class would be assigned to a student in another class and they would look at their cultural profile. They would read each other’s profiles and create a dialogue based on what they read. If the teacher agreed I would like students to be able to Skype with one another after they have created their questions.
Although this activity would take more than one class, students would have two goals.
  • Students will be able to fill out a cultural profile worksheet using information about themselves.
  • S tudents will be able to generate 5 questions they could ask their ePal after viewing their cultural profile.

This would fulfill NYS ESL Learning Standard 4 that students will listen, speak, read and write in English for classroom and social interaction. They will be writing about themselves while filling out the cultural profile worksheet and the questions they have for their ePal. They will be reading when they are reading their ePals cultural profile. They will be speaking and listening when skyping with their ePal and having a conversation using the questions they had written.
Overall, the site is incredibly fascinating. It gives students the opportunity to interact with people their age that they probably would never have the chance of working with otherwise.

Friday, September 19, 2014

DIIGO vs Pinterest....... Which would you choose?

As teachers we often find ourselves coming across a lot of resources while were at school and saving them to the school computer. We sometimes find them at home while we're on our laptop. There are even times we find things while browsing on our phone while we're out and about. 
Over the past week I've been exploring the world of DIIGO and Pinterest. Both of these sites help you not only find resources, but have a place to save them where you can access them from any computer, smart phone or tablet.
Before telling you my favorite, I wanted to share some pros and cons I found with each site. 

  • You can highlight on the sites that you've bookmarked and saved to your library. This makes it easy to find the specific information you're looking for when you refer back to it.
  • You can use multiple tags for each site you bookmark. Diigo will recommend a few tags that you can use but you can also create your own.
  • You can also have your own write up for each site. Make a few notes so when you're referring back to your library you can read a brief description of the site. If you want you can even copy and paste from the original article to appear in the notes/comments about the site.
  • You have the ability to follow anyone with a DIIGO and they can follow you! This makes it easy to view other peoples pages.
  • You can message the people you follow to ask them questions, make comments, or just strike up some conversation.


  • You cannot post comments on other peoples DIIGO's. If you have any questions or comments you have to message them directly.
  • Although you can follow others, I personally had some difficulties following people. When you hit follow, a CAPTCHA message appears that you must complete in order to be able to follow them. On multiple occasions a CAPTCHA wouldn't load therefore I could not follow new people.
  • You are not offered suggestions for related articles or resources. 

Pinterest Pros

  • If you're posting something to Pinterest, you have the ability to create your own tags so people can find what you've posted. You can also search specific tags when you know what you're looking for. Although you cannot tag the sites you've found, you can pin them to your own personal board that you've created.
  • You have the ability to write about each site you've found in the "community questions". Here you can make comments or ask questions about the site you've found.
  • You have the ability to follow people and they can follow you. 
  • You can direct message people on Pinterest.
  • You are offered suggestions for related sites. For example, you can search the word education and every post that someone has tagged the word education in will appear.
Pinterest Cons

  • You cannot highlight text on sites that you "pin" to your boards.

Although both sites have great ways to find resources and access them again later on any device, I would have to say that Pinterest would be something I'd continue using over DIIGO. I found Pinterest to be a lot more user friendly and easier to manage. All pins have photos attached which helps you sort through them quickly. It was very easy to find hundreds of boards relating to what you're looking for.

What would you choose!?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A few things you probably didn't know...

Hello all!

Today I watched two videos that are truly mind blowing.

The first was Social Media Revolution 2011 which shares some of the social media statistics from 2011.
For example, if Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world! Also, a new member joins LinkedIn every second. These statistics are an eye opener as to how main stream social media has become and what a huge role it plays in peoples lives.

The second video I watched was Shift Happens. It's quirky title does it justice!

What I liked about this video is that it focuses on how the world is constantly changing. For example, the top 10 most popular jobs in 2010 did not even exist in 2004. If that will always be the case, as teachers, we're preparing students for jobs that don't even exist yet! It also has some statistics that are specifically focused on certain countries that were actually quite shocking.

I don't know about you but I learned a few things today. Who knew you could learn so much in under 6 minutes from watching 2 videos!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mod 2

One thing from Zeinstejer's "Blogging in Language Learning" that really stuck with me was that blogs create “An appropriate environment to encourage students to collaborate and share not only the language but also their different cultures and even personal queries and expectations”. I think this is important to incorporate into all classrooms because it helps develop a sense of community, even if it is in an online setting.

Zeinstejer shares many activities that blogging can be used for by teachers and students. From my undergrad, I have a strong background in English. With that being said, one thing that perked my interest was that teachers can use blogs for posting quotes and having their students write their interpretation and applying it to some aspect of their life. I like this for many reasons. First and foremost, if I was working with high school students, this is similar to writing a critical lens essay. An important part of a critical lens essay is being able to read a quote, put it into your own words and then being able to relate it to a text. This activity gives students the opportunity to practice that, but instead of relating it to a text, they can relate it to their life. This also gives you some insight to your students and helps you to get to know them better. It gives students a chance to practice their reading and writing skills informally which tends to seem less threatening.

One thing that a student can do with a blog is create an ongoing portfolio. What I’ve encountered while working with ESL students is that, they tend to focus on how much they don’t know, opposed to how much they have learned. Zeinstejer shared that teachers should focus on content, not dwell on mistakes. This makes writing less intimidating because they can share their thoughts without getting penalized for misspellings or grammar mistakes. I think having a blog where student’s submitted work over a period of time would give them the opportunity to look at how much they’ve progressed. They can witness how much their vocabulary has increased, or how they're now able to develop thoughts or string sentences together. It’s actual evidence for a student to reflect back on to track their progression.

Two performance indicators that a student blogger could demonstrate in grades 9-12 would be ESL2.C.1.I: Students engage in collaborative activities through a variety of student groupings to create and respond to literature. This could happen with students creating a blog together or even commenting on each others blogs. Also,ESL2.C.1.K: Students apply self-monitoring and self-correcting strategies while reading, viewing, discussing, listening to, or producing literary texts and essays. This could be done with what I described above where students create an online ongoing portfolio.