February 2007

Here’s my second annual love poetry podcast, featuring William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

And here’ s the link to last year’s edition. Happy Valentine’s Day! On another note, someone at work decided that it would be a good idea to have wine and cheese to celebrate at lunchtime. It’s two o’clock now, and there’s some very happy administration wandering around!

I had grand plans for uploading videos to YouTube (did that), and sharing some that I’d found, but it won’t let me add my blogs to my YouTube account so that I can post. I ended up just embedding the file after a little help, but it would have been nice to be ale to post directly. The video I posted on my WordPress blog gave me problems when I tried to post it to Blogger. Don’t know why, since I could get other videos to post just fine. My dream is to make a short video documenting the different kinds of pupusas, so that may be one of my next projects.

I still have yet to make it to one of the discussions, between working many Saturdays of late, looking for a car, and coming home only to fall over asleep in my hamaca, which I have conveniently hung right by my computer. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back and listen to them all later on.

Podcasting ideas

For my students / teachers

Salvadoran / Caliche word of the day. For some reason, just in the past week, many of my co-workers noticed that I have links to my blogs in my email signature. They’ve been there for over a year now, which I mentioned, but they got a kick out of reading my translations of Caliche to costeñol. The academic director told me a whole bunch that I should add that are “che” words. That gave me the idea to get some of my conversation club students to help me present Caliche words and translate them to English, with explanations. My mp3 player has a mic on it, and one of my students works for a local newspaper and has a digital recorder. I think that could be fascinating!

I liked the idea of having students talk about different aspects of their lives and countries, like in Pod from the Tropics. I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to try this, since the majority of my teaching right now is teacher training, but maybe my conversation club students would be interested in this. It brings me back to the same problem of not having a lab to use with students that has (1) a decently fast Internet connection, and (2) no blocks on chat, audio, video, etc. My connection at home is more than sufficient, but I recently realized that I’ll be loosing that in about a month and a half when I move to San Miguel, in the Eastern part of El Salvador. Maybe I can work out a deal with Telefónica to transfer my service there, because I’ve come to depend on Skype for making international calls, and the Internet in general for finding resources for my projects.

Last year, when I was teaching international business students, I had the dream of having them listen to podcasts on conflict in the Middle East. BBC had a nice selection of reports, but I didn’t find the time or way to incorporate this into my class easily. About the same time, I made my first and only podcast to date, using Podomatic. It was a poem for Valentine’s Day, so I think maybe I’ll repeat this year, just to practice using Audacity and adding music. I tried Odeo last year as well, but was unable to use it in classes as it was blocked on our network.

I’ve had students do audio journals on before and post them on Blackboard, back before I knew much about blogging. They would post their thoughts on the topic, then I would post an audio response. Their classmates couldn’t listen at the time, but it’s been a couple of year ago, and I bet Blackboard can handle audio posts and responses now.

Even though I haven’t even been meeting lurker status in the other EVO session on Readers’ Theatre, I think that podcasting could provide an interesting extension of this into the online world.

For ELFs

One of the other ELFs had mentioned starting a podcasting program on ELF experiences around the globe, featuring short interviews recorded over Skype. I need to figure out how to do that, though, first. I downloaded a plugin from PrettyMay that is supposed to allow me to record incoming and outgoing calls and save them as mp3s, but I haven’t had time to test it out yet. Does anyone know of any other tools to do the same? And then I need to convince some of the other ELFs. It’s so easy to get busy with work, then really not want to do anything even remotely connected to teaching or language when one gets home!

I had fun looking for podcasts in iTunes, which I hadn’t used much before after a bad experience with iTunes reorganizing all my music folders maybe four years ago. I’d forgotten about Car Talk from NPR, which I used to love listening to Saturday mornings. I love their accent. I will be adding a couple of the casts I found to Gigadial, which I’ll post here later.

Purpose and Audience

One of the main purposes of podcasting, beyond motivating students through technology, is to provide additional practice in listening and speaking, with an audience outside of the classroom. Ideally, the audience would be the world, but that takes a bit of work. It’s a great way to expose students to different accents (like the Car Talk guys, for example), and new ways of getting information. I liked ISU’s academic listening strategies podcasts; and would like to try something similar if I can find enough students for my pronunciation course. There are many fabulous ideas for ways that podcasting can be used in language learning, whether it be for listening or taking part in the process of creation. In order for a podcasting project to be a success, it must be planned out in advance. Will all the editing and posting be done by the teacher? Are there students that know how to or are willing to learn how to do this (because I’m sure there’s many who wouldn’t want to)? Are there limits that the institution places on the use of these types of technologies? How long will the project last for? These are just some of the questions that I’m asking myself when I’m thinking about starting up some of the projects that I’ve mentioned. Engaging the students in podcasting might also take a bit of work at the beginning. Past students have been intrigued by the idea of putting their voice and thoughts in audio and video form on the Internet, but became discouraged by long upload and download times, among other technical problems.

This is one of our teachers at the Centro Cultural doing the first kata.  Besides teaching English, Mr. Miranda also happens to be a/the founder of karate in El Salvador.  If I finally get my car this week, I’m going to take lessons again!  I just wanted to see if I could embed video, because I wasn’t able to post directly from YouTube like I wanted.  I’ve tried to add my blogs several times to my YouTube account, but no success.  I click add, and then nothing happens.  Has anyone had the same problem?

How can I help learners participate with their own voices?

I was scanning through the article on learner voice, and felt it’s particularly applicable to the projects that I’m working on right now. Part of my job is to help the students participate with their own voices, whether it’s in my own classes, outside class, or in the classes of others. As a teacher, do I understand and act upon learners’ views? I try to. One of my main goals has been to help guide students to become autonomous learners. I often tell them that yes, I’m a teacher by name of profession, but that I and they both can play other roles in the classroom, like leader, collaborator, team member, facilitator, and so on.

We’re beginning the process of designing curriculum for the various programs that are offered, and needs analysis is the first step, so many of the questions that the text poses caught my attention. Are there clear ways in which the learners are involved in decision-making processes? What tools/methods, if any, are being used for listening to learners’ voices? Does the culture of the institution support the development of learner voice? And what evidence do I have that learners’ voices are being listened to and acted upon? I believe that we sometimes assume that our students think the same as we do in everything. Without giving the learners a way of expressing themselves and knowing that their thoughts count, we risk harming the learning process. They need to know that their views are valued, which requires the institution and staff to be flexible and adaptable. Students can play a valuable role as curriculum developers as well.

The tools that we’ve been looking at in OWP provide many ways of empowering learners. I myself feel empowered in this session, knowing that what I’m writing and commenting on has a reading audience. I hadn’t felt that way before with blogging, since most of the comments made were few and far between, by random people. We are much more likely to express ourselves and find our voice if we are doing so in an environment where that voice is valued.




Okay, so this time I’m going to try posting from my new trial of Office 2007. It’s all sleek and pretty, but I’m not sure if I’m up to paying around $500 to upgrade to that and get a copy of Vista! This is the first time in my life that I’ve not been able to buy cheap copies of Windows products through university licensing…sigh.

I wanted to add a little on to Nancy’s comments in Reflection on some good questions, on some topics originally posed by Illya.

On being better teachers if we use these technologies: I think that we have the potential to be better teachers using these tools, but there’s also a chance we could end up worse than before. By experimenting and trying new techniques, we grow as professionals, but we must continue with our experimenting in order to truly be “better.” I don’t believe that a technologically-enhanced class would be “better” than a “traditional” classroom with books and such, only different. That said, maybe some day this will truly change. Maybe some day everything will be digitized. But not yet. We only become “better” teachers when we step out of the box and use our creativity to improve our teaching and our students’ learning. Getting stuck in any kind of routine for too long is no good. It’s not so much the medium, but what the teacher does with it.

On teaching different skills: Yes, yes, yes. I was reading an article (which, incidentally, I printed, read, and left at work by accident, ’cause my eyes are crossing from spending so much time in front of the monitor; I’ll post the link to it tomorrow!) that discussed how RSS is changing how we look for, organize, and disseminate information. A little over a year ago, I began to use Bloglines to keep up with news from different sites and all of the blogs from fellow TESOLers. I said, okay, this is nice, but do I really need it? Just last week, I realized after reading this article, that Bloglines really has increased my ability to find information that I’m looking for, scan through it, and find information that I might not have been looking for but that interests me. And, with Flock, I can open my feeds on the sidebar. Through these syndications, and the social tools, the way I think about information is changing. I suppose I knew this, in the technical sense, looking back at all of my database, e-commerce, and communications courses, but this was the first time in a while that I’d actually applied those ideas to my current life as an educator and as a general public Internet user. It’s true that through blogs and other tools, the Internet is now read/write instead of just read. To keep from rambling on, I’m intrigued by these changes and what it means to language learning and teaching!

It goes past this, even. I took the GRE for the second time back in October. The first time in 2002, when I was still living in Ohio, was the computer-based version. My complaint at that point was that I wasn’t used to writing timed essays on the computer. Here in El Salvador, I was given the paper-based version, and not informed it was going to be paper-based until a couple of days before, so then it was that it’d been years since I’d written an essay by hand, let alone timed! The way we read, write, research, organize, and share our thoughts…it’s changing. We have the challenge of guiding our students in learning to express themselves in a variety of mediums. It goes past knowing computing basics. And, it can be scary. Or worse than scary; people might just not understand how it’s changing. People could be the students, but more likely teachers, administrators, parents, etc.

The technologies themselves changes plenty fast, so fast that there’s not enough time in the day to keep up with all the changes. It’s how we apply them in our lives that doesn’t change as quickly. Even as we learn how to use one new tool and get comfortable with it, another one comes along.

Lastly, yes, our enthusiasm can be frightening to others! I say to my co-workers and the IT lady, “Let’s use Moodle! It’s free! It’s easy to use! Can I have some server space to try it?!” Or, And they slowly back away from me… J