Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My colleagues :)

My dear colleague Mady Casco, at FAAPI in Cordoba! Sept 2010

My dear colleague and my EVO /BaW introducer, Jennifer Verschoor. At LABCI Conference in Asuncion (Paraguay) in July 2011

Sunday, January 29, 2012

EVO / BaW Sessions… “The Tribe”

In 2010 I happened to come across EVO sessions just by chance. They appeared on my e-mail address and I just followed the link. I never imagined how they would change my life not only as a person but also as a teacher.

My 1st EVO sessions were very complicated as it was too much work, too much time online and I couldn’t follow the pace. I did have to quit one of the two sessions and kept on participating in one. However, I kept the “online relation” with certain “online people”, namely Jennifer Verschoor, Sandra Rogers and Vance Stevens. That same year, in February, I attended a 3-days conference in Córdoba City (http://www.pro-t.com.ar/ ) and I happened to meet Jennifer for the 1st time. We became dear colleagues and since then, we have shared some webinars and even a 4-days conference (LABCI Conference) in Asuncion, Paraguay.

In 2011, Jennifer asked me if I was going to participate in EVO, and I said “Yes, of course” and she suggested joining “Becoming a Webhead” and that’s what I did. Thank you Jennifer for such great suggestion!

At the very beginning I felt completely lost… blogs, wikis, and audio tools… jees… all together for a complete newbie. But… wonderful names appeared “Teresa, Jose, Fernanda, Dafne, Mbarek”… just to name a few. They provided fantastic help and taught me all I know about web 2.0 tools. We had an outstanding session and at the very end, when I did my final reflections, I met my dear sister, friend and colleague (in that order) Ayat Tawel from Egypt. We shared the same ideas, the same fears and the same willingness to work, to put forward all we had learnt.

Ayat and I did a fantastic job with Skype and Facebook. Our students interviewed us via Skype and after those 4 sessions, we created a Facebook group called ArgentEgypt. The main aim was for students to get to know other culture via English. The project as a success as Vance Stevens invited Ayat and I to give a presentation at Elluminate http://learning2gether.posterous.com/ayat-al-tawel-and-maria-bossa-discuss-their-s

Later in 2011, on my BIRTHDAY, I got a mail from our dear Teresa (one of the coordinators) inviting me to be part of the BaW2012 team. Of course… I accepted immediately. The rest is private as you one day might be part of it.

Why this entire introduction? Because I think that being part of  EVO / BaW is like being part of “The Tribe” as Sir Ken Robinson explains in his book “The Element: How Finding your Passion Changes Everything”. In the book he says that “tribe members can be collaborators or competitors. They can share the same vision or have utterly different ones. They can be of a similar age or from different generations. What connects a tribe is a common commitment on the thing they feel born to do”. (p 105)

During my short summer holidays in the house I have in front of a lake, I discovered that being part of EVO and BaW is like a parrot’s nest. Why?

Because EVO is like a tree. All the sessions, in this case BaW, are like parrots’ nests and all the members in each session are the parrots. They all belong to “The Tribe” which is in “The Zone”, i.e. being here and now doing what you like so as to find “The Element”.

EVO and Becoming a Webhead have opened the doors to a lot of doors in my professional career as I have been able to put into practice thousands of ideas and tools in my classes. They have also opened my mind in the sense of sharing, asking, answering, learning and teaching thousands of things. Last but not least, they have given me the chance to meet wonderful people and become part of my life.

I have created an Animoto video with pictures about the nests. I cannot include any picture of the EVO / BaW sessions because that would mean a lot of work as a lot of people are included but I guess each member (or parrot) knows that s/he is part of it.

Try our slideshow maker at Animoto.

Motivation... Why don't we give it a try and go back in time?

In the introduction of the paper “Motivation in EFL Classes: Who does it depend on?” Mady Casco mentions the episode “Bart gets and F” from The Simpsons TV Series. I’ve found it very interesting because it led me to the book “The Element, How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”, by Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica (book introduced to me by a dear colleague Federico Bertón, from San Luis, Argentina).

Mady explains perfectly well how Matt Groening and Michael Stern show the connection between teachers’ expectations and those of their learners and vice versa. In “The Element”, Ken Robinson interviews Matt so as to exemplify how people can find their “element”.
I’ll quote Mat and Ken (p.4) “Matt always did fine in school, getting decent grades and passing all of the important tests. However, he found himself tremendously bored. In order to keep himself amused, he started drawing during classes. “I would draw constantly”, he told me. “And I got so good at drawing that I was able to draw without looking, so that the teacher would think that I was paying attention”. The story goes on and it’s a bit long to keep writing but what I want to point out is the following.

Maybe Matt (and Michael) did that episode on purpose, to show how he felt when he was at school. He wasn’t given the chance to do what he felt during the class. Teachers tried to motivate Matt but he found no way to keep his eyes and mind focused. And this leads me to what Gardner has tried to depict with his Theory of Multiple Intelligences plus the Neurolinguistic Programming Learning Theory of the 3 learning channels.
On January 24th, 2012, Nick Peachey gave an outstanding online session on how to motivate teens called  “Technology with Teens: Developing material and practices for the digital generation” (https://connectpro10829081.adobeconnect.com/_a875541554/p2uh6ilq2b7/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal, for the YLTsig EVO sessions 2012) and he showed us great web 2.0 tools as means of motivation for students. Yes, I loved all the sites and I will use them but why do we (teachers) have to keep on providing students more online tools instead of coming back to old games? Teachers and parents complain a lot about kids and teens being in front of the PCs for a long time and wasting their time playing negative games, chatting, watching videos and films so… why (again) can’t we teachers go back to traditional games such as “Peggy goes”, “SuperClue”, “Chinese Whispers” and so on.

I can understand that we are in the 21st century and we are in the era of “digital natives” but kids and teens are losing the basics, the way we (adults) used to play, used to learn and used to entertain. They don’t know what a “cassette” is, they don’t know how to live without internet, and they don’t know how to look for information in a library… With just a “click” they have all!
Where is creativity in them? You might probably say… “Web 2.0 tools like Photopeach, Animoto, Voxopop… etc” and I would agree with you 100%. But I also wonder where the “traditional” creativity is. The one students use to write compositions, the one students use to speak in front of a class, the one students use to work… That one, I guess, is absent.

We, teachers, need to motivate students as much as we can through different methods, even if we have to become clowns. With too many media interference, students find it difficult to concentrate, to keep attention and we, again teachers, put a lot of emphasis in trying to bring them back… What if we move to their world for at least once and see what happens? Maybe we can discover a new way of seeing, feeling and teaching things.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shakespeare in text messages and Twitter

My experience with Mr. Shakespeare in text message 

Two years ago when I did my 1st EVO, I enrolled in Multiliteracies where Vance and some other people were the coordinators. I thought it was an easy group but then I realized it was a bit difficult and had to drop as they had been discussing topics for a long time before that EVO session.

But before quitting that session (I was doing another one for kids) I happened to attend an online session by Mark Pegrum who also invited us to read his book “From Blogs and Bombs: The Future of Digital Technologies in Education”. During that session, he presented us with the following text:
“My smmer hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2 go 2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3:-@ kids FTF. ILNY, its gr8. Bt my Ps wr so {:-/ BC or 9/11 tht thy dcdd 2 stay in SCO & spn 2wks up N. Up N, WUCUWUG – O.  I ws vvv brd in MON. O bt baas & ^^^^^. AAR8, my PS wr J
He said that this was written as composition by an 8 years-old girl. We had to “guess” what she meant and that was it as we were supposed to do some other reading and comments.
Later on, a dear friend, colleague and EVO moderator for some time, Jennifer Verschoor, also gave us a text with a question “What about introducing Shakespeare” via text message. So, she wrote some acts from Romeo and Juliet in acronyms. We had a wonderful time trying to decipher what these two characters were saying. I decided to go far beyond that (as I usually do with all I find) and put many other classic stories into text message so my students could work with them.

My students did it great because they knew most of the stories and worked with acronyms beforehand. (By the way, Mangas related to Shakespeare can also be found so… plenty of material to work with him.)
We also worked with the following video

and they had to not only guess what the people were saying but also the impact of text messages in our society, especially teens.

Why all this? Because I think we can do wonders with Twitter as Graham and most of the others suggested. We can tell our students create cartoon characters and interact between them. An Argentinian colleague made a History project in Facebook where his students were different personalities from our past. He made the students be those people and the, they had to post in Facebook what was happening around 1810 when we started our Independence.
I’m planning to include a unit on Twitter and Facebook plus other websites in the public school I work so that students can start seeing the positive side of these sites. When I did Photopeach, Voki and Wallwisher projects last year, they went to the school lab and did all from there. I had some parents reluctant to let their kids work on projects like these, they even asked to talk to the school principal. Fortunately, the principal supported me and all went well.

Thanks Teresa Almeida d’Eca for reading this before anybody else.