Before I even begin, to all you experienced Carnival readers out there, I would like to apologize. This is my first time ever writing for a carnival, and I’m not quite sure I’m going to do it right.
So with that little disclaimer out of the way, I’ll get started.
Perhaps I’m cheating a little bit here, but I would like to move our clocks back to June again. There have been some really interesting posts from last month that I would like to draw your attention to, comment on, and open the floor up to you.
Back in the last week or so of June, and into the first two weeks of July, there was a little "mini-buzz" in my bloglines account around Skype, and it’s possible uses in the ESL classroom. I took special notice of these posts because of my own growing interest in employing such tools as Skype in my own practice as a freelance ESL teacher.
The first post comes from Teacher Dude’s Grill and BBQ: My first international lesson - First impressions. Teacher Dude does a really nice job of sharing his experience of employing Skype with one of his students.
Though an avid tech in the classroom advocate and user, Teacher Dude discovers some pretty important obstacles to an effective deployment of Skype in his long distance class: The sound quality is still rather beta. This is ok if you’re talking with another native speaker, but what about students who usually need to hear the big picture in order to communicate effectively? He also delves very nicely into the whole lag issue, that seems to crop up often when you’re involved in a long distance Skype conference with varied connection speeds and network conditions.
But the observation which Teacher Dude makes at the end of his post is what I really thought to be interesting: Are students in general ready to embrace Skype and other such tools, as a regular part of their English development?
There seems to be a great interest in authentic assessment these days, you know, the kind of assessment that requires your students to show understanding of what they learned, not just regurgitate memorized vocabulary lists or grammar rules. Barbara does an amazing job of deploying Skype and student blogs for this purpose.
What I learned from her, and what I hope to put into my own practice, is her focus on reflection. In most assessment, the test is given, it’s graded, and the results are returned to the student. But what happens then? Is it ever revisited? Barbara suggests that by posting their recorded Skype calls, "snapshots" (I really like that concept) on their blogs, "the brave ones" can return later to guage progress. They can HEAR how they have grown over time. What do you think, isn’t this more valuable than a simple number on a feedback report?
I also really enjoyed her thinking around mistakes and perfection.
A few days later, Graham Stanley joined in the Skype in the Classroom conversation, and adds some valuable extras.
Next Stop: AJ, of Effortless Language Acquisition, sounds off on Pain and Enjoyment in the ESL classroom. I whole heartedly agree with AJ: distance running has a lot of similarites with language learning. At least it should. I know plenty of students and teachers who are out there running full blast. They’re going for speed. They devour the course books. They cram the vocabulary lists. They immerse themselves in the grammar, attempting rapid language acquisition. Around Mexico City, some language schools boldly proclaim that you can be bilingual in a year - "Bam!" You can almost hear the starting gun firing somewhere in the distance, and thousands of eager language learners, victims of a marketing ploy, take off from their starting positions. But, as AJ asks, will they make it to the end?
Learning another language is not about speed. It’s not about quantity. It’s about QUALITY. How are you transforming your classrooms today by embracing this truth?
To end today, I’d like to mention a post that I came across back near the end of June. Charles Nelson, and as far as I know we’re not related, writes about what to do when your students just don’t seem to "get it." If it’d had been a snake, it would’ve bit me. I enjoy reading Nelson’s blog, and this post offers something interesting to poder as we seek to transform our classrooms and teaching practices.
So often we are seeing things that our students or coworkers are not. Or sometimes the converse is true. But Nelson asks an important question: How well are we "seeing what they see?" How well do we come along side in order to build bridges with the people we work with, or do we just stand on our side of perception and what is understood, simply shouting across the divide, trying to convice the other that they need to jump across.
You’ve likely experienced this. It’s frustrating for both you and your students, and it’s not very effective either.
So in this brave new 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 world of ours, I think it’s really important to be aware of the tools. I think it’s important to learn how to use them in our classrooms. But most of all, I think we need to learn, and practice the skill of getting on the same page as our students or coworkers. It’s pretty easy to find our spot on the "cutting edge" of what’s happening out there, but what good does it do anyone if we don’t learn how to share the view in a meaningful way?