by Teacher Lina M. Parra Ante
Most of my professional reflections have to do with my concern about how to become the teacher that I always wanted to have and the one I actually had a few times. Many of the things that happen in this country have to do with the processes of education, not only from the policies but also fromthe conceptions around childhood, adult learning, second language learning, disabled students, approaches and methodologies. During this semester and following my interest and work on digital culture (which includes TIC, new learning environments, serious video games, invisible learning, media literature, among others) I decided to open a blog for my students at UNITEC.
Such a decision doesnot suppose any controversial or new idea by itself, but within our academic context and in my teaching practicum at UNITEC, it was important and innovative basically for two reasons. First, the on-growing perception from students in favor of social media and against of LMS (Learning Management Systems). And second, the need of more spaces to use English as an efficient communicative tool in realcontexts. Both circumstances led me to re-use a blog that I had developed when I was teaching at Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
The blog was redesigned and implemented during the first semester of 2012 as a mandatory activity for two levels of English III and as an optional activity for one group of Level IV and two of Levels VI, which sums up 90 students approximately.
Fig.1 EnglishIII Unitec. Welcome message.
The blog included different sections. The first one was the main body of the blog where activities were posted along with students’ comments. The column on the right had two images, one of them permanently linked to a website of recipes and an interactive fish ball; also there was a section entitled “websites for your interest” in which students found links todifferent websites containing grammar explanations and exercises according to their level. This section was getting nurtured during the semester attending their needs. On the left side, lived our interactive pet, a hedgehog named “iloveenglish” and under him students could find a toolbox with a complete list of grammar topics. The blog also included two types of subscription and an archive blog.The methodology was very simple, each two weeks an activity was posted and students had to make their comments answering a question. As it was conceived as a transversal exercise for all levels, topics were general but motivating. In total, nine activities were posted and topics were diverse. Among others they included Valentine’s Day, personal fears, education etc. Questions were addressed to givetheir personal opinions and reflections.
Fig.2 Examples of activities: “Do schools kill creativity? Conference by Sir Ken Robinson” and” What are you scared of? Video from the Ellen Show”. All materials were used with academic purposes only.
Comments were posted after approval to avoid spam but they were posted as the students wrote them, the essence of the exercise wasfree communication in a “non-formal” environment. Assessment was held during the feedback session at the end of the term. Each student received corrections about their use of grammar and writing skills, levels III received a grade based upon their participation and quality of their comments and levels IV and VI received extra points based on the same criteria. In this example, students commentedabout a conference about education by Sir Ken Robinson at a TED event:
Fig.3. Examples of comments from the blog by students of English 6 & 3. Used with permission.
As expected, levels III struggled with the use of the language, but they were capable to express and communicate their own ideas and even commented about other students’ posts, their reception was highly...