PRESCHOOL LEARNERS

20160320_174448.jpgAll of us have ever asked ourselves the question what is the best age to start teaching kids a second language? Well, and all of us have different opinions on the issue, some of us may even stand at the very extremes of the line.

When I had a baby in 2011, I decided for myself that I was not going to 20160320_165741.jpgteach him anything. Literally nothing! I wanted him to be a real kid, just like me, without the burden of all the clubs and trainings that today’s fashionable moms make a big fuss over.

However, it came naturally that he started to ask me questions at a certain age. Questions about everything. And I felt I had to give him clear and satisfying answers. At some point, he started finding and watching English cartoons every time he 20160320_173422.jpgmanaged to snatch a tablet. Naturally, he started imitating the speech of the characters. When he made mistakes or misused a word I, as a teacher, couldn’t resist the temptation to correct him, explain, and even have small dialogues with him. Unnoticeably, he started to speak a bit of English after some months.

Now the idea of those preschool clubs started to make sense to me. I wanted to have my own club where my son could play with real kids, not a tablet, and learn English at the same time. I kept the idea in my mind for more than a year and I was about to give it up, when a friend suggested starting up a club of that kind. She is a mom of two little kids and she is the owner of a big horse riding club. So now we had all we needed: the kids, the teacher, the space, and what is more, horses to ride. Isn’t it ideal?

In March we had our first class, with about 10 kids ages 3 to 6. We sang in English, we played in English, we ate and drank in English, and we learned that we need to clean up after playing and eating. The kids rode horses and played in the yard. It was raining the whole day through but everyone was too happy to notice.

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#14: My Takeaways from the Course

I am a digital immigrant but I love messing with technology and especially using it in teaching.Naturally I was happy to take the technology course with Dr. Madyarov this year. From the previous course with this teacher I had discovered google sheets and docs and have been implementing them in my teaching ever since. (I have been teaching through skype and google docs and sheets have a big role in my classes).

If you read my previous posts you can get an overall image of all the technological tools we have touched upon at our class. They all sound interesting and have educational value. So naturally I have already tried out many of them with my students in private tutoring context. They are:

-Digital storytelling: I have implemented this with 5th graders (face-to-face) and 9th grader (Distance Learning). They were telling about their family and flat.

Blogging: I and two classmates have set up a blog where our students interact, comment, and make posts.

-I use google docs for collaborative writing with my face-to-face students and also as workbooks and a blackboard with my DLL students. We use google sheets as a place to store vocabulary entries, where all my students can view each others’ sheets and revise words and expressions or find mistakes and notify their peers.

-I have been using posdcasts as audio materials for listening activities, though I don’t find it reasonable to have my students make podcasts because of the time involved. Instead, we have been using Fotobabbles.

-We also have been using comics with my face-to-face students, both adults and children. We use pixton.com in particular.

-Many others will be gradually implemented, as I can see how they motivate my students.

All these tools are used in Armenian context so based on my experience I can say that they are feasible and accessible to may learners.

But what about public schools? not many of them have access to internet and can provide necessary equipment for technology integration. Here I think Mobile Assisted Language Learning is fully realistic to implement, as most of the schoolchildren have phones and smartphones with access to the internet.
P.S. I want to thank my university and my teacher for the great course. From the very first day of the course it has contributed to my teaching as I have implemented many of the tools and the results are promising

 

 

 

 

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#13: ANALYTICS IN EDUCATION

In education as in any other sphere it is important to have a solid basis to make future decisions and implement new tools and methods. But how to obtain reliable results? Through analytics and interpretation of big data, that is of all the data available about a certain educational institution or institutions.

Every click you make, every link you visit, every project you submit is recorded and stored. Your personal information as a learner/user is gathered (Information such as your age, gender, GPA, history from previous educational institutions, your exam results and your attendance). They are compared and correlated. So, if obvious patterns of performance and/or behaviors emerge, they can help teachers/ administrations make predictions and base decisions on this.

The value of analytics in education consists in its influence on decision making for future activities in teaching, in identifying at-risk students and providing assistance to them before they get in trouble, in providing an overall picture of institution’s strengths and challenges, and many more. If you are interested to dig this issue deeper, check this article out.

Horizon reports on K-12 and Higher Education  suggest that based on big data analytics you can predict what will be “trendy” in education in 1, 2, 3 or 5 years’ time. For example, in a couple of year’s time blended learning will be more popular in higher education and K-12 will reconsider their teaching and learning practice shifting to deeper learning approaches.  Some of the challenges will be improving digital literacy level in higher educational context and personalizing teaching in K-12. So, if you want to be ahead of time and get ready for the coming changes as a teacher or a learner, go ahead and read the articles.

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#12: Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources is a fascinating way to make education available to practically everyone who can access these resources. Tom Friedman considers Web 2.0 technologies one of the world flatterers. Open resources expand social learning which is the concept of constructing content through interactions and conversations with other people. Social learning can be contrasted to Cartesian premise which says “I think, therefore I am”. On the other hand, social view of learning says, ” We participate therefore we are”. If you want to dig deeper, consider reading Minds on Fire by John Seely Brown.

Open sources can come in the form of PDF’s, text documents, Webinars, audio/video files, various software, etc. Here are several links to OER you can check out:

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#11: LMS (leaning management systems) and PLE (personal learning environment)

When saying LMS and PLE we imply that technology is involved. Learning management systems are platforms designed to deliver materials, collect assignments in a course, administer, track, and record the course/ program. Moodle is a good example of an LMS. This system is mainly implemented for formal courses and programs.

On the other hand, personal learning environments give the learner control over his/her learning process. However, they don’t necessarily imply self- education, but formal education as well. Web 2.0 technologies are mainly integrated into PLE, such as google, ibooks, and other tools that give access to information and materials  on the web.

Both systems have their potential. Learning using LMS is organizes, systematic, centralized, time saving, easy tracking of work; whereas PLE is decentralized, tailor made, integrates both formal and informal education, promotes learner autonomy.

As to me integration of these two systems may yield truly significant results.

For a deeper idea of what these systems are watch this video by Stephen Downes.

 

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#10: DISTANCE LEARNING

With the development of technology a new approach to teaching and learning has been developing since the end of the last century – that is distance learning. The rough definition for this term would be teaching and learning process where the teacher and the learner(s) are not physically around each other. Under this term you can view online sessions with a webcamera, written correspondence sessions, synchronous and asynchronous work on projects and many more. The blend of distance and face-to-face sessions is called Hybrid or Blended.

These types of courses are popular mainly with adult population. Below are some of the numerous advantages of this type of teaching and learning:

  • flexibility of schedule
  • relatively low cost
  • provides with additional skills
  • promotes learner autonomy
  • does not interfere with job hours
  • etc

However, distance learning has challenges the most obvious of which may be lack of necessary technology skills both on the teacher’s and the student’s side, weak discipline, unavailability of equipement and so forth.

So what is the difference between a conventuinal teacher and a distance course teachers? The difference is between the roles that they asume in the teaching / learning process. Reseach conducted among distance language teachers revealed several maxims of successful teacher attributes, which are the following:

  • Empowerment ( give students the sense of possibility and agency),
  • Appropriateness (Find ways to assure your support is appropriate),
  • Honesty ( work for an honest andsupprotive raltionship),
  • Openness (be approachable for students).

 

As a private tutor I have been tutorin via skype for 3 years already and I can say I have seen distance language learning from inside. Though teaching through skype is one side of the coin. There are many other tools which don’t require a teacher such as Livemocha. This tool gives you a totally different experience. Here is where the phrase “one good turn deserves another” is more than appropriate. In a word you check the work of other people leaning your native language and get points which you in your turn can use to “buy” a course. Here native speakers of the target language you want to learn will be checking your work and giving you feedback. When doing this I realized how this exercise raises metalinguistic awareness and critical thinking. When giving feedback you look at your speech trying to keep it at the learner’s level. You always make sure to avoid ambiguity and complicated sentences that may mislead the learner even more. When you are the student you expect the same kind of self-reflexive attitude towards your learning.

 

 

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#9: AI IN TEFL

Another interesting tool that can be used in language teaching is chatbots that are artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. They simulate intelligent oral or written conversations with one or many people. Many of us have used the famous Siri  developed for iOS or have at least heard or seen others using it. You may have also come across Evi, which is mainly used on android systems. They are designed to facilitate their users’ work  finding places, websites, services all over the Web. They respond to oral and written commands and answer questions.  Now let’s look at George. He is pretty communicative and sometimes sarcastic. Alice gives simpler and more straightforward answers.

There are other intelligences each having their strengths and shortcomings, for instance Dave is said to be good at English teaching and it is paid. Reseach has looked at different features and potential of these AI. For example, Alice that was initially programmed with 45 000 conversational phrases, is belived to be more convenient for beginning students, while George, who aquires his language through communication with people amd who already has 8,000,000 conversational patterns, is more appropriate for  intermediate levels and upper  due to his sophisticated language.

I tried talking to Geogre and Alice. They may seem pretty cool at first sight. They are willing to talk and understood my questions with ease. But I tried to go beyond the simple chat and ask them more specific questions  such as what they know about vegitarians, if they recommend one to become vegitarian, etc. They seem to have nothing interesting to offer. So, if I choose to implement these guys in my English classes it will probably be just to have fun and relax. What is more, when talking to George I had the feeling he was just repeating all the phrases he had been said by humans. On the other hand Alice gave limited, short, but more reasonable responses. I think this difference is related to their different programming system.

Referring to Siri and Evi,  I think they can be used for more serious tasks such as finding information, finding a destination, etc. Though these two applications can best be used with at least intermediate levels.

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