Blog Archives

School VS. Education

Can we go to school and not get an education? Professor George J. Sefa Dei from the University of Toronto summarises in a 2-minute video what I believe are most of the teachers views on Education.

RSCON3: It’s all about them…

RSCON3 is over… is it really over? Of course not, there are still a lot of presentations I would like to watch. But wasn’t it on 29 / 07 you may be wondering… Yeah, but that’s the magic of an online conference. If you could not attend, don’t worry you can always watch the recordings. I strongly advice you to do so, if you haven’t yet. You can find all the recordings here.

Fortunately, this time, appart from attending this wonderful conference, I was able to give my own presentation. I really enjoyed it. Even though at the beginning I was a bit nervous ( it was my first presentation ever), I managed to relax and have fun. I would like to thank @davedodgson for having helped me by doing a wonderful job as a moderator. I love learning collaborately, so I am very thankful for having had this opportunity of giving a bit back to my PLN, after so much taking. If you haven’t attended my presentation, and you’d like to see me in action:  here you can watch the recording, and here you can find the powerpoint I’ve used during it. I would love to know your opinion about it, get some advice on how I can improve my presentation skills or whatever comment you may want to do.

But let’s stop talking about me and let’s pass on to the important thing: my reflection about the conference. I don’t have a lot of things to say, apart from the fact that it was a wonderful experience, I’ve added a lot of new memebers / friends to my PLN, and I’ve learned a lot. However, what struck me the most, was that I have attended many sessions about completely different topics, and we all ended up speaking about the same: our students. Our students were the main protagonists of the whole conference. That shows how much passion we all put into our profession. We are all trying to improve and to find the best way in which we can teach them. We may not have found the answer yet, but the fact that we are treading this path, looking for it together, is more than enough. We are already reforming education, by making little (?) changes in our classrooms. Let’s keep on walking along this path, let’s meet again in RSCON4. See you there! =)

Collaborative learning path leading to RSCON4

Let’s start thinking outside the box!

I think this video to be totally self-explanatory. I believe that the most important conclusion we can derive from it is not to let the fear of the unknown paralised us. We should open our minds, explore, stop complaining and try to find a way out. Sometimes the most implausible of the solutions is the key that will get us out of the box. Narrowmindess emprisons us, let’s liberate our minds and our students’ too.

” You are out of jail, out of the cage; you can open your wings and the whole sky is yours. All the stars and the moon and the sun belong to you. You can disappear into the blueness of the beyond….Just drop clinging to this cage, move out of the cage and the whole sky is yours. Open your wings and fly across the sun like an eagle.” Osho Christianity, the Deadliest Poison and Zen… Chapter 6

Understanding  that the cage has always been open, or that the world has always been there outside the box  for us to explore, can make us feel a little shaky at first. It’s fine, and natural to feel like that, but we shouldn’t let it prevent us from enjoying all the blessings living outside the box has to offer us.

A few questions to reflect about this: what are the implications of this video for education? And for the use of new technologies in education? And most important of all, how can we apply it to life in general?. I have already talked about the importance of developing critical thinking and thinking outside the box in this post, if you want to keep on reading. Your opinions in Spanish or English will be more than welcome… Have a nice weekend!

Just Feel the Music…

Itay Talgam, an orchestra conductor,  has discovered that the secrets of good conducting shed light on leadership in general… and I can add that it is very relevant to teachers too. First, have a look at the video and enjoy the music.

Talgam opens his speech by saying that a conductor’s ability relies on just using a small gesture to create order out of chaos. A teacher’s dream come true! A finger-snap and all the students on task… Well, we all know that this is an impossible mission to achieve, so let’s try to figure out what is behind that small movement that creates a ripple effect.

The secret apparently has to do with finding equilibrium, not being authoritarian, and at the same time keep on being the authority figure. YEAH,  we all know that… but how can we achieve that  F***ING  balance that is being preached everywhere in this new-age, zen era we are living in.

Talgam in his video shows us different styles of conducting, from which we can derive some practical ideas. Let’s start talking about  Ricardo Muti’s style. He has a strong sense of responsibility. He wants to be so clear that he becomes overclear (what an irony!). There’s only one interpretation of the music and that’s HIS (we all have our little egos in there apparently)… If we transfer this to the classroom, it reminds me of  the teachers who consider that it’s THEM the only ones that possess THE KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is given, it is not a construction. It is not developed in the classroom. It is a finished thing, to be introduced in the student’s mind. Things have to be done, in the way they have always been done. There’s no room for innovation, and therefore, there’s no room for development.

Maybe, these teachers suceed in having quiet students, who follow their orders to the letter and repeat parrot-like whatever it is they have “taught” them. But, have they learnt? Is this the aim of education? Are we teaching the students or the book, as the third conductor presented by Talgam does?  Do we want students who just mirror us and repeat our stories? or do we want to learn with them and create a trascending story constructing knowleadge together?

By taking into account the other conductors’ methods presented in the video, we can conclude that they believe the musicians need to have a voice too, which derives,  following our metaphor,  in students having a voice in our classrooms. We should just guide them and not give orders to them. Why? Because in this way we are really teaching them, we are giving them space to find their own way of doing things, of telling their own stories… As Talgam explains, this method without clear instructions works because it’s as if the musicians are on a rollercoaster. The forces of that process put the action into place. You know what to do and you become a partner. This experience is exciting for the players. The “teacher-conductor” is just there effortlessly enjoying the music.

But what if someone deviates from what he’s supposed to be doing? Then, the “teacher-conductor” enters in action. He is still a figure of authority, but he is not authoritarian. The authority is there,  but authority is not enough to make people partners. The teacher should keep some control in the classroom, but not all of it. Let’s overcome our fears and start giving students more control … we may be surprised at the results (let’s allow them to solve their conflicts, choose the topics they would like to discuss in class, and so on and so forth). We may feel at the beginning that we are loosing authority, but that’s not true; we are becoming partners, we are creating together and sharing the responsibility of making the lesson and the course a successful one.

Little by little, step by step, empowering our students, we may get to the wonderful point of “doing without doing”…  because

If you love something, give it away…

Virtual Beams

This post is in answer to the 30 goals challenge for educators. I’ll try to participate as much as I can.

The first goal presented by @shellterrell in the following video is: BE A BEAM.

The academic year has not started here in Argentina yet. For that reason, it is a bit difficult for me to achieve this goal. However, I’ve managed to do so, as I have a very close friend who is a teacher too. She has been through a kind of crisis with her career as a teacher. Fortunately, today I was able to listen to her and to make her look at the situation on the bright side. We always talk about our profession and support each other during the hard times. We’ve been friends since we were 6 years old, so she is very special to me.

This has made me reflect about the importance of having peers, who are going through the same situations and difficulties, to suppport and encourage each other. That is to say, that become beams to each other.

I have been very lucky to have found a lot of support, help and inspiration from my PLN. For that reason, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all, for having always been there.  As Julie Cunningham wrote in her own post for the challenge:

I feel like everytime I dive into the world of Twitter or my Google Reader feed that I’ve been ‘beamed up’.  Educators around the world show a wealth of exciting things happening.  And just like returning from a  trip to the Bahamas or even just a “Calgon-take-me-away” bubble bath, I return to my daily life refreshed and renewed.

My PLN and my virtual teacher friends have become so valuable in my professional life, that I believe, it is extremely important to transmit this experience to other educators who are not here yet. I would make this my long term goal, and I would like to invite you all to follow my example. I’m sure: THE MORE; THE MERRIER.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival

I am very pleased to be the host of this month carnival, as I’d love to introduce you to all these wonderful educators who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas.  But  especially, because I have been able to introduce the carnival to many members of my PLN, who are sending their contributions for the first time. As you’ve read in the title in this carnival you are going to find the answer to many:

  1. How can we focus on form in the techno age? If you are a dogmeist and you are always wondering how to focus on form in the techno age, @kalinagoenglish has got the answer: USE GOOGLE DOCS!
  2. What are the best resources, articles and blogs for teachers of ELL? If you are an ELL teacher who is  generally reading blogs, online articles, following teachers on Twitter, and you always end up asking yourself: “Have I missed something important?”, @Larryferlazzo provides you with a list of the bests of 2010.
  3. How can we revise spelling in the classroom? If you are sick and tired of practicing spelling in your classes, add to it a fun element with these games created by @crystalannie.  You may also use  Johanna Stirling’s templates, the spelling queen as she was called in one of her blog post comments.
  4. How can we learn vocabulary? If what you need is to learn vocabulary, @teacherdominic gives you 10 easy tips to follow (espeacially if you are preparing for IELTS)
  5. How can we teach conditionals in a contextualised way? Conditionals is a tough grammar point to teach, and even more to teach it in a contextualised way. We all love football, so @harrisonmike‘s lesson plan is the perfect answer to this question.
  6. What does sustained teacher training for ELLs look like? Mary Ann Zehr shares with us an experience that took place in Austin, Texas.
  7. How can we use Web 2.0 in the ELD classroom? Once more Larry Ferlazzo and Alice Mercer provides us with tonnes of useful links.
  8. How can we incorporate music and songs in ELT? Teacher Greg has made a thorough list of ideas, resources, activities, and many more…
  9. How can we teach unplugged with a student interaction whiteboard? Sounds contradictory? @ShellTerrell has got the answer in response to @englishraven’s challenge. (We do hope Jason hasn’t killed her for this mix =) )
  10. Can we make manufactured teachable moments? The answer according to @ddeubel is YES and he explains us HOW.
  11. How can we use wordle in the classroom? @aClilToClimb has shared in his blog all the tricks for using wordle and lots of ideas for using it in the classroom.
  12. How can we embrace visual enhancements in instruction? Flickr is a great aid according to @jenverschoor, who suggests lots of ways of using it in the classroom in her blog post.
  13. How can we break down the classrom walls and bring the real world into our classrooms?@gret tells us about her experience with the good news blog that has made her students feel thrilled about learning English.  And @christina_mark shares with us here her C2 level students online conversation with Mr. B. M., Assistant Professor of American Literature of the English Department (Faculty of Humanities in Serbia) and his Second Year students in a kind of e-classroom (Webinar) Branko created to foster this event over Adobe Connect Pro. Stephan Hughes has shared some posts done by his students in their blogs. In the first one, Maria Cecilia tells us about Cyprus. In the second one, Gustavo introduces us to Manuel Francisco Dos Santos.
  14. What can we do  to encourage and support multilingualism both in the classroom and at home?@elltoolbox may not have the answer to this question, though he has for sure the courage to ask it and make us reflect about the issue.
  15. How can we use dictogloss in the classroom?@DaveDodgson gives us instructions on how to apply it with young learners and @cerirhiannon explains why she likes them so much and how to use them with adult learners here.
  16. How much importance should we give to the teaching of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation at different levels? You may be wondering what I am aiming at with this question… wonder no more and read @hoprea‘s post where you will find food for thought on this topic.
  17. Can NNESTs do dogme in their classes? Quite a controversial topic taken by a NNEST @cecilialcoelho

Bonus track: We all know about the importance of being a reflective teacher, so here goes a contribution by @evab2001 a wondeful teacher, who following @englishraven’s challenge (seems that his challenges are quite popular around the blogosphere) has given a name to her approach to teaching. Hers is called C-elt. What about yours?

Reminder! The next carnival will be hosted by Alice Mercer on  February 1st, so don’t forget to send your contributions here . Let @larryferlazzo know if you are interested in hosting future carnivals.

Flashforward! Isaac Asimov and the use of NTIC in education!

I saac Asimov, the famous science fiction writer, was interviewed in 1988 by Bill Moyers. And guess what? He spoke about the use of NTICs in education. He made some very sensible points about it. He was obviously a visionary and what he said in that video is totally up to date. I believe that it is very related to what Sir Ken Robinson said in his speech about creativity and education. You can see the video and my reflections about it in this post. ( Sorry, it is in Spanish but if you need a translation just ask me for it) Well, I ‘ll stop babbling and let you listen to the expert…. I would love to read your opinions and comments after you watch the video.

 

English Teacher vs Educator

My students from 5th grade have suggested me working in class with Pink Floyd’s song: “Another Brick in the Wall”. I was surprised by the demand as 10-year-old students are not supposed to like those songs. And without even noticing, as I was preparing the song worksheet, they made me reflect a lot about my role as an English teacher.

As regards their English level of proficiency, they are elementary students (A1). Of course they will find the song very challenging, but that didn’t worry me. They are very motivated to listen to the song and I’m sure they will manage with the help of the you tube video and some guiding questions.

While I was writing them, I realised that  I cannot use this song in class without having a thorough discussion about its meaning. What is education? What type of education do we want? Are there right or wrong answers?  What is the importance of  having our own ideas? Most probably my students won’t be able to discuss these issues fully in English. Nevertheless, I believe that even if they speak Spanish, the debate will be worth it. After all, I’m not teaching just English, I am trying to be an educator.

And this brought me to my perpetual professional dilemma one more time… The issue that faces me with cyclical professional crisis. What am I doing there in those crowded classrooms? Teaching English? I don’t want to do that, I don’t believe in that. English is just a language, a tool. Very necessary and important. Yes, of course. It  has opened me lots of doors.  It has put me in contact with lots of very interesting people. It has let me access books in the authors’ mother tongue and has surrounded me with poetry and hundreds of magical stories. However, we shouldn’t forget it is a TOOL, just like Spanish is.

I’m not saying that I don’t want to teach English anymore. No, I love what I do. What I don’t want is  to teach JUST English. English is not the object of study in my classes. It is the MEANS to access a bunch of knowledge. It is the tool that will allow me and my students to access lots of information, to get to know new cultures, different ways of thinking, different points of views; that will allow us to reflect on important issues, defend our opinions and why not, also get to know each other more. That’s what education is all about after all: developing CRITICAL THINKING and SOCIAL SKILLS.

It sounds pretty simple, though, how difficult it is to teach that! To teach our students to think by themselves, to defy our (the teacher’s) points of view. It is very difficult to get them used to the idea that sometimes there are no right or wrong answers. And of course, sometimes it is even difficult for us , the teachers, to give them more freedom to think and take control of the class. It is easier not to do so. We should overcome the resistance to change. Students should be in control of our classrooms:  rethinking and reinventing knowledge; learning collaborately with the teachers as facilitators, not as THE ONES WHO POSSES THE KNOWLEDGE.

Well, that’s all for now folks. What do you think about all these incoherent ramblings of mine?

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