Friday, October 28, 2011

Week 5: Learning about PBL, WebQuests, Alternative Assessment and Rubrics. Technology-enhanced change

Project-based learning

First I read about project-based instruction in “Less Teaching and More Learning” and really enjoyed getting information about different ways of helping students develop language skills while conducting a meaningful project while the teacher is just a facilitator, providing students with the necessary instructions and resources for them to do their project successfully.

The class discussion helped me reflect on the need for students to see value in the project and for teachers to give them a rationale. In that sense, it is very important for my Cultural Studies students to embark on a project on history with the idea that grasping the past will help them understand the present more fully.


In relation to the new kinds of learning opportunities and new tools for assessment the web provides, I found that, as inquiry-oriented activities, WebQuests offer an excellent pattern of project-based learning for my Cultural Studies class. Since they are most likely to be group activities, they would help students achieve the course goal of developing their collaborative skills.

Alternative assessment

In the article “Practical ideas on alternative assessment for ESL students,” I was happy to find good techniques for teachers to create meaningful and effective assessment experiences. One that would be particularly useful in my Cultural Studies class is the K-W-L chart (what I know/what I want to know/what I've learned) to begin and end a unit of study because it would help to keep students focused and interested during the unit and eventually give them a sense of accomplishment.

In contrast to traditional testing, alternative assessment procedures such as oral presentations help me evaluate my students on comprehension and thinking skills rather than on what they are just able to remember.


I came to know about the importance of letting students learn in advance what is expected from them in a given task when the first week in this course we were given the guidelines for discussions and rubrics. They are a kind of contract between Robert and the participants which facilitates our progress toward required standards. In the same way we could collaborate in the design of the course rubrics by adding suggestions, now I feel the need to let my students have their share in the design of assessment criteria for them to get involved in their learning process.

I created with rubistar, which is a fantastic tool, a rubric intended to be used with my Cultural Studies students for making a timeline, something they are required to do quite often. However, just like Robert, I still like the control of creating my own. So I created one for writing assignments with the help of the following website: which is as follows:

10-9 points: the response shows understanding of the content, question, and/or problem, is insightful, integrates knowledge, shows powerful evidence of critical thinking skills, is accurate and well supported, is entirely clear.
8-7 points: the response shows some understanding of the content, question, and/or problem, demonstrates some evidence of critical thinking skills, is accurate and supported, is mostly clear.
6-4 points: the response shows knowledge of the content, question, and/or problem, is acceptable with some key ideas, provides little support, is somewhat clear.
3-1 points: the response shows minimal knowledge of the content, question, and/or problem, provides no support, is unclear.
0 points: the response is completely incorrect or irrelevant, there is no response.

Technology-related change

Based on the need to motivate students to learn outside the regular classroom and to develop their ability for independent learning, I described a technology-related change. I thought the use of one blog for the whole class would give me the chance to have a better control of students' responses and participation since I have never tried to incorporate a technological component in my classes before.

I would design a class blog with a very simple and easy-to-follow layout as an online resource to review and reinforce class contents as independent work. I think most of my students would feel very motivated by a class blog because it would give them the opportunity to learn much more through varied activities as well as to practice their language skills by posting reflections on their own learning and progress.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week 4: Developing reading and writing skills and creating a technology-enhanced lesson plan

I was away on a training course for most part of this week so my tasks were necessarily postponed. When I read “Using the Internet in ESL Writing Instruction,” I agreed with Jarek Krajka that especially in non-English speaking countries, such as Argentina where I am from, the web is an invaluable source of information for teachers of English to get classroom materials and, with the help of selected websites and other on-line techniques, writing instruction can be made much more interesting, appealing and motivating.

The lessons with the use of the Internet serve best the goal of my own Cultural Studies course which is to increase students' cultural awareness since they can enhance my intermediate-advanced college students’ writing skill by means of websites, serving students with information they need, to be later used in writing and web publishing.

In “Three Extensive Reading Activities for ESL/EFL Students Using E-books,” I learned about an online extensive reading lesson for intermediate and advanced students. I felt really interested in the objectives of this lesson, which are to guide students to read authentic e-texts outside the classroom and to improve their overall reading, writing and thinking skills by synthesizing and evaluating online materials with peers, because they fit into the syllabus of my Cultural Studies course.

So I created a technology enhanced lesson plan for that course, taking into account the need to develop students´ intercultural competence as an important aspect of language and improve their language skills in general.

My project goals are to motivate students to learn more outside the classroom, to reinforce their knowledge through a variety of online resources, to contribute to their independent learning and critical thinking skills, and to develop their collaborative skills and their computer skills by learning, for example, how to use class blogs.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 3: Developing listening skills, creating a Delicious page and discussing a sample project report

First I read Lindsay Miller's article “Developing Listening Skills with Authentic Materials” which helped me reflect about the importance of teachers’ choice of methods and materials to help learners develop their listening skills.

When taking a look at some of the lesson plans provided, I found some activities that fit my Cultural Studies class and students. I looked at all the skill-building websites suggested but could not find anything that would work in my class. So I searched for alternative websites and found good lesson materials that would enhance my college students’ listening skills.

I am also glad to have created a Delicious page to store all the sites to use with my students and for my professional development, something I had never been able to do before, with the advantage that now I can access my saved websites from any computer and I can have them classified, find them easily and of course share them. This social aspect of the page is what I like most because everyone can collaborate and contribute to other people’s professional needs and interests.

I chose Aleyda Linares’ Project Report because her class was very similar to the one I have selected to work my project on: undergraduate students, mostly women, learning English as a Foreign Language at a National University in a Latin American country (Honduras), whose ages ranged between 19-30 and all of them having Spanish as their mother tongue.

Even when her first course goal was to develop students´ grammatical competence and mine is to develop students´ intercultural competence, I share another main course goal with her: to develop students’ ability for independent learning as well as critical and creative thinking.

The issue that gave origin to her technology-related change project, which I share in my own teaching situation, was the need to motivate students to learn outside the classroom and at the same time develop their ability to learn how to learn. As in my case, that was the first time she had the opportunity to include a technology-enhanced project in one of her classes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week 2: Searching the web and writing learning objectives

So far Google had been the only choice for my web searches. I looked at Noodletools' “Choose the Best Search for your Information Needs” where I could learn about such a big variety of search engines. I found ways to improve search at the link “Web Searching Tech Tip,” like the use of quotes to narrow it down.

I searched for “the fall of the Berlin Wall” for my Cultural Studies class. I tried several search engines and I found sites with vast amounts of information on that topic, including timelines, photographs, videos, etc.

Also, I found the ABCD method of writing objectives very useful. I am convinced clear objectives serve a valuable function for teachers to design better lessons. Reading examples of well-written objectives was very helpful to be able to write the learning objective for my class. I learned that the choice of verbs determines the expected learning level.

In short, I feel I am in a much better position for teaching now that I have learned how to expand web search and write well-defined objectives for my classes.