One Learner’s Journey

MaryH’s blog for reflecting on the EVO08 SMiELT session

Collaborative projects through tags on Flickr February 10, 2008

Flickr and Food. Inspiration for this post was gained from this found photo of Buckeyes and my related post about Chinswing, where I explain how Buckeye candy relates to Ohio culture! Wouldn’t it be fun to extend the conversation of food, culture, recipes, and cooking even further outside the classroom? I wanted to think of a way to use Flickr to help make these kinds of connections with language students and teachers in other parts of the world possible.

There are so many ways to use the photos found on Flickr in the classroom! Recently my mind is on the power of tagging. It is easy to look for photos with a certain tag in Flickr, but the real power of tagging and Flickr, and essentially of social media, is to use the tags to find, connect, and share with people who have similar interests. What does that mean for the language learner or language teacher? Here is my idea for a online collaborative project using Flickr.

Scenario A (no social media): One common class assignment is to write a process essay. In my writing classes, students often choose to explain how to make their favorite dish; in other words, they choose to write a recipe. Then, they write down the steps in paragraph form and turn their paper in to me for a grade. Read on for Scenario B (or how writing a process essay could be made more interesting by incorporating social media).

Scenario B (using social media): Students write process essays explaining how to make their favorite dish. In order to add more writing, students can add additional personal comments, such as why they wrote about this dish, what this dish reminds them of, and/or what special meaning this dish has for them or their culture. Next, students take a picture of their dish. Then, both the written work and the photo are uploaded to Flickr and tagged.

Much along the lines of the writingmatrix project where students tag their blog posts with the tag writingmatrix, students could tag their Flickr photos and recipes with a unique tag. Updated: Let’s use the tag “globalcookbook” to connect! Then, students can easily read and comment on not only their classmates’ work, but if the project were publicized, then they could read and comment on the work of students in other cities or countries. The conversations about their recipes, photos, and feelings could be extended to a larger audience, and students could explore the intersections of food and culture further.

Food is something that unites everyone. Although I haven’t tried this before, I think it could be motivating for many learners. For instance, adult learners who have recently moved to a new country often enjoy swapping recipes from their home countries, and learning how to use the ingredients of the new country. Even young adults and teenagers in an EFL context would enjoy sharing their favorite foods and recipes; furthermore, they would most likely enjoy the opportunity to make connections with others through English! Shall we give it a try? Any more ideas about tagging and Flickr? In what other ways could students work collaboratively via Flickr?


Share Favorite Blog Tools and Widgets via Twitter! February 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — MaryH @ 12:44 am
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For the Blogging4Educators EVO session, Week Four will be devoted to making your blog unique. BlogEd08 has just sent a Tweet asking for people to respond with their favorite blog tools or widgets. Please help us out by responding to @BlogEd08 on Twitter, and by spreading the request to your network if possible. We will compile the responses and include them in an upcoming post for Blogging4Educators. In this way, we hope to introduce participants to many tools and widgets to make their blogs unique and also to demonstrate the usefulness of Twitter. Thanks for your help!

Update on February 10, 2008: I have finished gathering responses for the Twitter poll, and have written a blog post summarizing the results.  (This was really challenging for me since I’m not so familiar with working with images this much!)  Find the post on the Blogging4Educators session blog  Tools we Love!


Social Media in Practice: The LwC Film Festival February 1, 2008

In response to my last post, Connecting and Reflecting, Patricia asked, “I was wondering if you could somehow describe the process of starting and leading this [Film Festival] project (benefits, challenges, etc) for the other participants [of SMiELT]. ”  She also said, “It would be great if you could share this project with us as I feel that often our discussion of the social media revolve around discussing them in theory; we would like to see practical applications of what teachers do.”  Although I did not generate the idea for or lead the Film Festival Project, I would like to share my reflections on the process of participating in it.

The Learning with Computers Cartoon Festival for 2007 had a theme of “Friendship and Teen’s Lives Around the World” and was organized by Carla Raguseo. I heard about this opportunity to collaborate with others through the online community of practice, Learning with Computers.

Sometimes it can be a challenge to find classes to collaborate with because two classes usually need to be studying the same thing at the same time and the learners should have similar levels of English proficiency. In the case of the cartoon festival, it was ongoing for the year 2007, and the theme was broad enough so it could fit with a variety of curricula, so it was fairly easy to participate. I contacted Carla R about joining the project, and she guided me to the Cartoon Festival wiki where you will see the specific organization of the project.

My class had a scheduled period in the computer lab every other week. I had introduced students to the project and the theme; then, when we were in the lab, students worked on creating their films using dVolver. Although I provided the students with instructions how to create their films, they did encounter a few difficulties. For example, the length of each character’s utterance is limited to a certain number of characters; also, some students had difficulty e-mailing me their finished products. In the end, I received all of their films via e-mail.

Next, I asked students to write short “directors’ statements” to help them put their movies in context. After all, since the movies would be viewed by students and teachers who may be unfamiliar with Japanese culture, the movies needed to have some background information. I then posted the links to the movies along with the directors’ statements to our class blog, Get Hip to Learning English. Although you can generate HTML code to insert the movies directly to a blog or web site, I decided just to link to the students’ movies directly. The next time we were in the lab, students viewed each other’s films, and left comments for each other via the comment box below the movie. Finally, students voted on the one that they liked the most. A popular movie in our class was “No Eyebrow

In my opinion, the benefit of this project was having the opportunity to use English creatively and to communicate a message  for an international audience.  In doing so, students not only had the opportunity to connect with others, but also to watch and learn from movies about young people’s lives in other countries.