One Learner’s Journey

MaryH’s blog for reflecting on the EVO08 SMiELT session

Connecting and Reflecting January 27, 2008

Filed under: Social Media — MaryH @ 11:21 pm
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As week two in SMiELT draws to a close, here are some reflections on social media.

What are the benefits/constraints that these open environments may bring in your context?

I teach English language learners at the university level in Japan, so I think that open environments have a lot to offer in this context because students don’t have many opportunities to interact with people outside the classroom in English even though they are eager to make such connections.  There are always challenges, such as accessing computers, finding audiences for student work, and keeping the focus on language learning.

What are the pedagogical implications of social media for ELT?

By using social media for ELT, I think teachers are making a more student-centered environment in the classroom.  Thanks to Bee’s presentation for Blogging4Educators, I learned that because students can generate content, comment on the content, and carry the discussions outside the classroom, they could be more engaged learners in the classroom.  By bringing social media into the classroom, students may have the opportunity to see how their English skill can help them to develop their other interests and hobbies.  For instance, if a student is really interested in reading, then we could suggest creating an account at Shelfari, or if a student is really interested in photography, then we could suggest becoming an active user of Flickr or Bubbleshare.  Through delicious or shared items in a feedreader, teachers and students could help each other to identify resources on specific topics.  In a way, using social media could allow for further customization of student learning.

Are you promoting open participatory skills in ELT? How?

This past year, I started a class blog, Get Hip to Learning English, for my students.  I tried to use the blog to continue conversations outside the classroom, or to start new ones.  We managed to share movie reviews with a group of Nelba’s students in Argentina, interact with a couple of experts via the blog, and so on.  The project that I am most proud of is our class’ IES Film Festival, and the Learning with Computers Film Festival.  Along with several other groups of students, we made short films using dVolver to introduce others to the life of Japanese young people.  According to Christopher Sessum’s list of skills, the film project activated play, performance, resourcefulness, networking, and negotiation.

Can these social media help you? How?

As I have already mentioned, social media can help me in the classroom because students can communicate with people outside our classroom; however, I still need to learn how to use social media more effectively with students.  Through this session, I hope to be able to learn about other ways in which social media can be used to enhance the classroom experience.  On a personal level, using social media has helped me immensely; I use a variety of social media tools to share and communicate with my friends and family who live in different countries.  In comparison to the first time I lived in Japan a few years ago, this time I feel more connected to my family because we have so many ways to share photos, stay up-to-date on family news, and even to communicate synchronously.

Although I have had some rewarding experiences using social media, I am really eager to learn more.

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Voices and Ears January 25, 2008

Gladys Baya set up a wiki whiteboard at Facebook entitled “Voices and Ears”, and blogged “A Case for Social Networks (Facebook).  She posed a question that I am really interested in exploring, “How can teachers make effective use of Facebook for their professional development?”

First, I think Facebook allows us to strengthen the relationships we have with other members of online communities of practice.  In my opinion, this social networking tool is valuable, especially for educators like me, who are deeply involved in online communities of practice.  Facebook allows me to connect with colleagues who I do not know face-to-face; thus, I get to know them in a different light.  For instance, I have been interacting professionally on an almost daily basis with the co-moderators of Blogging4Educators over the past 6 months or so; however, it isn’t until I visit their Facebook pages (or other social media sites, such as Flickr) that I get to know them more personally: their families, interests, travels, and so on.  Also, Facebook allows us to interact in different ways: we can play Scrabulous, throw sheep at each other, and send greetings!  Although some people may claim that they don’t have time for these kinds of things and that they are a waste of time (and I would have to agree with them!), they are entertaining and do add a humorous and personal touch to supplement the interaction we have on discussion lists.

Next, Facebook can help us network with colleagues who we may be able to meet face-to-face.  For example, during the EVO moderators training, I added other moderators as friends in Facebook.  After doing so, I realized that a moderator of another session lived in Japan, and that we would be attending and presenting at the same conference soon!  Although we missed each other at the conference, we may run into each other in the future.  Also, a Facebook group for TESOL members attending the upcoming conference in NYC has formed, and we are making more connections.  I think this is the real strength of Facebook: a place to make connections.  No, we don’t get much work done on Facebook, but we make connections, and ideas spark.  You see, the idea for this post was inspired by a question on a wiki application on Facebook 🙂

In addition to adding online contacts, I searched Facebook for former professors and peers from graduate school, and found many of them had accounts on Facebook.  Even though we know each other through face-to-face interaction, we are now living in working all over the globe!  By reconnecting and becoming friends on Facebook, I found some great professional information through shared notes, links, and groups.  Also, through private messages, I am now up-to-date on what they are working on professionally and personally.

Groups are a great feature because many of them are connected to academic professional organizations, sites, or events, it is a great way to get to know about useful professional resources.  As Gladys mentioned, I created a Facebook group for Learning with Computers, but we still have to explore it further to discover how it can be used most effectively.  If the Facebook group activity showed up on the News Feed page, it might be easier to get members more involved, and to see more action or progress being made in these groups.  For now though, I see the groups as a way to further connect with colleagues, and to get more professional information.

Finally, Facebook can be used as a kind of place to collect and share the things we are doing with other Web 2.0 tools.  On my Facebook page, for example, I have my blog posts, Twitter updates, bookmarks in delicious, photos, and so on, allowing us a place to share our voices while our friends listen; hence, “Voices and Ears” is the title of Gladys’ wiki whiteboard.

Of course, I use Facebook not only for professional reasons, but also personal ones.  I am really interested in other ways to use Facebook for professional development, and how others envision using it to enhance their professional lives.