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?


Connecting and Reflecting January 27, 2008

Filed under: Social Media — MaryH @ 11:21 pm
Tags: ,

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.


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.


Getting acquainted with social media January 21, 2008

Filed under: Social Media — MaryH @ 2:29 pm
Tags: , ,

As an educator, to me, social media is a way to connect our students with others outside the classroom.   When we open the doors of the classroom to others, wonderful things can happen.  During the past academic year, I started a blog with my students, and we were able to use it to connect with students in Argentina to share movie reviews; we listened to voice recordings of people in various countries talking about their favorite sweets, and we interacted with experts in the fields of graphic design and wedding cake design.  Through this session, I hope to learn how to encourage the same kind of positive interaction through other social media tools, such as feedreaders, social bookmarking tools, and photo sharing tools.  Constantly pushing the edge of the classroom further and further…

For my class, I could have chosen to use a different environment, such as an LMS, and consequently the edge of the classroom would not have extended so far into the world.  The social tools we are working with in this session are different from an LMS because they are open. Blackboard, Moodle, and other LMS are only open to those enrolled, primarily the students in a course, the material shared on social tools is potentially available to anyone, depending on the privacy settings the user chooses.  During the 2007 Blogging for Beginners workshop, I had the pleasure of attending an online session given by Bee where she introduced this concept; after the session finished, I blogged  “Week Four Summary” about what I learned from the presentation, how social media tools and LMS differ, and how the choice of tools may impact the students’ learning experience.

My main feeling about social media is that just like anything else, the more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it.  One common thread among the social media tools being used in this session is the ability to share content with others.  In the Webhead community, openly sharing seems to be favored; then, everyone can learn and benefit.  However, in some circumstances publicity may not be desired, and most social media tools have the option of being set to private, or varying degrees of privacy.  When working with students, we have to take many factors in to account when working online, such as safety concerns.  However, what about shy students who don’t feel comfortable sharing their work?  Even though I tend to be reserved, I have found that sharing my work online has been an incredibly empowering experience and it has helped me to gain a professional voice.  Although I hope students see the value of sharing, the best way to know how university students feel about using social media in the classroom would probably be to engage in an informed dialog about the subject.


Hello world! January 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — MaryH @ 1:40 pm
Tags: ,

The first blog I opened is on Blogger and it is called One Teacher’s Journey. Now, here I am opening a new blog, using a new blog host, and taking part in another journey. This time I thought it would be more appropriate to name my new blog One Learner’s Journey, for I am always learning, and this blog begins with the hope that I will chronicle my learning journey during the SMiELT EVO session. SMiELT stands for Social Media in ELT, although every time I see the abbreviation I read it as SMILE. Because when I am in the company of friends and learning new things with them, I am always smiling; after all, SMILE could stand for Social Media in Language Education. Another journey begins!