This last weekend, I attended the TESL Canada 2014 conference in Regina, Saskatchewan and had the opportunity to give a presentation and to be co-presenter in two more. The common thread running through all three presentations was the pedagogically sound use of technology in language education. For those that were able to attend those sessions, thank you for coming and for interacting with us through questions, comments, and participation. Considering the time of day that these three sessions took place, I am pleasantly surprised by the turnout. At each of the sessions, I promised to post a summary along with my slides on my blog at the start of the week. Well, that time has come, so here are the three sessions in order of when they were presented:
Charting a Collaborative Course Online: Learning in the Community
Carolyn Kristánsson and Nathan Hall
Friday, May 9th 3:00pm-3:45pm
Carolyn is one of the professors in the MA TESOL program at Trinity Western University and I am her collaborating instructor for the curriculum development course. We presented our approach to the course and the use of a service learning project to give students the opportunity to work on a real world situation to apply what they were learning in throughout the course.
We started the presentation talking about the differences between a more traditional approach to teacher education versus that which looks at learning with a more sociocultural perspective. The key in our course is applying a more collaborative learning theory to an online course, allowing for learning and knowledge building together as a group. In order to do that, there needs to be a clear distinction between that which is cooperative learning and that which is collaborative, the difference mainly being in the view of learning as being individual versus the group.
In our course, we use a course wiki as our online learning environment, allowing for shared discourse and interaction amongst the teachers and students. In the TWU MA TESOL program, the approach is modular with a small part being didactic, in this case a short recorded lecture, and the remainder being highly collaborative through the building of the TPOV, the Teachable Point of View. This is a larger document that focuses on a single area of study that is collaboratively built in smaller groups with each member given a single role to fulfill. This approach to learning borrows heavily from the transformative view of pedagogy with only a small part falling within the transmission area. Facilitating the course is the lead instructor, in this case Carolyn, and the collaborating instructor, myself for this course. Each instructor has a distinct role, but they also work collaboratively in presenting and running the course.
The curriculum for the course is broken up into two areas: content and the service learning project. The first two modules look at the foundational aspects of curriculum development and the last two modules apply this knowledge to a project that is to be used by a non-profit agency working in need of some assistance in developing a program. Students work together to build this document in small groups, drawing on what they are learning in the class while applying it to a real-life situation.
There are a number of challenges that arise working on a project of this size and scope, but there are also a number of rewards. For the most part, students find it incredibly fulfilling to create a curriculum that is actually going to be used, at least in part, in a real situation. While the task can feel daunting at first, the project is scaffolded in order to provide enough guidance while still leaving enough space for students to evaluate and apply what they feel works best in that situation.
At the end of our session, we handed out a graphic organizer with questions to spark discussion amongst those who attended, but sadly we ran out of time. The handout is available here along with the slides. Feel free to post any questions or comments you might have about the presentation or the service learning project and we will get back to you.
Using online tools to provide oral feedback on writing assignments
Saturday, May 10th 8:30-9:30am
I am an English for Academic Purposes instructor and I tend to give feedback on a large amount of writing assignments. A few years ago, I started recording myself talking the student through their assignment and I received a good response from the students. This is supported by some of the studies done on this topic and used in various situations. Not only am I able to give more feedback, but it is more nuanced and specific to to what the student needs.
My primary combination of tools I use to give my feedback includes Crocodoc Personal for hosting the document online and allowing me to adding small notations combined with Screencast-O-Matic to do a video and audio recording of my computer screen while I talk the student through their writing. Both the video and the document are hosted online so I can share it with the student and also to keep a record of what is happening for their e-portfolio.
I had the opportunity in January to give a talk on this same topic for the REALize 2014 online conference, only with a few small changes to incorporate more of the research I have used to support my use of recorded oral feedback in writing assignments. I will post my slides along with the REALize session recording. Feel free to post questions or comments below.
Creating a Dialogic Classroom Through the use of Interactive Whiteboards
Shawn Rotchford and Nathan Hall
Saturday, May 10th 3:15-4:15pm
Shawn and I worked together for almost two years at a language centre in Calgary. The school had a Smartboard and Shawn and I were tasked with finding ways to find effective ways to implement the Smartboard into our teaching. Through the process, we found a number of tools that we found to be effective regardless of what interactive whiteboard (IWB) you were using. This presentation looked at the reasons behind IWBs and how they could be used effectively along with some practical applications.
Without going through everything, there are a few tools we focused on that may be helpful regardless of the classroom you are in. In the presentation, click on any of the titles and you will be taken to the tools. Feel free to play around with them and let us know how you think they may be used in the classroom.