Saturday, February 4, 2012
Week 4 - Bedtime Reading
Photo on Flickr by Ismael Sans
Greetings from snow-bound Belgrade.
The combination of very low temperatures, strong winds and the snow that keeps falling culminated yesterday. My son's school was cancelled and it took my husband three hours for what's normally a half-an-hour trip from work.
I have been on holiday for the past week, but since the weather has been awful, I have hardly left home at all. If it hadn't been for Webskills, I would probably have died of boredom.
Photo on Flickr by Luka Knezevic
Luckily, this week we have been doing reading, writing and vocabulary skills. This means that I could read short stories to my heart's content. This site in particular has kept me busy for days. And my fellow-participants have shared loads of sites to bookmark and peruse at peace. We also wrote a technology-enhanced lesson plan. Since I have no computers at work, my lesson plan also revolved around reading activities.
That doesn't go to say that I didn't explore sites that would require computers in class. This site will take you on an interactive tour through the museums of San Francisco. Another place to go for a virtual museum tour and also do a bit of writing is the Art Safari. There are loads of vocabulary quizzes here. And a great activity that can be done from home is postcard writing. Two websites where students can find beautiful postcards to use for their writing are E-cards and 123 Greetings. They can send their cards to the teacher or to each other. Or both.
There is more. But I need to focus.
Another thing we did this week was to take one step further towards the final task. Here is my definition of the problem: My students need more exposure to English and more opportunities to develop the four skills from home. With the aid of user-friendly tools, I would like to create for them additional tasks that would be motivating, short and interesting.
I am not quite sure what this means yet, but I have a vague idea that I want them to read something or listen to something, then react to it in writing. It sounds simple, but it isn't going to be.
Making them react to what they have read or listened to is going to become a problem the moment they start seeing it as homework. I mustn't set the bar too high, or they'll give up too soon. This refers both to the tasks and to the web tools I use. The project will probably develop slowly and I will have to be patient and offer a lot of support.
And how will I determine whether the project was successful or not? I will only have up to 12 participants. My experience from online workshops is that quite a lot of people give up at the very beginning. My colleagues who have tried teaching in Moodle and other similar sites say that about one third of their students never even joined the site. Do I sign them up, or do I wait for them to sign up? And what do I do with the lurkers (the people who follow online workshops and read everything, but never post anything themselves)? In class it is not difficult to reach out to shy people and find ways to include them in the conversation. But online?
So, I have been thinking and this is what I came up with: I need to tie my online activities with what we do in the classroom. One way to do it would be to start each class by continuing the discussion that was started online and maybe asking the "lurkers" for their opinion. There is curriculum that I have to follow, but I can always put aside 15 minutes. If they know online materials will be discussed, they might at least review them in silence.
Again, I am back to the question I have already asked: How do we measure the success of an online project? Is it by the amount of interaction? Ideally, that should be how we measure it, but what if the students' IT skills are not very advanced and there are no computers at school? Maybe we should take into consideration how much their English has improved thanks to the online "homework"? In which case there should be a way to measure this through work in the classroom.
Just thinking out loud.