Tag: English in Nicaragua

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust ReadQuick Tips

Blended Learning: Using technology in and beyond the language classroom

Pete Sharma & Barney Barrett

Macmillan Publishers Limited

Oxford, England

 

Review

Blended Learning introduces teachers into the use of technology inside and outside the classroom. Though there is no doubt about the role of technology in our classrooms, it is rather a challenging task to search, combine, and take advantage of all the variety of tools and materials that one may find on the web. Pete Sharma and Barney Barrett have managed to put together a guide where they present different items of technology to be used in a language class. Their objective is to provide instructors with all the advantages of the tools, present possible problems and solutions that may come in handy, and examples of the way to enhance your classes, as they include a few model lessons plans for different levels of expertise.

If you are looking forward to introducing technology into your EFL classrooms and do not know where to get started, this book will take you by the hand on how to promote your classroom into the 21st century, engaging your students in different and diverse ways of learning.

  • It provides basic information for new technology users, though it also includes helpful websites for more advanced users too.
  • The book not only presents new technological tools, but also directions for the creation of new material.
  • It contains two appendices for beginners with detailed guidance for the use of Internet and the World Wide Web.

Check it out!

 

 

 

 

Classroom and MethodologiesClassroom TalesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish FactoidsEnglish Language Training

Fostering Creativity in the EFL Classroom

Albert Einstein said that creativity is intelligence having fun, thus the essential meaning of creativity entails the concept of producing something new, innovative, unique, and original, as much as it is related to flexibility, adaptability, and versatility. Creativity has been defined as an ability to generate new things (Gomez, 2016), and bringing imagination and ideas to reality, through perceptions, connections and skills (Naiman, 2016). Mr. Martinez del Rio, the editor from “Tiempo de Estrategia”, states that “to be creative, you have to be wild, complex, let out your intuition, forget logic and think that there is not only one answer to every problem but many” (Gomez, 2016).

However, what is the role of creativity in the EFL classroom? Well, the development of the 21st century has brought us, teachers, new concepts, ideas, resources, tools, and sets to promote the learning process, all of which are intended to significantly improve the learning experience. Such development brings along new demands and expectations for students as well which include the acquisition, generation, cultivation, and refinement, in some cases, of specific skills that will positively prepare them for a prosperous and competitive future. Among a few of these skills, we can mention communication, teamwork and collaboration, creativity, investigation, creative and critical thinking, digital citizenship, and technology knowledge.

As educators, it is our responsibility to promote these skills among our students as we teach English, and it is not that challenging since learning another language requires practicing and exercising communicative and social skills. Combining teamwork, analysis and critical thinking, creativity and innovation, sharing ideas and solving problems could only result in the best opportunity for our language learners to succeed at both, language and professional development.

Once the relevance of creativity is realized, there are some stereotypes to work on. Many think that creativity is just an ability a few gifted people have, that is only required for the arts or it is a trait of your personality. Catherine Courage states that “creativity is a birthright, available to all, but used by few” (TEDxtalks, 2012). Moreover, creativity is only a muscle that needs to be exercised and strengthened. By setting the right environment and starting training from the classrooms, we can direct our students to endless ways to comply a task or design a project.

“A student who can read an expository text and turn it into an engaging, listener-friendly podcast can surely identify the author’s ideas, key details, and supporting information. And in putting the information together in her own way, in creating something unique and sharing it with the world, she has learned something new, grown as a person, and possibly inspired others. In which case, your English class has all the bases covered…” Amanda Ronan, 2015

References

Amanda Ronan. “5 Ways to Keep Creativity Alive in English Class.” Edudemic. Edudemic, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

Gómez, Katyana. “Esta Habilidad Te Ayudará a Ser Más Productivo (Parte 1).” Dinero En Imagen.com. Excelsior, 01 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

@mikepa75. “A Student’s Path to Succeed in the 21st Century – Inspire EduTech -Educational Technology. Blended Learning. Education Development Rural Schools.” Inspire EduTech Educational Technology Blended Learning Education Development Rural Schools. Inspire Edu Tech, 28 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

Naiman, Linda. “What Is Creativity? | Creativity at Work.” Creativity at Work. Linda Naiman Blog, 27 May 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

TEDxTalks. “Igniting Creativity to Transform Corporate Culture: Catherine Courage at TEDxKyoto 2012.” YouTube. YouTube, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentTopics

Reaping the value of GSE and the GSE Teacher Toolkit

May 25, 2016

Updated 7 July, 2016

My goal as a classroom teacher is to do the best I can to make sure my content is meeting the needs of my learners. After fifteen years of teaching English, I know one thing to be very true: Every single group of learners I work with is different and will require different things from me. One semester I could have a group of students who have strong communicative fluency but are weak in complex critical thinking and contextual analysis of lectures and reading passages. The next semester I may have students who can easily ace a grammar, listening and reading test but struggle to speak in full sentences or respond outside of scripted conversation. This is the frustration and joy of teaching English: The classroom is a dynamic living space that supports the development of unique individuals with unique needs. But how do you know what’s truly working for your learners?

While observation is a valuable resource for assessing student skills, it is really tests, quizzes and tasks that provide enough evidence to understand a learner’s current abilities, strengths and weaknesses. So in any classroom, whether I’m following along with a textbook or creating a custom course, at some point, I need to stop and assess what is working for my learners so I can respond to their needs. Having a solid understanding of the level of ability of learners to perform with specific skills can help me target my teaching to utilize learner strengths to help build skills where learners are weak. This is where tools like the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the Global Scale of English (GSE) become extremely useful.

How the granularity of the GSE is a valuable resource

Both the CEFR and GSE are tools that help communicate a learner’s ability to perform. For teachers and administrators, these tools are useful because of the external validation of performance indicators. I myself have spent countless hours creating lesson plans and objectives and wondering “Is this challenging enough?” or “Is this going to be too difficult?” Often, the arbitrator is running the lesson in class and observing the results: successful learning or Hindenburg-level disaster. I found the CEFR useful as a way to quickly gauge whether or not an activity was addressing specific skills that other learners at the same level could perform. The Global Scale of English goes further by drilling down more explicitly into the skills. Where the CEFR is more of a general collection, the GSE provides more granular insight into the explicit skills and functions learners can build to become more proficient in their skills. It’s like the difference between driving from X to Y with or without turn-by-turn directions.

The Global Scale of English starts with the CEFR and builds out 1,000+ descriptors of performance across all four skills. This provides better distribution of the language skills and supports the usefulness of the CEFR to describe learning performance. A word of caution: The descriptors are not designed to be prescriptive about the learning journey! Like the CEFR, the GSE is not an all-or-nothing collection of descriptors indicating that “in order to learn D, you must first learn A, B and C—AND in that order.” Anyone who knows anything about language education can easily see the problems inherent in that kind of thinking. That’s because each learner has unique needs and learning does not occur in a straight line.

So, it is its granular nature that makes the GSE such a valuable resource. As an educator, I feel quite confident in my teacher’s intuition and my ability to use reflective practice to observe what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom. I can be creative and know when to use practice activities and assessments that come with my courses. I also know when I need to add activities and create content that will engage my learners and perhaps add a challenge that is meaningful, but that my course book does not contain. In the past, I would build that content based on my knowledge as a teacher and my knowledge of my students and use the course materials and future assessments as a general guide for their level. When planning I might also consult with other teachers and colleagues in the field as a way of brainstorming ideas and validating whether the content I’m creating is at the right level for my learners. But sometimes, I wonder if I’m making the best decisions. Are my lessons and content truly built for the skills and needs of my students? Enter the GSE Teacher Toolkit: an interactive resource with all the GSE descriptors.

Remember how we have 1,000+ descriptors for the GSE? Well, the GSE toolkit allows a teacher to drill down into all the descriptors quickly and easily to look for specific skills and to determine the level of challenge those skills will present learners. For me, there are three distinct ways to use the toolkit that will benefit English teachers:

The toolkit helps teachers access the GSE as a tool to validate institutional student learning objectives (SLOs)

As a model of descriptors of performance useful for creating rubrics and assessment tools

As an inspiration for interesting and unique content that will engage and excite learners

Of the three pieces, the last is the most useful starting point. Why? Let me give you an example.

The GSE Teacher Toolkit as an inspiration for content

For this example, I’m going to step into some very familiar shoes, those of a language teacher at a local college. My goal is to quickly improve my learners’ levels of ability in English to move students into an engineering class (a great example of teaching English for specific purposes). My coursebook has several strong reading passages and does a great job of building the reading skills with a focus on understanding words from context and using textual analysis to answer questions and describe the process of answering. I provide some authentic content and follow the same skill-building techniques that are outlined in my coursebook, as this is what my student are learning. The students work well, meet the expectations of the course and are working towards the learning objectives. Even with all this work and progress, at the start of the second semester I see many of the same faces in my classroom when I was expecting them to move to a higher course. I have to ask myself, What’s missing?

This is where the toolkit first became an eye-opening resource for me. When I searched the skills I was developing with my learners, all appropriate reading skills, all encapsulated in my SLOs (skimming, scanning, comprehension and basic inferencing), I found that I was teaching right at the level of ability of my B1 learners. The toolkit shows the skills at the B1 level and also at the B1+ level and the B2 level. As I started reading through descriptors of performance, I realized there were some higher-level skills that I had never explored in the classroom with my students, challenges my students were not being prepared for. Suddenly, by looking away from “where my students are now” to “where I’d like my students to be,” I was overwhelmed with ideas for content I could build to supplement my course book.

The GSE provided a new strategy for planning. My course book can cover the basic work and I’m free to generate interesting ideas for classroom activities that will really challenge my learners. Even though the group I’m working with is at a B1 level, I planned a B2-level activity around a GSE descriptor. At the B1 reading level, my students would read and process information from a problem-solution essay. My course book provides several good examples and structured activities to build the skill, reducing the work I have to do.  Now, for the challenge. I selected the following B2-level skill from the GSE toolkit:

Can critically evaluate the effectiveness of a simple problem-solution essay (GSE 61, B2 (59–66)).

This will allow the class to go beyond the surface application of the skill. For the activity, I selected a piece of authentic content, an op-ed piece from the newspaper, a great example of someone explaining a problem and presenting their argument for the best solution. The lesson plan practically wrote itself.

SLO: Students will be able to read and critically evaluate the effectiveness of a simple problem-solution essay from the opinion section of the newspaper.

SLO2: Students will describe which supporting details were most effective to support the author’s solution.

Steps

1) Read and review several shorter structured problem-solutions essays in the course book. Have students skim, scan and read to answer the specific question. Have students identify where the answer is indicated in the text and note why the answer is most appropriate.

2) Solo: Introduce seven selected vocabulary items from the op-ed piece and review.

3) Provide a gist question: Read the title. What solution do you think the author will provide to address the problem? Elicit predictions to check after the reading.

4) Have students skim. Check predictions.

5) Provide a set of comprehension questions. Have students scan and answer questions. Check answers in groups. In groups, have students discuss how they found the answer and why the text indicates this is correct. Check as a class.

6) B2 Skills: Evaluate the Effectiveness—Have students individually answer if they agree or disagree with the author’s solution. Students describe answers and why. Allow time for students to develop answers. In groups, have students share their ideas.

7) Building from the previous: In groups, have students discuss what aspects of the author’s solution were most effective. Have students list what additional details or examples could be provided to help others agree with the solution. Share ideas as a class.

8) In class [if time permits] or homework: Have students find an article, column piece or reading passage that provides an example of a problem solution that effectively swayed the student to agree with the solution for review in the next class.

The toolkit enables me as a teacher to be creative and provides additional validation that I’m working to challenge my learners appropriately. Steps 6 through 8 of my lesson will stretch my learners and, most importantly, help to provide skills that will hopefully see them transition out of my class and into general courses without the need to come back to me again. Being able to conveniently sort through and see descriptors specifically aligned to skills, area of study (professional, academic or general) and level of ability makes the tool particularly useful. No longer do I need to try to comb through and break down the very chunked description of performance in the CEFR to make it manageable and relevant for my learners. Additionally, I don’t have to search by reading through thousands of descriptors. In a few seconds, I can free my teacher planning brain to find new, fun and appropriate ways to challenge myself and learners to do new things together, proving that I am meeting my primary goal as a teacher, which is to support my students’ learning and support them towards success at their level and beyond.

With the new GSE toolkit, I feel as if I have just expanded my ability to discuss potential activities, assess skills and sense check the challenge of my activities with my peers across the world. The GSE certainly won’t replace my particular teacher “Spidey” sense or that of some of my best friends and colleagues in the field, but it certainly opens up a whole new world to what is possible in the classroom.

Reference

Davila, Sara. “Reaping the Value of GSE and the GSE Teacher Toolkit.”Pearson English. N.p., 25 May 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust Read

How to use the GSE to enhance and improve English assessments

July 6, 2016

The Global Scale of English has been a great support and a positive change for my practice. As I previously discussed, the GSE can be used in a variety of ways, but my three favourite uses are as a tool for validating my students’ learning objectives, as a tool to enhance and improve my assessments, and, finally, as a tool to create content. In this discussion, I’d like to look at how you can use the GSE and the Teacher Toolkit to create custom rubrics and also explore the potential of the GSE Assessment Framework for teachers. First up, a refresher on rubrics (please skip to the section titled “Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics” if you’re already familiar with the concept).

What’s a rubric?

If you aren’t familiar with it, a rubric is a tool that we can use to assess learning performance. A rubric can be used with any skill and with any kind of learning content. A rubric does this by providing descriptors of performance at different levels. Rubrics provide a clear roadmap for what performance is expected at a higher level of achievement. It’s the difference between saying “do better” and saying “Right now you are working at this level and if you concentrate on these skills you will see yourself working at the next level.” A rubric provides a clear indication of what needs to be improved in order for a learner to excel.

The great thing about rubrics comes from their clarity and consistency in assessing performance. A solid rubric helps me look at the specific performance of any given student and capture the information I need to know about the level at which that student currently is while providing feedback that is both summative and formative. The downside of rubrics is the challenge of creating a solid assessment rubric, one that provides a good formative roadmap, while also being reliable as a summative assessment. With practice, trial and error, anyone can create a good rubric. However, practical tools can help save a lot of time and frustration for administrators, teachers and learners.

Most of the rubrics used in the classroom look like this basic example of a rubric used to assess speaking performance:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Speaking Short sentences with some mistakes. Longer, compound sentences with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences. Able to expand on ideas with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences, clearly organized. Able to expand on ideas and clarify concepts with few mistakes.

You will notice that there is no specific context for the speaking component in this rubric example. Depending on how a rubric will be used, you may want a very granular rubric tied directly to the context and content of learning, or you may want a rubric that can be used for a broader assessment. My example rubric could be used as part of an end-of-semester performance assessment, whereas a more granular rubric would be useful as an end-of-unit assessment or even a units-review assessment where I am looking at performance with specific content.

This rubric contains three specific parts: the scale, the performance to assess and the descriptors of performance. The scales for a rubric can vary across the globe; some teachers will use 1–5, some will use Poor to Excellent. When it comes to selecting the scale, use what will work best in your learning environment and help them communicate the rubric to others in the field, to your students and to your administrators. My personal preference is for a scale that indicates the current level of performance, without implied judgement. Once you have your scale in place, you want to figure out what you will be assessing. This will be largely driven by your course. What are you teaching? What performance do you need to assess? Performance of the skill is key.

For example, if you are teaching a grammar-focused class, you would not develop a rubric to assess the students’ grammar knowledge. It’s much easier to use a more traditional test to check for knowledge of rules. However, if you want to see how well a learner is correctly transferring the grammar they are learning into conversation, a rubric can provide direction. Such a rubric might look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Answer questions about the past and future Answers in simple sentences. Frequently mismatches verb tenses. Easily answers in simple sentences. Uses a few complex sentences. Mismatches verb tenses a little. Does not monitor or correct mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Makes few mistakes with verb tenses. Occasionally able to monitor and correct some mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Elaborates on answers without prompts. Consistent use of verb tenses with few noticeable mistakes. Demonstrates ability to monitor and correct when an error is made.

The final stage of your rubric construction will be the descriptors. The descriptors define what it is you will observe when students are performing. In a speaking assessment, you would be listening to students speaking in a conversation. In a writing assessment, you would look at the organization and cohesion of the students’ writing. The descriptors, then, describe the performance you would expect, aligned to your scale. The descriptors provide information that helps to clearly distinguish between each performance type. Using our writing example, you might have something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Presents personal information and details with little organization. Presents personal information with details. Selection of some details is clear. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned to the information and arranged in logical order. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned and organized. Specific examples clarify connections.

As you can see, a rubric builds from the bottom and works upwards. This way I can tell a student who Needs Development what they specifically need to work on in order to get to consistent, proficient and masterful use. This is something that can be planned for, and over the course of a semester, we can revisit this and see how their performance is improving and what next steps to take. A rubric helps to provide that kind of clarity. The greatest challenge in creating a rubric is usually in developing the descriptors of performance. What do I need to describe so I can both observe performance and define what the next level looks like?

Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics

A rubric is a pretty basic tool that a teacher uses to assess performance … but where does the GSE fit into all of this? For me, the most obvious place is in helping to define performance and create descriptors. As the GSE largely describes the use and application around the four English skills  without providing a specific context. This makes it a great place to start for understanding the performance I want to see in my classroom. Rather than the coursebook deciding, or my using my general sense of performance, the GSE gives me a clear indication of the difference in performance at different points along a learner’s learning journey aligned to a specific stops along the CEFR scale. Using the GSE, I could redraft my writing rubric so it would look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

(GSE 31/A2)

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

(GSE 40/A2+)

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

(GSE 47/B1)

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

(GSE 67/B2+)

From the perspective of a teacher, this gives me a good starting point to add further details to my rubric that would allow me to further align with my curriculum and the learning outcomes defined by my institution. This might look something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

 

 

(GSE 31/A2)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

 

 

 

(GSE 40/A2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

 

 

 

(GSE 47/B1)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

 

(GSE 67/B2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Using the GSE, I can also see the progression of skill development and get a sense of how long it will take for learners to improve their performance[1]. Knowing that the difference between Needs Development and Consistent Use is a move from A2 to A2+, I might expect that a student starting at the bottom will get to Consistent Use by the end of a semester. If I have a learner starting at Consistent Use, my goal would be Proficient Use, and Mastery would be a stretch goal. A rubric using the GSE not only helps me get a solid description of the skill performance, but it can also improve my expectations of what learners will achieve based on the length of my course and the number of hours of input and study that will be accessed.

The GSE Assessment Framework

Of course, all of this is a lot of work, so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that the Global Scale of English team had developed a set of agnostic course rubrics that describe performance, contain descriptors, are aligned to the CEFR, cover all four skills and, most importantly, are available for teachers to download.

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Download the full set of rubrics in the GSE Assessment Framework here: http://bit.ly/29t7RAO

The GSE Assessment Framework would not replace all of my classroom rubrics nor stop me from developing rubrics in the future, but it does provide a nice functional rubric that I can use to assess all manner of performance tasks in my classroom using a tool that is externally validated. That end-of-the-semester speaking test would be a perfect test case for the use of the GSE Assessment Speaking Framework rubric. A mid-term writing assignment could be assessed using an internal rubric with the GSE Assessment for Writing Framework for a secondary reference.

Additionally, the frameworks could be handed out to students at the beginning of the semester and used as a way to help students with personal goal setting. As many of my students have test scores that report aligned to the CEFR, it is a simple matter of having students use the GSE Assessment Framework to see how their current level is described and have them look towards the future to make a personal learning plan to continue to improve their English skills and concentrate on problem areas. The Global Scale of English Assessment Framework doesn’t replace all of my assessment tools, but it certainly becomes another time-saving feature to add to my assessment grab bag.

Having access to something as value packed as the Global Scale of English ecosystem, I realize that improving assessments is one of the first steps when it comes to the functional use of the GSE. With over 1,000 descriptors of performance and an assessment package to boot, I’m excited to think of what I can accomplish by utilising these tools and the impact this will have for me and my future students as we continue to work towards our shared goal of communicative fluency.

References

Davila, Sara. “How to Use the GSE to Enhance and Improve English Assessments.” Pearson English. N.p., 6 July 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

TopicsTourism and Hospitality

Discover Nicaragua

By Elizabeth Perkins

At first glance, Nicaragua is brilliant green trees and brightly colored flowers, birdcalls and rich coffee, colonial architecture, and monkeys swinging from branches. Spend some time here, and you’ll hear the rhythmic pounding of hands forming wet cornmeal into tortillas and notice the scent of plantains frying in hot oil. Take a closer look, and you’ll find community. Families sit in front of their houses after a hard day’s work, chatting with their neighbors while children play in the street. Strangers look out for each other on public buses. Folks organize to change problems in their neighborhoods.

For travelers, Nicaragua is a gem hidden in the rough. Tropical rainforests and soaring volcanoes offer endless opportunities for hiking and exploring. Sandy beaches with shimmering waters allow for languid beachcombing and swimming, while surfers flock to the shores for some of the best waves in the region. Charming cities have thriving dining and nightlife scenes and flourishing café cultures set amidst grand cathedrals and centuries-old Spanish colonial architecture.

A culture of collectivism has emerged in response to centuries of injustice. Nicaragua has a tumultuous and battered past, but the Nicaraguan people have learned to depend on their own resourcefulness to get by. Today, you will see this spirit of self-reliance in agricultural cooperatives, artisan collectives, and community organizations—including a burgeoning industry of community tourism—across the country.

Nicaragua is a place to slow down and step into a more relaxed rhythm. Pack a little flexibility, good humor, and, ideally, some basic Spanish. Whether soaking up some sun while sipping rum on the beach, sharing coffee with a rural family, or speeding down a river on a motorboat, you’ll find Nicaragua to be just as its Ministry of Tourism describes it: “unspoiled, uncommon, and unforgettable.”

When to Go

December-February is generally the coolest, least rainy time to visit. August-October is cool as well, but it’s more likely to rain. You’ll also find more Europeans and fewer North Americans during these months. During March-May, the hottest, driest months, dust is inescapable. Juneand July are hot and rainy, followed by hurricane season September-November, when you’re likely to encounter torrential downpours most afternoons.

Invierno (winter) refers to Nicaragua’s rainy season (May-November). Verano (summer) refers to the dry season (December-April). Due to global warming, it’s now unlikely to encounter rain that lasts for days on the Pacific side of the country, but it still may rain heavily for hours (or just briefly shower) every afternoon.

There are some events worth planning your time around. Anywhere you go during Semana Santa(the week leading up to Easter), expect big crowds and higher prices. Spanish-speakers (and learners) should make a point to attend Granada’s Poetry Festival at the end of February. If you’re looking for a party, San Juan del Sur’s Earthship Pitaya Festival in early March is a must. Catch thePalo de Mayo festival on the Atlantic coast throughout May, and the Crab Soup Festival on the Corn Islands August 27-28. Masaya’s Agüisotes festival on the penultimate Friday in October draws large crowds. In early December, Nicaragua celebrates La Purísima.

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.
http://moon.com/2016/01/discover-nicaragua/

TopicsTourism and Hospitality

Economic Impact of Tourism on Nicaragua

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the global authority on the economic and social contribution of Travel & Tourism, promotes sustainable growth for the sector, working with governments and international institutions to create jobs, to drive exports and to generate prosperity. Together with its research partner, Oxford Economics, WTTC produces annual research that shows Travel & Tourism to be one of the world’s largest sectors, supporting over 276 million jobs and generating 9.8% of global GDP in 2014.

Travel and tourism play a critical role in the economic activity in most countries around the world, and this has never been more true than in Nicaragua.  According to the WTTC Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2015 report on Nicaragua, the tourism industry generated 87,000 jobs directly in 2014 (3.5% of total employment) and this is forecast to fall by 2.8% in 2015 to 84,500 (3.3% of total employment). This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). It also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.

By 2025, travel and  tourism will account for 76,000 jobs directly, a decrease of 1.1% pa over the next ten years.

The same report shows that in terms of GDP, domestic travel spending generated 60.6% of direct travel and tourism GDP in 2014 compared with 39.4% for visitor exports (ie foreign visitor spending or international tourism receipts).Domestic travel spending is expectedto grow by 4.8% in 2015 and rise by 4.2% in 2025. Visitor exports are expected to grow by 3.2% in 2015 and rise by 6.7%  in 2025.

The Boston Globe reported that these growth stats are making Nicaragua one of the world’s top ten emerging destinations. In a recent publication, the journal wrote “Industry experts are calling Nicaragua the hottest destination in Central America, and one of its best bargains…The political climate has long settled down and the country is throwing out the welcome mat to foreign visitors, investing in infrastructure and facilities.”

The outlook for travel and tourism in 2016 looks very promising too. The Nicaraguan government keeps on creating incentives for tourism development, particularly, and a more favorable climate for investment in general. Therefore, as more and more companies invest in the country, not only tourist on vacation, it becomes necessary to invest in new infrastructure and human resources, which also means the creation of more jobs and opportunities for the whole country to move towards a better future.

Sources.
https://www.wttc.org/-/media/files/reports/…/nicaragua2015.pdf

http://www.elportonverde.com/2015/01/02/2015-travel/

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish Language Training

The challenges of English Teachers at the Caribbean

by Bosco Bonilla

The 3rd Nicaribbean TESOL Conference held in BICU at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua was a very educational and edifying experience. Teachers in Bilwi and its surroundings face significant challenges. One of those challenges involves having students from multi-ethnic groups as they can only speak their native dialect and are not able to communicate with other students using a lingua franca. These teachers have to resort to very creative means to deliver their lessons and occasionally, they require a dialect interpreter to develop the content of the class. All the while, they have to bear in mind the issues of human and children’s rights, which is a very sensitive topic in the area.

Also, there are very limited resources available for educators. Most schools in the area lack internet connectivity, computers or sound systems that enable teachers in other locations to develop their classes. The lack of these tools restricts instructors from carrying out activities that could contribute to developing their courses more effectively. However, teachers driven mainly by their passion and love for their profession, make use of all kinds of tricks to enhance their students’ learning. Some of these resources include using realia in the classroom, which sometimes entails carrying around and recycling several bottles or boxes of cleaning products. That goes to prove how passionate and committed they are in Atlantic Coast.

Among other examples, the following can be mentioned: Some teachers have to travel long distances to get to their workplaces, time that is not part of their working hours. Moreover, instructors are required to attend workshops and meetings organized by MINED, which deal with current debates around ethnic rights and political issues that affect education in the area.  So, they have to work beyond their regular working hours too. Notwithstanding such inconveniences, they love their job and go the extra mile on a permanent basis, and there is always an aura of camaraderie and cheerfulness around them. People in Bilwi have a great sense of humor and are very transparent.

The teachers who attended the workshop not only participated actively by asking questions and exchanging their experiences but also took the time to talk about their local culture, food, and idiosyncrasy. The presenters who traveled from Managua to Puerto Cabezas also had the opportunity to share their teaching experience and knowledge in the hopes of making a meaningful contribution to EFL teaching in the zone. These teachers delivered creative and relevant presentations that surely had an impact on the audience. Their topics ranged from Language Codes focused on the differences between accents and pronunciation to making mini whiteboards with cardboard and tape to engage students in participation.

The delivery of the presentation Professional Development from within aimed at giving the audience a broader sense of what Professional Development is and how the needs and characteristics of our students play a vital role in its definition. An additional objective was to demonstrate that Professional Development should not always come from external parties, such as the institution or the government. Instead, it is an ongoing process that starts with instructors’ desire of learning and growing, and finding solutions to problems that they face on a daily basis in their classroom. Furthermore, different resources such as MOOCs and Epub’s were shared with the participants so that teachers could use them to enhance their professional development. Finally, the instructors were informed about the various activities carried out at Keiser Language Institute to boost teachers’ professional development. Just to mention but a few, they heard about Collaboratory sessions as a space for teachers to exchange and share successful practices, activities, innovative ideas, and resources.

In brief, the event turned out to be quite a learning experience for this presenter (author of the article). Both teachers and presenters were very kind and professional and altogether they contributed to making this presenter a more humane, open-minded and sensitive teacher. Thanks to ANPI (Nicaraguan English Teacher Association/Spanish Acronym) for the invitation and organization of the event, and Keiser University Language Institute for the opportunity as a presenter.

Tourism and Hospitality

Travel and Tourism in Nicaragua

(taken from Euromonitor International)

Tourism industry has mixed opinions of Nicaragua’s Grand Canal project
With the backing of China and Russia, the Nicaraguan government is expected to begin construction of the US$40 billion Nicaragua Canal in late 2014. The 286 kilometre canal will connect the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Nicaragua, traversing Lake Nicaragua along the way, and will directly compete with the Panama Canal in shipping. The canal is expected to bring overall economic growth to the country, but many fear that it will negatively affect the tourism industry. For example, visitors may be deterred by the large-scale construction of the project, which will create an unattractive landscape, noise and traffic. After the canal is completed, the presence of large ships in Lake Nicaragua, where the popular tourist spot, Isla de Ometepe, is located, may deter visitors. Furthermore, the canal may pollute and damage delicate ecosystems in Lake Nicaragua and protected rainforests, preventing development of eco-tourism.

However, some argue that the canal may be a significant tourist attraction similar to the Panama Canal, where its main visitor center in Miraflores, receives almost 800,000 visitors annually.

Lack of bilingual workforce inhibits Nicaragua tourism growth
The US is Nicaragua’s second leading source country after Honduras, accounting for 21% of visitors in 2013. According to the Instituto Nicaragüense de Turismo, (INTUR), the US, Canada and Europe combined accounted for 30% share of arrivals to the country in 2013. Furthermore, many visitors from European countries do not expect employees to speak their language and therefore default to using English. For this reason, demand for bilingual travel retail employees and accommodation and foodservice staff is high. However, the Asociación de Turoperadoras Turísticas de Nicaragua estimates that less than 25% of total tour guides are proficient in English, while the Asociacion de Pequeños Hoteles de Nicaragua (HOPEN) notes that less than half of those who apply for jobs in hotels or foodservice can confidently speak English. Not only are some potential visitors hesitant to visit the country due to the lack of bilingual services but businesses also face higher costs due to the scarcity of bilingual employees, who charge premium for their services. As a result, some industry stakeholders argue that those who attend university tourism or hospitality programs require basic proficiency in English to graduate.

Nicaragua seeks greater tourism expenditure via high-end visitors
Nicaragua is considered to be one of the “cheapest” destinations for travel in Central America, which is a key draw for visitors. Tourism expenditure is the lowest in the region at US$41 per day, less than half of daily spend in neighbouring Costa Rica according to the Tourism Secretary of the Central American Integrations System (SICA). While the government seeks to attract more visitors in terms of volume, it is also wants to attract visitors with higher spending habits. However, the tourism industry currently lacks a wide range of high-end offerings that would attract greater spending. Only 100 of the 750 registered hotels are ranked three to five stars and the accommodation industry just added its first five-star hotel with construction of the Mukul luxury resort in 2013. Furthermore, the country lacks direct air connections, which further limits development of high-end tourism. The government and other stakeholders began to increase investment to attract high-end visitors over the review period, but further development in accommodation and air transportation will be necessary for success.