Tag: Technology

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyLearning and Skills DevelopmentMultimediaTopics

Schools and the proper use of technology

M.Sc. Maria A. Mora

The issue of digital citizenship has become a relevant topic to discuss at school. Should it be a subject in our schools? Who is in charge of teaching all the elements involved in the responsibility of using technology, parents or teacher? Are we aware of the risks that technology involves for learners?

Problems such as cyber-bullying, time spent on social media, plagiarism, and inappropriate use of technology or disclosure of information are some of the issues teachers have to deal with in modern classrooms, and it seems as if they were always one step behind all this ordeal.

Schools trying to avoid further problems have found a solution on forbidding the use of tablets, cell phones and other kinds of technology in the classrooms, along with the use of social media, blogs and any other type of communication on the web.

On the other hand, there are schools which are promoting the use of technology, teaching their children and teenagers how to use technology responsibly, ethically, and safely. First of all, they include the instruction of digital citizenship as part of other subjects. In some cases, students have to sign an agreement where they will accept the responsible use of digital devices, networks, and software for educational purposes and activities. Learners have to agree on keeping personal information and others, private, showing respect on social media, giving credit to others for their work, and reporting immediately any improper use of technology. Such measures are ruled and regulated in schools by organizations like the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), and the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). They have found the need to make an alliance with schools and parent to inform and protect young ones from unawareness and inexperience of the effect and consequences when surfing the net.

In addition to these agreements, teachers can look for pages online to instruct their students on how to make healthy choices online, the same way they would for their health. One of the best places to start is Common Sense Media where they offer eBooks and printable digital citizenship curriculum for grades K-12. These resources provide a printable scope and sequence that allow teachers to prepare students for engaging in a digital space.

Furthermore, institutions must involve parents in this process of technological education to seek that before-mentioned wellness beyond the school premises. The search for such knowledge turns out to be quite a challenge for schools, parents, and instructors, since technology is always in motion, and one can never be well trained in the use of an application when another appears. Then, agreements, programs, and curriculums to instruct on digital citizenship have to go under revision to cover every angle once more.

Institutions need to implement efforts and commitments on behalf of every part involved once the technology is integrated into the learning process, incorporating classes on digital citizenship. The main principles to promote and develop a healthy digital culture in our classrooms are transparency and trust. Blocking pages and the internet itself is not the solution anymore, but empowering students with the right element, and trusting them to make the right decisions regardless of the supervision they may have.

English and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingMultimediaTopicsWorld View

Digital Citizenship and ELT

M.A. Maria del Carmen Gonzalez

      When teaching another language all the input, exposure, and practice that the students may get becomes priceless to their learning concerning exposure. Technology provides English language teachers with an endless source of tools and applications which can make their classes much more interactive and be engaging for learners. Instructors have the opportunity to communicate with other teachers, creating networks to share not only knowledge but also advice and tips for their classes. Such groups have formed communities where they can find everything and anything to make classes more enjoyable to students. Learners get in touch with authentic material and practice in real contexts, putting the language into use right from level one.

     Thus, language instructors have a great responsibility once they open the gate of technology inside and outside their classrooms. Teachers have to train students on how to use technology effectively regarding ethics and responsibility. They cannot teach them how to use a particular tool, but on the contrary, a whole set of required skills to discriminate information, respect authorship, and develop competencies to use any tool, page or application as students, and later on, for their professional life as well. These measures will guaranty learners to move responsibly in the digital world, with or without a teacher by their side; in other words, they will unfold digital citizenship.

     Technology opens a broad range of possibilities for students, as they can surf the web for any material, information, application or tool, as well as be a part of learning clubs or communities to exchange ideas or simply have a pen pal. Once trained into the elements of digital citizenship: literacy, access, security, etiquette, health and wellness, commerce, communications, law, rights and responsibilities, students will be protected to use technology and digital information safely, responsibly, and ethically.

     Furthermore, technology provides the creative teacher with the occasion to create their material using faster and more efficient tools, save it for further use and even sell it to other teachers in pages set up for that purpose. Teachers can download a great variety of free material for their classes, saving time and effort; moreover, lesson plans and all kinds of games and worksheets, along with another large variety of online exercises and games.

    There is no question about technology being part of our lives; the dilemma resides on the knowledge we have of its significance and effects on our existence. As teachers, we must become digital citizens, teaching by example, guiding and instructing our students on how to surf correctly on the web.

Business and ManagementCulture & DestinationsEnglish and TechnologyMust ReadWorld View

The workplace setting in the 21st Century

By Academic Committee

Changes in the workplace are necessary to match the 21st-century skills demands. Global citizens today agree that as time goes by the place of work changes, but the competencies that go along with it should too. We cannot deny that the skills required in the 21st-century gear towards factors such as competitiveness, innovation, and creativity.

Workers nowadays need an advanced mentality, open mind and disposition to unlearn and relearn putting into practice soft skills such as time management, leadership, resilience, and self-direction, among others.

Workplaces are changing. Many workers are still illiterate when it comes to succeeding in the involving work environment, taking into account that company’s know-how goes hand in hand with technology.  The power of technology will promote modern devices and a more efficient communication network as the workplace setting improves. If a company wants to keep its quality and be competitive in its market, then workers will need to keep up with the latest technology trends and adapt rapidly to the changes that occur on a daily basis.

Companies have also seen the necessity to make adjustments in their infrastructure to promote spaces where workers can interact in different ways. Moreover, design places where creativity and innovation flourish. The need for spaces that nurture teamwork and discussion contribute to the development of creative solutions and distinct concepts gathering different opinions and points of view. Thus, generating change too.

As times change, society and minds also change. Back in the days having domain and knowledge in the core subjects at school were enough to be considered a successful person and prepared for the real world. Currently, this era takes much more skills than just being able to read, write and solve mathematical equations.

To gain success, we must now have a range of knowledge in diverse areas of expertise such as science, technology, and culture, as well as being creative, innovative, flexible, and possess the ability to work in teams, solve problems, think critically, and communicate effectively.

Assumptions regarding success in the workplace have also changed. It is not just about inventing a product that allures people because it is not costly and it works. Now it has to be original, significant and prepossessing. Moreover, many jobs are being delegated to other countries because they can save money by having other people do the same job for less pay. Technology in itself poses dichotomy as it advances, the workplace changes in a way where humans compete against it for the same job. However, if the personnel can adapt, learn and innovate it will outsmart computers and avoid a worker’s replacement since jobs now demand specialization.

Employees need to keep pace with competencies so that managers and directors can see that they possess the skills from the 21st century. They have to prove and make visible, making the right decisions, using the right information and tools, that they can do the job right, come up with the best solutions and produce the most incredible and rewarding product or service. Many professionals have already embarked in these skills adopting technology and software as essential to getting the job done making them a limited, yet valuable source due to the attitude rather than their expertise on the subject.

 

Business and ManagementMust ReadQuick TipsTopicsWorld View

Millennials and Talent Management Today!

By Academic Committee

The new trend in companies now geared towards the 21st century focuses on technology and globalization. Millennials, today’s leaders, with easy access to the global market, and native to technological surroundings transform Startups to billion dollar companies overnight leaving their competitive advantage to Talent and Creativity.

Whereas, CEO’s are now enforced to redefine their recruitment process within the four pillars of Talent Management considering as a starting point the Millennial’s way of thinking, use of technology, and globalization.

I. The Recruitment process:

The recruitment process is the first step where changes need to occur. Before, CEO’s through Human Resources office scouted people that would perfectly match the position requirements. In today’s global market, the focus is on talent and adaptability. In the modern globalized economy, companies weigh employee’s ability to acquire new knowledge and collaborate. Also, gaining experience and developing individuals’ skill-sets becomes essential.  Employers would now prefer to have energetic, malleable workforces who can learn on the job and help one another to innovate and create new solutions.

II. Learning Development

Today’s candidates are not looking for a career inside a company; they are looking for an experience. This immense change in the status quo of what people wanted at their workplace comes from the changes needs directly connecting to the economy. Thus agile workforce is required.

Millennials’ inherent values and life skills set imply hands-on the job and learning by doing. So, development of learning is shifting towards business leaders who progressively identify the lack of competence as a dominant obstacle to the implementation of their company’s strategies; thus, ensuring the need for creating opportunities and space for learning.

Millennials’ creative workforce considers of high added value the emphasis on continuous learning to the point that when they are not learning, they leave organizations. The key lies in creating conditions for learning to happen as part of their development aligned to the recruitment process and meeting the needs of the changing economy and its workforce.

III.    Periodical Check-ins

Annual Reviews are a thing of the past; today proved ineffective and inefficient in fostering high performance.  According to talent managers, Annual Reviews do not promote employee engagement or talent. Instead, valuing a year full of work and noticing changes that would require follow-ups until a new year comes and which results directly connects to compensation derives in demotivating collaborators. Millennials whose mindsets focuses towards learning and gaining experience that fosters talent and creativity need immediate input hence constant check-ins lead to direct real-time improvements.

Also, lifelong learning is the key to adjust performance through coaching and skills development rather than just evaluations. Today, Millennials value instant feedback given after direct performance if it is active and constructive. They feel the need to be geared towards their responsibilities and progress within the roles and duties they perform; hence their results drive the companies’ culture and employee’s engagement as they feel valued and take part of the system and for those that need improvement creating a support system that helps them grow. If leaders provide constant feedback on performance they are also building future leaders, coaches, and mentors who drive the economy and their responsibilities to fulfillment fostering teamwork; as a result creating new leaders. Also, instant check-ins goes hand in hand with clear objectives and results since they bring transparency and efficacy to the job performed which Millennials highly value.

IV. Career Development and Compensation

Unlike the traditional idea of career development which meant reaching the next step in the corporate ladder, the 21st Century economy places great importance on providing opportunities and support to middle-level operations to advance and create development opportunities for employees to meet the rapidly changing needs of the company. Talent Managers should focus on three primary drivers- purpose, autonomy, and mastery- to meet Millennials mindsets expectations for development.  Ideally, employers should create opportunities for young, talented, creative minds to experience different functions, roles, and markets for them to gain experience and build adaptability to change in employees; from now on, creating a more stable job opportunity to the collaborator. This career development opportunity leads to a change in view and although Millennials are ambitious and strive for financial success, they also prefer a collaborative work culture environment and value transparency.

Millennials focus on collaboration and equality and draw towards projects that connect their strengths and abilities leading to career fulfillment since social networks are their essence, they expect an open culture without barriers of any levels; subsequently, they also favor leaders who create opportunities for training and development.

Millennials now connected to the world through technology; they embrace cultural diversity and change as essential to their environment.  The creation of culturally diverse leadership teams and workforces with divergent backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas enables collaboration, inclusion and ensures equipped leaders for future challenges.  Lastly, considering that new challenges lie ahead, a succession of employees is essential to the fulfillment of positions with great talents, creativity, and better-equipped life skills. Such replacements can fulfill the needs throughout the organization connected to the economy, and its global trends requiring an immediate change in the Talent Management process where Millennials are taking over.

References

Haak, Tom. “10 Talent Management Trends for 2016 | HR Trend Institute.” HR Trend Institute. HR Trend Institute, 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

Martin, Jean. “How to Keep Your Top Talent.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School, May 2010. Web. 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.

123

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.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyLearning and Skills Development

Enhancing Language Learning Through the Use of Technology

by Charles Gil

Technology has become part of the learning process for all students around the world. The importance of such tool in the learning process is undeniable, and so is the right way to use it in order to produce great results.

In fact, technology has been used for different training purposes across many industries. Some governments, for instance, have used it to train the military with emulators, and simulators, big companies have used it to train new personnel with knowledge bases similar to Google but for internal use, and now schools are using it to enhance learning inside the classrooms. This has given rise to many discussions amongst learning specialists who argue that this new trend could impact the learning process negatively if it is not implemented correctly.

What is the right way to use it then?
Let’s take a brief look at what’s happening in chess, a sport that requires a great deal of training and has recently changed dramatically due to the right use of technology.

Chess masters nowadays could easily beat old masters who never had the chance to use modern technology in their trainings. Many writers and analysts from Chessbase.com have reached this conclusion after comparing the accuracy and blunders of new masters versus previous ones from other decades, and the results are irrefutable: the majority of new masters are simply better players than their counterparts from the past.

This is what chess players are doing right according to many specialists:

  1. They constantly update information with the latest databases.
  2. They use a lot of relevant information; they can study any rival in depth.
  3. They integrate all parts of the game in one single platform such as Chessbase (most popular one in the world).
  4. They can easily measure their progress with artificial intelligence from chess engines such as Fritz, Rybka, etc.

Are we using technology in the same way as in the language learning field?
We are doing so to a certain extent, but not to the point in which we have reached optimal results. I am speaking of course about the Nicaraguan context, in which I have plenty of experience.

One of the biggest mistakes we are making is using the traditional five letter grading system that allows us to determine if a student can pass a level or not. A number or a letter does not say much when it comes to language abilities, and it says even less for training purposes.

In order to be successful we need to find a way to take full advantage of the technology to train our students considering their learning styles and language skills. No student is the same and without the use of technology, it takes a lot of time to create different lesson plans for each individual, but technology allows us to do so when it is used correctly.

What I propose is a different grading system that allows different teachers to focus more on certain aspects of the language. For instance, we could use a system that divides the skills into four parts: reading, speaking, writing, and accent (pronunciation). Until this moment, technology is not required to improve these skills, but this division of competencies could prepare us to be more effective when we start using it.

Once we start grading students differently, we can start using countless free and paid resources from the web and our own creation to assign more relevant content to students when they are working in a lab or the classroom.

Technology allows us to classify students by skills and learning styles easily with the use of databases, and the impact can be quite dramatic in the short and long term as well. Technology does not need any rest, and students now can see a lesson as many times as possible, and practice as well; all this while gradually making it more challenging for themselves. Teachers can see the results of their practices instantly and quickly change the type and intensity of the exercises.

Technology also allows us to measure results and compare them with previous ones instantly. This can be useful to adapt quickly and avoid repeating mistakes. Similar to cancer treatment, technology permits us to create cocktails of drugs (activities) which can combine visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary learning styles. All of this is possible if we attack learning systematically and scientifically.

In regards to the call center industry, we have the advantage of creating very similar conditions to the real floors of production from the actual companies. The use of computers in the labs can also enhance multitasking abilities for students who have to be able to take calls while operating a computer effectively. It is up to us as trainers to simulate the real call center environments as similarly as possible. Oftentimes call centers trainees cannot manage to do all their activities at the same time. Speaking to a customer in a second language is hard enough for some, and adapting can be quite costly for their performance and self-esteem.

In conclusion, we should be excited about the prospects of the use of technology in our field. We are about to become super teachers, but it is only through an extensive comprehension of the matter, and the proper training that we could reach this potential in the short term. We should be constantly monitoring the use of technology in other areas to adapt their best practices into our own. We should be constantly sharing our success stories within our own schools in order to accelerate our own understanding and effectiveness as teachers and trainers.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyLearning and Skills DevelopmentTopics

Edmodo – Breaking the Barriers of Space and Time

by Bosco Bonilla

Every teacher and school is always looking for an effective way to engage students, connect with them, coach them and finally help them become better learners. Edmodo is an open online platform for learning that allows interaction between teachers and students in a Facebook-like environment. The platform enables teachers to share content, assess students, upload assignments, and keep in touch with students, colleagues and parents. As an instructor working at Keiser Language Institute puts it:

When I discovered Edmodo I fell in love with it. I love the fact that it looks like Facebook and it is attractive to students because they can download the app and use it in their smart phones or tablets, so whenever there is no lab available they can interact inside or outside the classroom. It also means using less paper, thus   contributing to protect the environment (Martin Montalvan – EPD and EPC Teacher).

In the modern world people are always busy, hopping from one task to the next, rushing from home to work, then to the next meeting. Students, especially adults who have the desire and need to learn English face an important challenge as they have to juggle with family, work responsibilities and keeping up with an English course.

Edmodo offers a solution by empowering instructors to continue coaching their students beyond the boundaries of the brick and mortar and exposing them to real English after school hours. Authentic materials used in class, such as videos or articles can be made available for students to revise at home. Learners can post comments or questions about the material and expect clarifications and further insight from the teacher. Indeed, Mr. Montalvan states that Edmodo enables instructors to keep in touch with learners as instant notifications can be posted and students’ questions addressed.

Also, tutors can direct special attention and give additional assistance to weak students. Through Edmodo teachers can send messages, extra work or even full lessons to specific pupils. If a student needs more work on one skill or area, the teacher could prepare a personalized study plan for him or her through the platform. Another advantage is that teachers “can create connections with other teachers from different institutions, universities and countries and cultures”, which enriches the teaching experience (Montalvan).

It may sound like a lot of work for the teacher at this point, but in reality everything instructors need to craft their classes in Edmodo is one click away. The educational social network allows teachers to connect with any other website on the internet. By simply adding the URL or link teachers can make available videos, exercise, and explanations. In addition, all sorts of formats, such as PDF, Microsoft world documents, JPEG and MP4 files can be uploaded. Features like polls, quizzes, posts and assignments give teachers all the tools they need to assess, give instructions to and interact with students.

Nevertheless, as any successful class, a group on Edmodo requires careful planning. Teachers must search for the content that matches the objectives they are trying to reach and the level of their students, carefully design the activities they want students to complete and write very clear directions. There are tons of videos on  a topic on youtube and similar websites, but not all of them are suitable for a beginners class, for example.

With all these tools at hand experienced teachers can combine face-to-face interaction with technology that aids in breaking the barriers of time and space and give students of all ages the chance to learn English effectively and in the language of the 21st century.

Students' Voices

The Use of Web Apps at the AEP

by Francisco Morales

For many years, I have been using a variety of devices and applications to improve my skills and productivity as a doctor. I think of technology as a toolbox which helps us in everyday life as soon as we understand how and where to use it. Recently, as a student in the Academic English Program (AEP) at Keiser University, I had the opportunity to double-check the necessity of using technology in our daily tasks. The AEP introduces students to a vast use of web applications.

Firstly, most of web applications are oriented to reinforcing the link between students and teachers. For instance, when I was in level eight, we had to work on a research paper, and we wrote it on Google Docs and saved it in Google Drive. The use of these web apps helped the teacher to correct my writings without wasting time on printing and submitting. Currently, a huge percentage of the corrections were in real-time, and I did not need to stand up and disturb the teacher every time I need to consult something, even though I had the right to do it. He sent me the suggestions and I was able to take advantage of the time to look for the possible corrections. The practice was very convenient.

Secondly, AEP instructors use MyEnglishLab as an alternative to traditional homework in lower levels. Besides, MyEnglishLab, also referred as “the platform” by many students, is an online web application used by teachers to assign grammar homework to their students. The exercises are very clear and include a brief review of the main topics in its grammar chart, just like a book does. The main difference between the traditional workbook and this web application is the real-time feedback students receive. Using the platform, I did not have to wait until the teacher checked my homework, in case he was able to. I received a real-time feedback from MyEnglishLab, including a short explanation about my mistakes. As an English learner, I had the time to look for more information about my mistakes and prepare myself for the next day’s classes. In addition, I did not have to buy any books or carry them every day in every level.

Thirdly, teachers promoted the use of web applications to improve our TOEFL Skills. From level five to level eight, we have been working on TOEFL Skills, and teachers assigned us different tasks based on TOEFL exercises. Similar to MyEnglishLab, I could receive a real-time feedback from the different web applications we used, and I practiced all the areas. Ranging from reading to listening exercises, the continuity of facing us with these types of assignments reinforced myself with the necessary abilities to overcome the TOEFL.

One of these web applications that deserves a special mention is ReadTheory. As a doctor, I used to read a lot on my native language, but reading in English and comprehending are totally different things. It was not so easy at the beginning, but practice makes perfect, and it is here where ReadTheory takes place. On the website, we had meaningful readings sorted by different levels of comprehension, as well as questions for every reading. Every mistake I made had a clear explanation, and those pieces of advice are very useful. From the time that my teacher gave me access to this website, I started reading at least one or two passages per day. Now, I am a very fast reader, and my vocabulary has increased a lot too. Thus, I am satisfied with all the practice I received.

In brief, I am very grateful for having had the chance to use different tools to improve my abilities as an English learner instead of those old-fashioned learning techniques.

English and Technology

My New Best Friend

by Manuel Dos Santos

If you walk around the school or the college campus, you’ll see students glued to their smartphones. The smartphone has become an extension of their bodies, like an added limb.

Surveys from different sources conclude that over 90% of students bring their smartphone to class, and that the majority of them would enjoy using it as a learning tool.  In general, schools have a policy against the use of cell phones in class because they say it distracts students from learning and disrupts the class. So how can we use this ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to our benefit as teachers? How can we take advantage of this technology to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world?  The answer is to use the smart phone responsibly and for a specific purpose. Clear limits must be established to students beforehand.

The following are some suggestions on how to incorporate the use of smartphones in the English class.  Besides the authentic input that smartphones can provide, they also help to motivate the class, and students feel that they are responsible for the learning process.  The smartphone is definitely an added benefit, and can be used even at a very elementary level.

Almost every beginner’s course will include the following topics: talk about your family, friends, pets, your house, the weather, pastimes, vacations, and so forth. Let’s see how we can use the smartphone to complement some basic teaching goals.

Family
Traditionally you would ask students to bring photographs of their relatives to class and to describe the people, give their names, their profession, their age. Instead, get students to show photos of their family on their smartphones and to talk about the people. You may start off with your own family using your phone, and elicit what you expect them to say. Example: This is my husband. His name is Antonio. But we call him Tony. And these are my children. Martha is thirteen and Gerardo is eleven. She has straight brown hair. He has black curly hair. Martha is a good student, but Gerry is lazy. His favorite sport is baseball, etc.
Get students to work in groups, and discuss their relatives showing photos on their smartphones. Go around the class and listen to their descriptions. You may ask for volunteers to show you photos and describe their family. Personalization encourages students to talk and makes the class much more interesting.

Pets
If you’re teaching possession, verb “to have” and possessive ‘s, ask students if they have pets and what. It’s advisable first to elicit: I have a dog and two cats. The dog’s name is Lobo and the cat’s name is Sugar. You can use the same procedure as with the family. Ask students to show you photos of their pets and to describe them.

Friends
Get students to show selfies of themselves with friends. Describe where they are (location) and what they are doing (Present Progressive).
This is a selfie of me and my friend Carol. We are in a restaurant. We’re celebrating her birthday.

Weather
In groups, get students to find out the weather conditions in different parts of the world. You’ll be combining weather vocabulary and expressions with the subject of geography: It’s snowing in Beijing, China. It’s winter, and Beijing is in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s sunny and hot in Buenos Aires, because Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s summer there. Get students to compare and contrast the different weather reports.

The principal use of the smartphone is to get students to look up or gather information related to the subject matter being discussed in class – real world challenges. However, there are many other possibilities to use the device as a useful tool for the learning of English. For example:

· Recording:  When reading or role-playing a Conversation from the book, get students to record it and have them check for errors in pronunciation, and other mistakes.

· Dictionary: Get students to look up the meaning of a word in a dictionary application.

· Translator:  Ask students to translate sentences. Sometimes the online translator is inaccurate, so the activity is a good opportunity for error correction.

English: What are you doing next Saturday night? 
Spanish: ¿Qué estás haciendo próximo sábado por la noche?

· Text Messages: Introduce some common acronyms in English at the beginning of the lesson – TKS = thanks, TC = take care, 2day = today, GL = good luck, etc. Have students share phone numbers. Divide the class into groups and get them to send each other messages. To simplify, you may want to write the content of the message on a card for each group. Example: Group A, invite Group B for a party on Friday night. Give time and location. Tell them to bring . . .

As they say, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Teachers have to find ways to co-exist with the smartphone in class, because smartphones and other ICTs are here to stay.

Copyright: Manuel dos Santos                 June, 2015

Classroom and MethodologiesClassroom TalesEnglish and Technology

Pearson English Interactive

by Alfieri Avilan
Academic Consultant Central America & the 
Caribbean

The new learning era has turned into a great dilemma that has taken a whole decade to begin to understand, its depth has not been measured yet, it seems as if we are struggling to cope with all the changes and challenges that such wave has brought within.

Educators, researchers, linguistics, scientists, technicians, all have come together to propose plausible solutions to these new challenges, yet the main matter, learners´ necessities, still evades many.

In Pearson for more than one hundred and fifty years, we have preserved three values that drive our behavior, thoughts and actions. One of these values, the imagination of harnessing new technologies in what we do, not with the sole purpose of producing great educational goods, but thinking of and for the future as well as placing the learner in the center of the teaching-learning process has made us understand and measure this new learning era.

It is because in Pearson we understand the new challenges that one of our great online solutions meets in great deal the needs of a new set of learners. The sort, who lacks time to attend regular lessons, is friendly to technology, seeks motivating content and finds it hard to pursue and stay on goal. Pearson English Interactive matches not only these needs; it also faces one of the most important aspects on the inclusion of technology in the classroom, what it represents for teachers and students.

For teachers it means having a remote assistant who can support with extra content, immediate grading, close measurement of students’ progress, also with extra hours, a hundred per level, helps you stay in communication with your groups, and other useful help.

Marking becomes easier; paperwork drops dramatically; personalization of instruction gets as real as it can be.

For students, PEI represents the way they learn, a digital environment where they spend most of their productive time. One may fall for the quick thought that everything digital is good for our learners, it cannot be a more incorrect concept; the key to this successful educational online solution, PEI, resides in its interactivity; it enables the learners to have a large amount of participation. This would resemble a live classroom, except for the fact that a good amount of students does not get that much interaction in real lessons.

Seemingly, Pearson English Interactive being an online solution overlooks the practice of four skills, nothing further form the truth. It allows learners to work and master all four skills and pronunciation, covering the standards for real communication.

It sees English as what it is nowadays, lingua franca, exposing learners to real forms in which people talk around the globe, a critical concept in learning a foreign language, this provides with the authenticity that is necessary in the classroom regardless of the setting, so that the learners understand how the real language is used in the real world.

One other factor that makes PEI so effective is its flexibility, learners can access their courses anytime anywhere, and this allows them to schedule their own pace. Teachers and learners are never apart; they are in contact through an effective, flexible, user friendly, motivating learning management system.

Enabling teachers and learners alike to join the new era of education has become one of the pillars for creating Pearson English Interactive. Blended learning is the future, the way to support, improve and enhance classroom activity, a way to ensure that learners reach their ultimate outcome, communication in the 21st century.