There is good evidence that students will need English in a different way than they used to. In other words, the general proportion of listening to reading, or speaking to writing, may change; in addition, the functions of each might change. For example, it is clear that we are using reading and writing more informally, with the explosion of computer communication; inter-global communication is much more common and much more integrated into daily life, so that dialects (British, Australian, American) will probably be replaced by a more standard sound. In addition, with the profusion of non-natives using English in increasingly important positions, the standards of perfection may be eased, but the need to read and respond quickly and appropriately will be more important than ever.
With the increasingly important role of the computer in all aspects of life, including corporate life, education, and social life, ease of using the computer and all its functions (e-mail, blogs, text-to-speech functions, etc.) will be increasingly important.
The reading teacher should be interested in these changes for a number of reasons. First, as the world gets smaller, English becomes more important and students should be more interested in participating in the opportunities the new world offers. Second, teachers are themselves less isolated and more able to take advantage of a worldwide community of like-minded teachers, willing to share resources and skills. Research and publications become more available and accessible, along with materials, suggestions and publication opportunities, for those who know where to find them. But, most important, students entering the new global marketplace will need new skills- searching for information, uploading material, reading and responding to chatstreams, etc. The best way to prepare them for this is to get in there and use them ourselves.
The idea of using weblogs in the esl/efl classroom is based on several developments:
1. More of the world is online more of the time; students are spending more and more time by their computers;
2. Students are far more likely to read things that are immediately interesting to them, namely things their classmates have written, or things that are from their immediate community;
3. Students of all kinds need experience reading, writing, printing, uploading and editing online materials;
4. Students are becoming used to online reading material, and relate better to short online passages than to longer written ones; they will read more, more extensively, and more carefully things that are online than other things.
One of the biggest impediments to online learning is that, in general, students are more comfortable with it than teachers. This could and should change with time, but it could also change with a little preparation on the teachers’ part.
In the weblog workshop you can:
1. Make your own weblog, link it to a central presentation weblog, and put whatever things are interesting to you as a teacher;
2. Learn about setting up weblogs, so that you can set one up for any given class or topic;
3. Begin to connect to things online so that your weblog becomes an online portal to interesting things.
Leverett, T. (2008, Apr.) Teaching writing in online and paper worlds. Writing IS, Demonstration, TESOL Convention, New York NY. Script and articles: http://cesl.siuc.edu/teachers/pd/tw.html.
Facebook & social networks
The purpose of focusing on social networks is not to teach students how to exploit them (they already do this quite well) but rather to help them manage a world in which reading and writing in informal online environments are central to survival and success. Teachers don’t want to intrude into what is to students personal, fun, and possibly inappropriate for classroom use, but on the other hand, if reading is easier for students in this environment, then it’s a good way to get students started, in reading, in English, on a variety of topics. Teachers can set up social networks (Nings) or places for classes to gather, share online material and write; at the same time these places can become records of student work and activity, and repositories for classroom materials.
It has been observed that “the whole world has turned to Twitter,” and this is mostly said disparagingly, as if people don’t read anything longer than 140 characters, or are unable to handle complex thoughts. Untrue. As the world turns toward constant connectivity, and geography becomes less relevant, such sites as Twitter become main gathering places of people of almost any common interest.
Look at it this way: If you could attract a gathering of any given group of people, all of whom had the same exact interest as you (teaching reading, for example)- wouldn’t you? Well, you can- and your students can too.
In an Edmodo workshop, you can:
1. set up a small Twitter, so that you and your students (or you and your fellow teachers) can experience the benefits of common connectivity;
2. Use it for the purposes of dropping interesting online links that you and your fellow teachers could use in the future…
Leverett, T. (2009, March). Uncharted but breathtaking: Using chat in the ESL/EFL writing class. TESOL Convention, Denver CO. Script and articles: