Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blog challenge by @adaptivelearnin

First I saw Brad's post and then read Beth Crumpler's blog. A new challenge from my PLN!

What easily carries me away is an opportunity to use a simple web tool for playing with words creating something that has never existed, then eye the result.

The challenge was to use Tagxedo and make word clouds showing blog and Twitter vocabulary. Here is what I got.

My blog word cloud. No surprises. This is what I write about - English, students, classroom, teacher, school... Not exactly mind-boggling.

My Twitter cloud:

Revelation! I never knew my Scoopit links constituted the majority of my tweets! Obviously, Tagxedo used only my latest tweets (as Brad suggests) and if I had made a word cloud an hour later, it would have looked totally different.

Thanks, Beth and Brad! That was fun!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Is PowerPoint to blame for poor presentations?

This has been going on for some time already - blaming PowerPoint for boring, bullet-pointed presentations that make the audience fall asleep or inwardly burst with indignation. I beg to differ. I don't think PowerPoint is the root of all evil.

I may not have plunged into defending PowerPoint if not for the endless stream of verbal abuse of this popular, accessible, functional tool, so widely used in education. A new phrase has even been coined - Death by PowerPoint. See here how it started. Scary!

Do you believe that those people who damaged their presentation by using PowerPoint would know how to create brilliant presentations on Slide Rocket, Prezi or Keynote? I don't believe it for one second. Because it is not the tool but its user who is to be held responsible.

I love PowerPoint also because it has never let me down when the internet connection is broken or there is no access to the web. You put the Powerpoint presentation in your pocket and carry it with you to any place you need.

Perhaps it is not about PowerPoint but about Microsoft...?

Watch this slide presentation which also puts my untold words into a superb answer to the destructive skeptics.
The slides have been made by Clear Presentation Design.
Don't Blame PowerPoint! It's just a vehicle

Do you feel for PowerPoint?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Challenges of Adult Language Learning

My guest today is Marina Salsbury who planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes around the Web about everything from education to exercise.

Marina's article focuses on the problems and challenges in language learning which college students and adults face if English is not their native language.

image by urbanphotographer on flickr
 The concept of a “critical period” for language learning has been of much debate historically. However, linguists' as well as language teachers' current thoughts reflect acceptance that college-age and adult learners can become quite fluent. Despite this possibility, adult language learners face unique challenges in college ESL classes online or on campus. Understanding these challenges and how to face them may help both teachers and learners attain greater success in learning English.

Some challenges adult English learners face are common among any adult language learners. Learning languages may be more difficult as one grows older, and adult learners may not be willing to speak and practice language because they feel silly or embarrassed. Learning may go quickly at first, when a lot of new vocabulary is introduced, and then may seem to slow to a crawl as grammar and other concepts become more complicated.

These problems with acquiring grammar and structure as an adult seem to be true regardless of the language being learned. Facing these challenges takes time and patience, but can be aided by being willing to use English frequently, even if it’s not perfect. Finding opportunities to use English and practice what's being learned in the classroom will help students begin to overcome the problems they face. By gaining more input and interaction, English learning will be better facilitated, and classroom lessons will become relevant and meaningful.

Learning English, though, presents some problems for beginning learners that adult learners of other languages don’t necessarily face. The major issue is simply accessibility. Most English language programs in the US teach their classes completely in English. Students with no previous knowledge of English may have a difficult time understanding and keeping up. Textbooks are written almost exclusively in English, making independent study quite difficult for students who don't already know how to read English. Even seeking individual help from instructors may be difficult because they may not be able to offer explanations in a language other than English. Students in these programs with no background in English may need to find additional tutors, lower-level courses, or online programs that can help with translation. Another option is to take a few English classes in their home countries so they have at least a basic knowledge of English and can access the information in subsequent classes.

Of course, for EFL learners who may not have ready access to English within their local communities, finding ways to practice English outside of the classroom can be challenging. One of the best ways to get more English input is through entertainment media. TV shows, movies, and music in English can provide interesting and accessible English to study or at least be exposed to. For more interactive practice, students should encourage themselves to only speak English with classmates. They can also find online conversation partners, or check out the expat community where native speakers may be willing to exchange conversation practice in the local language.

Adult learners who don’t begin their English study until college are likely to encounter difficulties, even if fluency is attainable. Not only are they faced with typical language learning challenges, but they may find English inaccessible, either through program design or location. By finding ways to make English accessible, these students will find a greater degree of success as they work toward becoming fluent speakers of English.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A lesson with two faces

Reading of the great post by Ceri Jones on her blog Close Up made me think about the situation in my professional life which has kept recurring again and again - one and the same lesson plan in two different classes of the same age never works in the same way and never produces the same result.

Ceri sees the grounds of the different outcomes in the seating of her students. Sadly, it is out of the question for me because my classroom has three stationary rows of desks that are impossible to rearrange. So I have to leave alone the idea of moving the desks.

Seating apart, what makes the same lesson work differently in ostensibly similar classes?

I have two classes this year who are new in the school (they have come from primary schools). The kids aged 13 in both classes are lively, talkative, rather noisy but when it comes to the lesson, a miracle happens and they behave like they have come from Mars and Mercury.

While one of the classes turn into careful listeners and active participants in the lesson activities, the other class stay indifferent, demonstrate boredom and dislike for everything they are asked to do. In addition, they are difficult to calm down and get quiet.

While the former class seem reluctant to go after the lesson ends, they stay with me to talk and share their news, the latter can't wait to run away and likely never come back.
Needless to say, I have been using the same syllabus, the same lesson plans and the same content in both classes.

What is making the difference? What am I doing wrong? How can I resolve the problem?
I don't know. Yet.