Saturday, July 18, 2009

High schools not ready for technololgy

My current high school has asked me to stop using the computer lab and only work in the traditional classroom. I am not going to stop using technology. Starting September 1st, my students and I will only be connecting from home. I may be able to get a few computer classes to get the students started but that's all. I guess I am lucky that I am very experienced so I can manage such a program, but some schools are just not ready to accept technology. Am I alone in believing that technology can facilitate and improve the quality of instruction and learning in the K-12 setting?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wikieducator and Action Research Project on Improving Writing

Improving Student Writing

Teaching is an ongoing learning process. Teachers are generally keen on helping students improve their writing skills, after all they are in the business of "change". I have been teaching for over 30 years and have spent most of my teaching career asking questions about best practices. How do I go about making changes in the way my classroom is run or in the way my students behave or in the way my school is run? These are some of the questions that go through most teachers' minds. However, how many questions do I ask before I start getting some answers?


One area that has bothered me is student writing. How do I improve their writing? However, as much as I had tried, students kept making the same basic grammatical mistakes and mechanical errors. I would scream if it helped. Last year I decided to try using wikispaces and Moodle to encourage and help students improve their writing. Well, I did see students getting a bit more motivated with online writing, but some were still making the same grammatical errors. This year, I decided to stop using the Moodle and try another wiki called Wikieducator. Furthermore, I decided to conduct an action research project and document my work to see if I could track the changes in one of my grade 11 5 point classes during the next two years. I had done an action research project in the past and found it helped me learn how to make improvements.


For those who are not familiar with the term, action research is a way for teachers to analyze the issues they may be experiencing in their classes. Action research is a way for teachers to find answers to questions on how to improve instructional design. By collecting data and analyzing the results, teachers can change the practices they use in the classroom. The principle behind action research is to plan a change, implement the change, collect the necessary information, and analyze what happens.

Literature-based Learning

Finally to make life more interesting, I decided to combine literature with the action research project by connecting with a school in the US through an international book sharing project on Night by Eli Wiesel. You are invited to join me in researching how we can improve our students' writing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wikis in collaborative writing

I haven’t created a wiki yet (hopefully will, as soon as possible) although  I have contributed to the wikis other people have done. According to all that I have seen so far, wikis are obviously a great tool which can really help students not only to learn, make progress and see the progress,  but in this way wikis can assist  them to become more aware of their own learning. This is, I think, very important and in this regard  I see a huge role of wikis: it is their contribution to the process of enabling students to become independent learners.

However, I don’t believe that wikis alone will ‘push’ our learners into the deep sea of learning: in order for that to happen the content  should be good,  too. Wikis certainly will be more motivating a tool than a traditional text-book or work-book, for example, but in my opinion it is also very important to use the wikis for activities that are motivating, engaging and worthwhile. So, what matters, as much as the tool itself, would be  the  activities/tasks suggested, the topics suggested/chosen, the instructions/guidelines and help provided by useful references, etc  (apparently, the same as in a f2f classroom).

Having said that, I return to our weekly assignment in Collaborative writing workshop: adding up our sentences in order to make up five stories. They all turned out to be  a kind of “creative writing” pieces, deliberately or not, I don’t know. I agree that collaborative writing may have the potential to produce fantastic results in creative writing, and so have the wikis in providing the platform for collaboration. However,  I think that something was missing there.

I may be wrong and I would not like this to sound as criticism but rather as a lesson to learn from (at the end of the day, we are all learners, aren’t we?): I think that  we should have done something before we started adding up our sentences. What kind of writing are we going to produce? What are our preferences (creative? formal/transactional? which topics would be interesting to explore in such a task? etc.)  Or, we could have been given pictures or a thought provoking article as a starting point.  These are just some suggestions (they can be suggestions for the use of wikis in a language class as well).

Creative writing is usually preceded by extensive brainstorming, and so is the formal essay writing. It may seem difficult to induce brainstorming among people in such a diverse  group from all different parts of the world, but wikis might be just an ideal tool for the kind of brainstorming needed in collaborative writing. So, this would be my suggestion for some future collaborative writing group task: use wikis to brainstorm the topics, ideas, negotiate them, select the best or the most inspirational ones, group them, decide on the ones suited to most participants, etc. And only then start the actual activity of  (collaborative) writing. I am quite sure that the results would be more interesting and the activity itself enjoyable (well, this is my personal opinion which may or may not be relevant).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Using wikis

Although I have seen wikis before, this was the first one I participated in. I have actually done a similar activity with students but on a blog. I teach formal academic writing, so I gave the students a topic sentence in an original post to start with and asked students to write an appropriate sentence to build a paragraph--each student could only write one sentence at a time--we used comments to build the paragraph. The students had to obey the rules of formal paragraph organization. Again, the fact that my "class" changes every month (revolving door phenomenon), and that students are all working at their own pace, makes it more difficult to do a task that requires cooperation from a number of students.

Using a wiki to do this type of exercise is obviously easier. However, I found it difficult to do with the "creative" writing task we were given this week. That's definitely not my forte! However, give me something expository to write, and I don't know when to stop;-) Next time I want to do an activity similar to the one I did on the blog I mentioned, I will use a wiki instead.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wikis in the classroom

I have never used wikis in my teaching practice. I see the advantages of wikis in collaborative project work. And what's more I have always wanted to learn how to make them.
I know how to work with blogger and it doesn't take much of my time to publish what I want. To learn something new you have to stop and think and try it - and there is nobody to help you. I'm very glad to be here - every week I learn something new for my work.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

EFL writing using wikis by Berta

I would say that one of the best features Wikis provide for writing courses is that students can see their progress. Every change they make to their page is registered in its history and nothing is ever lost (if saved properly). Students start by writing a draft, then revising, after that they can go to their page with a classmate and they can both revise it together; the student might work on it with the teacher at a student-teacher conference, and the process can go on and on until the student and/ or teacher is/are satisfied with the piece of writing. The student can go to the first version and see how it has changed, identify what mistakes he had originally made and appreciate his progress.

Wikis can also work as online classrooms where there can be a main page with the syllabus and links on the sidebar for the activities for each week, tutorials, collaborative exercises, other external class sites such as blogs, bookmarks, aggregators to keep track of several sites simultaneously, etc. Pages can hold videos, slideshows, chat boards, images, hyperlinks, voice threads, in sum, anything that is embeddable.

I have already mentioned a wiki we had in our last EFL writing course where the main objective was reflecting on EFL writing, what it meant, what it involved and how to get more self control in order to learn to revise one´s texts, revise that of peers, write for a real audience beyond the teacher and even beyond the classroom through collaborations with EFL students abroad, etc. Here is an example of activities for a given week, materials needed and the weekly list of benchmarks.

The tool my students always find the most useful is the chat board. There, all members can communicate with one another, ask for help, send quick messages and write their ideas in a few words. Every message is recorded and students can go back and re-read instructions, previous threads, etc. The chat board we use is Cbox, a free tool that can be embedded in wikis or blogs.

Something that happens to me over and over again is that whenever I start using a new tool, it is very
difficult for me to change to another. I started working with wikis in Wikispaces and although colleagues have mentioned the benefits of Pbwiki or Wetpaint, I stick to Wikispaces, even if it has ads on the right sidebar. The same with blogs at Blogger. I have tried Wordpress and Motime and Blogger is still the one for me. Does this happen to you too? or are you more flexible and adaptable?

Wikis and EFL (by Mariel)

I have never used a wiki in my classes, but like Joel I have been experimenting with the Multilit wiki and I believe they have a great potential for EFL.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago I created my first wiki for a class that begins in March. I have made it private, but feel free to request me access. Do mention that you are a member of this EVO Group in your message. I would seriously appreciate your feedback.

Let me mention the main advantages of a wiki, in my view. It allows you to insert images, embed videos, create links, like a blog, though it is true the "visual" component is not so strong. Unlike blogs, you and your students can start new pages (and comment on existing ones, obviously), and place them in folders, which I believe can make for much more "organised" work - in a traditional sense of the work "organised", I admit. But I think (though I haven't tried it yet), students may find it easier to go to the "right" place and see what is expected from them.

I see the main advantage in connection with process writing. The whole process can be clearly traced (reversed if necessary) and collaborative documents can be produced.

I can't wait to implement this wiki.

I'm detailing a project in my blog. Perhaps you could give me some feedback?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The use of Wikis - Joel Bloch

Our university recently has begun developing a wiki that could be used as an alternativel to our course management system. In the past I have used a wiki for having students post their essays,and as part of the EVO multiliteracies class, I have been experimenting with wikis as an alternative to blogging.  As far as all these possibilities, I have still found that the Wikipedia model is the best use for wikis in the classroom. When Wikipedia first became popular, I asked my doctoral students to write an encyclopedia-like article that they could post to Wikipedia. I figured that these students had the most knowledge across a variety of subjects. They work on drafts and I edited their final draft and then posted them to Wikipedia. Some got accepted and some were instantly rejected. The ones that were accepted were all removed a few weeks later. Some of the explainations would have been useful for the students to think of what writing is but unfortunately we did this assignment towards the end of the course and the studentsdidn't follow up.

The next time I used a Wiki, I still followed the Wikipedia model but focused on skills rather than on publishing. They had an assignment to write a definition paper and I asked them to post it to the wiki. Then I had other students come in and edit their papers and then I graded them directly on the Wiki. The assignment went okay, but not well enough that I felt the urgency to repeat it the next time I taught the course.

There were some advantages in using the Wiki over the coursemanagement system but again how my university implemented the Wiki created some of the same problems I had with the CMS. Obviously, the ability to do peer review was better with the Wiki. Also, I felt it was easier to manage individual Wiki pages than individual blogs; however, I have been play around with Netvibes and Pageflakes in the other EVO class and they seem to solve some of the problems with using individual blogs. 

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ana Paulo & Tatiana

Word processors

When students are asked to write their assignments using a computer they are doing much more than merely typing a text. They can have spelling aid, synonyms aid. We can edit their texts by using the commentary key, by changing the colour of the letters so as to stress out what we want them to notice and reflect upon.
We can easily show them the reasons for using italics, bold and underlining. Quite often the students need to be guided in summary writing which requires specific reading tools, as well. By using the possibilities mentioned above (italics, underlining, bold and a different colour for meaning) they are simultaneously acquiring strategies, which enable them to practise reading for learning.
By guiding learners in the editing of their writing we are making it possible for them to reflect on what writing is about and on how they should do it. It develops autonomy.
I inserted a commentary so as to illustrate its possibilities which do challenge our creativity.
As one authentic activity with word processing we could do what we usually do by hand, send the assignments back to the learners with the repeated errors signalled (colour, aesterisk, here I am following Veronica’s ideas, because I hardly ever mark tests or assignments by computer) according to a code previously arranged with them. Then, we could ask them to edit their work for publishing in a class blog. Here, I should mention my students are intermediate and upper intermediate.
I found Renata’s article quite useful in providing practical tips that we can easily adopt. I know I will try out her suggestions of categorizing words by means of chart creation and the other tip to organize a text by supplying its parts in a jumbled way, which learners will have to drag, cut and paste.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Beyza & Andrea

We are both interested in learning new strategies for student collaboration and thought the ideas presented in the articles by Renata Chylinksi and Vance Stevens were interesting and simple to duplicate as word program is present nearly in every computer and it is a basic tool. Andrea had not thought about using the word processor to jumble sentences and categories of words or by having students to replace nouns with pictures. Beyza has some experience in using word processors for jumbling sentences and adding comments to her students’ first and second drafts but using it for replacing nouns with pictures is a new idea for her.

We are French, and English teachers and have some different ideas about how to use word processors with our students. Andrea is going to be working with students on the past and compound tenses and having them analyze the text and associate different colors for different tenses is something she will be using in the very near future. She wants to use green for the imperfect (the continuous past) and red for the preterit (narrative past tense in French). She will need to come up with different colors for the pluperfect (the past perfect). For her novice learners, she wants to use drop down text boxes to scaffold their writing. She believes having the students to select the correct verb and adjectives and then to rewrite the entire sentence correctly gives the students the firm base on which to create their own sentences with the correct sentence structure. Beyza has similar ideas on how implement some of the activities mentioned in two articles... In the future, she thinks she will use it for peer check through track changes option, use color codes for correction and punctuation exercises as she do believes punctuation is not taken into account by most of the students. She also thinks using tasks enabling real communication is also a good activity to be carried out with word processors. She usually uses her class wiki for such activities but she does not think there is a track changes option in it. Therefore, she believes it can be a good idea to use word processors for such activities as the students are more aware of the changes and therefore understand there is some kind of communication going on in such kind of activities.

Sheila & Bertha

Using Word Processors in the EFL classroom

Having read both the articles, Vance Stevens and Renata Chylinski, the idea of teaching word processing and writing skills together is quite surprising, although it seems to be a valid idea.

As Kenan and Sedat have mentioned, students with no connection to Internet could benefit from word processing since it is an excellent way to handle collaborative writing and if the task is motivating to them, they will enjoy working together. However, in some cases if they don't have access to Internet, chances are they might not have access to a computer either, unless the institution provides them with space in a computer lab or if they work in the teacher's office. So it might not be very effective to use Microsoft Word in all cases.

With regard to Renata's piece, the same activities could be achieved with Hot Potatoes or any other tool where one can play around with graphics and words to fulfill a specific objective. The use of word processing for the particular tasks Renata mentions does not seem completely pertinent.

We both feel this approach is not relevant for our own students. Most of them are adult learners who use computers and so practice word processing in their native language at work all day. Their English is generally at the B2 level and above. We are convinced that they know already how to use the basic functions of Microsoft word or other word processing programs. They probably know more about them than we do, especially on German computers in the case of Sheila. In Bertha's case, her students have preferred Googledocs once they know it works online. In individual teacher-student conferences, she has learned a great deal from her students and has been able to enjoy sitting next to digital natives at work. They pick up everything related to technology really fast and use tools well.

There are nice activities in Vance's article that can be followed using Word as a tool. Vance's article, however, seems to have been more relevant for students in the late 90s or early 2000s. Students nowadays might not be so in need to be "taught" word processing skills while learning English. Of course each group of students is different and maybe it would be good to have them share their tips on how to use Word while writing collaboratively on a topic and sharing will probably come up naturally.

One or two of Vance Stevens ideas could be used, particularly the ones from Claire Bradin. (By the way Sheila could not get that link to work in Firefox). Students could work on the group's errors, though they would have to do this for homework as there are no computers in the classrooms. Peer correction is not popular with most of these groups as they do not like to criticize a fellow student, but if the errors were anonymous then they might be prepared to correct them.

Sheila can see a possibility of using cross class interviews especially across cultures if this were possible, this might work well in a blog.

Another exercise to use with exam classes might be jumbled texts where occasional sentences have to be replaced. This could replicate an exercise in the exam and could prove very useful, again for peer correction.

Having PC’s, especially with internet connection, in class is a dream for Sheila, the best they get is her laptop and her personal connection stick to give the students access to an online dictionary.

Some of the activities that could be assigned - either using Microsoft Word, Googledocs or any other collaborative tool- are the following:

- narrate an event where both students were present (another class, Election Day, a national celebration) mixing their experiences in the texts.
- write a poem on a topic they agree or disagree with.
- write the editorial of a newspaper on top areas to be improved in their community, institution, country, the world, etc., and ways to achieve this.
- write an ad about their country trying to persuade readers to visit it.
- write about things they wish they had known about when they were children.

Yulia & Joanna

I have never used collaborative writing tools before, I even was unaware of them. So now it is my first try.

I have not thought about using word processing in a class and these activities are new for me. Some of them are not necessary for my students as I work at a technical university and there is no need to teach them word processing, in fact, they know computer much better than I. But I found some tasks that I can adapt with my students- these are narrative and descriptive writing, different types of letters ( Vance Stevens). In general I think grammar and vocabulary exercises together with word processing are interesting for young school children and can replace traditional workbooks.For example, I jumble up words in sentences or sentences in paragraphs. Or order of instructions. Or paragraphs within an essay. And then ask students to unjumble these, again using dragging or cutting or pasting.» I think this an interesting task that would very well work with my students

As far as word processing tools for collaborative writing are concerned I think they are wonderful for project works. We do with students project works when they study a topic in small groups, write together a summary and present to the whole group. Such work can be organized with Google Docs (for example). First, students may generate ideas, share them, make a plan, then write each point of the plan simultaneously without need to type, compare in class, retype. I think about another way to use it in my class. When we get ready to FCE there is a task to describe a picture and comment your partner description. For more practice and more accurate speech it can be a home writing task. I need to divide the group into pairs, post a picture for them to describe and comment collaboratively.

Nadia & Veronica

In second language writing, as much as in second language teaching in general, any piece of practical advice, suggestion, idea or tip on “how to…” appears to be very important and, actually, indispensable for a language educator. Therefore I find these two articles useful and worthwhile reading even though many, or all, of these activities are updates of pre word-processing/computer lab activities that many of us have used in the classroom. In many cases, these papers seem to be “killing two birds with one stone”-- teaching keyboarding at the same time as language.

I have used these types of activities with my ESOL and Literacy (mainstream English) junior classes and now with my L2 French students. I use them in a traditional classroom f2f, simply because there is only one computer lab in our large secondary school, and I don’t get much chance to spend a decent amount of time in it (hopefully there will be more labs in future). In a pre-computer/no-computer f2f setting there are a number of variations on how these activities --minus the key-boarding skills--can be presented. However, my students do spend more hours in the lab in their Social Studies or English classes, and the students are generally highly literate in word processing (in most NZ schools it’s being introduced at primary level).

From my own experience I know that most of the activities mentioned in the two articles work well with the students and are very useful in developing their literacy skills. I presume that using a word processor would make these tasks even more attractive and desirable from a student perspective. However, in a larger classroom, it would be good to develop different levels of activities and have students work from lower to more demanding levels.

From the list of activities suggested by Renata Chylinski, I am particularly in favor of those that use highlighting to indicate different grammar structures, categories of words, or parts of a paragraph. So, my own example would be to give students a model paragraph (preferably, more than one) and ask them to identify the structure of the paragraph using different shades or some other method (underline, bold, italicize, etc). I usually teach paragraph structure to the formula: 1. topic sentence/or statement, 2. explanation, 3.example/or evidence. Having discussed the ideas, in relation to the model paragraph, they can write their own on different topics and swap in pairs to highlight the peer’s work as a form of peer editing and pair work.

Similarly, from the list of activities in Vance Stevens’ text, I have also used almost all of them in ‘pen and paper’ conditions. Some of these activities I use as speaking practice in my French classes, for example description of a picture or famous people, or cross-class interviews – with the only difference that instead of writing my students do all this orally. It’s usually quite fun. I have also tried and used different kinds of narrative based on pictures. They can easily be designed as ‘focused tasks’ in order to elicit the use of a particular grammar structure (very useful with verb tenses if there is a suitable picture-based story).

Since I am personally very much in favor of respecting the genre and register conventions, I like the type of tasks such as Writing a letter in Stevens’ article. I think it is very important for second language learners to master control over the differences between formal and informal registers in letters, speech, etc. Personal experience tells me that students at all levels usually enjoy such tasks.

To wrap up, the two articles we have focused on this week, may give some ideas to those who teach at lower levels. Furthermore, they have helped me to revise my own ideas of collaborative writing. I have realized that actually my idea of collaborative writing has been rather limited – to the collaboration in writing essays, reports, academic papers or pieces of creative writing, but now I’ve seen that many of the ‘normal’ everyday activities I am practicing with my students are, in fact, some kind of collaborative writing. What a relief! It’s also interesting to see that these activities seem to be updates of the activities many of us used in the classroom in pre-computer days; they give a new twist to old ideas.

P.S. A bit off the track, or out of context, anyway, I’d like to comment on Renata Chylinski’s presentation of her text. I don’t know what others think but I suppose that all those “ums” are meant to be there for the sake of authenticity. (By the way, I usually use “ums” and “uhs” when transcribing a spoken text but in this article I cannot see anything else that would signal a spoken text.) To me it seems a contradiction with the content of the text – because we are still teaching our students to follow the conventional ‘rules’ of discourse, be it grammar, or genre, or pragmatics…if they are to succeed in life. Apparently, her text is exactly about that.

Mariel & Rogerio

by Rogerio and Mariel

We believe that using word processing tools in collaborative writing is a great opportunity for teachers and students. Writing on a computer may be more motivating than using just pen and paper, and may make editing much easier.
Word processors are particularly useful for editing and revising texts. The teacher should make the most of it by stimulating students to keep record of the mistakes (and the improvements) they have made.
Most students are already familiar with the basic features of word processors (especially Microsoft Word) and should not be intimidated by activities in which they are supposed to use it.
On the other hand, it is also important to note that many students are likely to restrict their use of word processors to a few frequent functions, so if they have not been properly trained in this area, the language class may be the right place to develop their skills.

Writing Emails.
Since I am teaching a workshop on ‘Writing Emails’, a real activity I can use to simulate an email exchange (about four messages for each pair of students) using Microsoft Word.
One of them is supposed to write the first message: he/she wants to schedule a meeting.
The other replies it is not possible for him/her and suggests a new date. They reach an agreement and then exchange ideas on the agenda for the meeting.
An additional practice would be to rewrite those messages in a neutral/informal style.

Using Word Drawing Tools in Composition Planning
Imagine a situation suitable for the following exchange. Then, using Clipart, Autoshape and/or an Image Bank, draw the setting and the characters and insert the text in balloons to suggest a comic strip:

Come here.
What for?
You'll see.
You want me to get up?
Quick! Look!

Once you have finished, write a story that includes the situation as you imagined it. Remember to spell-check it.

Note: All the work could be done collaboratively in pairs. Alternatively, the strips could be swapped so that each student writes a story about their partner’s strip. Then they exchange views on how similar or different the final outcome is from the original idea. In any case, it is important that the conversation provided should be “vague” enough to allow creativity.

Dora & Vicky

First Draft - Word Processors tools in collaborative writing
With the advent of Internet connections and the great amount of tools for developing different activities at the computer, writing was highly benefited. Not only are there lots of word processing programs, but also there are many other tools to share those writings with other people.
Imagine you, as a teacher, assign some writing homework to your students on a certain topic, for example, the advantages of living in the city rather than in the country. Your students will go home, sit down next to their computers, and open their favourite word processor (as I said before, there are many of them!). Next step, they will open a web browser and search for different information in the topic. They will copy, paste, choose what information to keep and what to discard, summarize and, finally they will come up with a great writing. They may also add some graphs, using spreadsheets, or drawings, using an image editor. When they finish it, they can send it to you in several different ways: they can send it by email, post it in the class’ blog or website, or they can upload it to the class’ Yahoo group.
As each student works in his own pace, they will benefit from this kind of writing, because they can also write collaboratively. Imagine you make them prepare the previously mentioned assignment in pairs. They can discuss the main ideas using a chat program, send drafts between them by email, or, they can use some Internet tool, such as, where they can take some advantages of the use of the whiteboard and brainstorm more ideas, or they can use a VoIP software such as Skype, and discuss their ideas in a more natural way. By then, they will have written an excellent assignment. When they come up with a final draft, they can send it to the teacher in one of the many ways they can find. And here comes another interesting aspect of using word processors for writing assignments: the teacher’s job is highly benefited with these tools, as well
Teachers spend lots of time checking homework, but with word processors, the job becomes easier. Not only can they check spelling quickly but they also can write clear comments without altering the students’ original work. They can also check grammar patterns in an easy way, and, what is also important, they can check if the students copied the whole essay from somewhere else. The most important part comes after the checking of the assignments: teachers can choose if they make comments next day, in a F2F interaction, or if they send them by email. They may also arrange a chat session to talk about the mistakes, and then, arrange a second draft due date.
There are some other technological tools of higher order which can be gradually incorporated into the course design by teachers or students. For instance, teachers and students can share some Collaborative Writing Tools, such as Google Docs, which facilitate the editing and reviewing of written texts by multiple subjects either in synchronous or asynchronous work. These technological tools greatly facilitate educational work as they make distance communication between multiple individual s easier. At the same time, they allow teachers to design creative activities, guide research and trace back their students performance in a full collaborative fashion.
There are still other more sophisticated technological tools designed and available for free for educational purposes. By means of video recordings, voice recordings and chat teachers can facilitate, motivate and monitor their students learning process, either in the oral or written code.
As teachers and students get involved with these tools, their jobs are made easier. Students can learn how to profit from the time they are on the computer, and teachers will have more free time if they learn how to use these tools effectively.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Joana Rabinovitch

Hello everyone!

My name is Joana Rabinovitchch and I've been teaching English for 33 years now.

I teach at FCSH-New University of Lisbon, Portugal.

Some years ago I started introducing technology in the classroon and the response from the students was very positive. I'm looking forward to working with you all.

Introduction: Yulia

Hello! It's very exciting that there are so many people here from all over the world, so differant and alike in their enthusiasm. I'm a teacher of English from Nizhny Novgorod University of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Russia. I've been teaching for 10 years. Last year I took part in evo, blogging4educators and practiced blogging with my students. I'm interested in studying this and other tools, how to organise students' independent work and motivate them to work outside the classroom. I also would like to get in touch with colleagues around the world to involve our students in international writing projects.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Andrea Henderson

Hello everyone,
My name is Andrea Henderson and although I have taught English in the past, I am currently teaching French levels I-IV at Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas. Several years ago, I took a three week process writing course called the New Jersey Writing Project. I am a firm believer in using the writing process in second language writing as well. I have a Masters of Liberal Arts and I also believe in using as many interdisciplinary connections as possible.

I have always been interested in technology. Being able to combine my love of learning new things as well as my love of technology has allowed me to find exciting new things for my students. I have also been able to increase my own proficiency in French as well.

Using authentic materials in my class is important to me and a year ago I started blogging with my students . Blogging with my students has been a wonderful experience for both me and my students and I'd like to find new strategies for writing to exploit the blog to its fullest.

I expect to learn new strategies and to network with my colleagues here. Although my Master's degree is fairly recent I do need to experience what it is like to be a student again so that I create the best learning experience for my students.

I have been teaching for 23 years and I still love teaching. I sponsor both the French Club and the National French Honor Society and I consider myself very lucky to be able to know my students outside of the regular classroom. My students are fantastic and I want to give them the best instruction possible.

Beyza Yilmaz

Hi all,
My name is Beyza Yilmaz and I am an English instructor at English Foundation Program at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Turkey. I have been involved in ELT for six years both as a teacher and material developer. I am also pursuing a master's degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). My interest areas are Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), learner autonomy and online teacher education. It's my third EVO and I can definitely say that I learned a great deal from EVO sessions.

I have been using web2.o tools with different level of students in the foundation program for three years. I first started blogging and then explored using wikis with them. What we focus on is usually writing but I sometimes try to involve speaking activities in my class wiki. I am currently conducting a research on the relation between my particular use of pbwiki and motivation of the students in my class and writing an article to be published based on my study.
I keep two reflective blogs. One is for my reflections and experiences in web2.0 and the other is to share my MA reflections . You can find their links below:

Here is a picture taken with the students I am conducting the research on.The photo was taken after an exam so everybody looks quite relaxed.

Here is another picture of me and my students taken when we were having a strawberry party in class. After reading a text about strawberries, we decided to have a party in the class with the students. Maybe you can notice some of them eating strawberries and grinning at the same time!

I hope to learn more about collaborative writing tools and strategies from all of you.
Best wishes
Beyza Yilmaz

Ana Paula

I am Ana Paula from Lisbon, Portugal. I am currently teaching 9th, 10th and 11th grades. I have approximately 150 pupils distributed by 6 classes. I love teaching with drama projects and stories. I believe the literary text can provide the most flexible kind of material to supply for all sorts of learning and teaching needs. A literay text is endless when you explore it with your students.
I still end up crashing a lot before all sorts of requests before it is possible to use internet based teaching. I mean I waste a lot of time logging in, forgeting passwords, not understanding where to click to be able to do what seems so easy for everybody, like contributing for a blog or finding access to WIZQ or sorting out what's relevant amongst the loads of shining scripted data on my screen. I sometimes end up fulfilling the tasks with the feeling that I don't know how I did it and being sure I won't be able to do it again. So far Sedat has been guiding me towards this blog.
If you can see my photo, it is in wonderful Algarve during Summer holidays. As it is a rainy day today it seemed appropriate. Sorry for the dark glasses!


I'm a teacher of English . I've been teaching for 26 years already. My students are of different ages: from 8 to18. Every year we take part in collaborative work with our partner schools during IEARN sessions. Besides we have penpals in Finland. My students have to do a lot of writing. I found that it is very difficult to them to make a report on their research work, to write their attitude etc. That's why I'm here.
Last year I also took part in EVO sessions: Blogging4educators and PowerPoint Presentations. It was extreamly interesting and useful but at the same time it was extreamly difficult.

This is me and my 5-grade students. They've just started to learn English.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Recording of the WiZiQ Recording

I usually record my WiZiQ recordings via TipCam and then upload them to Youtube if they are short or to Bliptv if they are long. You can find my recordings on bliptv and on English@WiZiQ blog and connecting online ning on the sides and blog.

Nellie Deutsch Profile

My name is Nellie (Muller) Deutsch. I have been integrating technology into the ESL/EFL classroom since the 1990s. I have been involved in collaborative projects and WebQuests via Moodle for the past 5 years. My first website, Nellie's English Projects was an experiment that evolved from a WebQuest and started me off as a webmistress in the days of html before web 2.0 tools. I love learning and collaborating with teachers. I am currently taking courses for my doctoral studies in educational leadership specializing in curriculum,and instruction online at the University of Phoenix and writing my dissertation. I am researching instructor use of web 2.0 tools in blended learning environments in higher education. In my free time, I facilitate free online courses on how to collaborate and use Wikieducator and mentor teachers for free on how to integrate web 2.0 tools in the EFL/ESL courses and in spreading the word about international collaborative projects such as Ruth Vilmi's International Writing Exchange and other professional and personal learning inititiatives on Moodle and on WiZiQ because I would like to see quality learning and specifically e-learning available and free worldwide. I am currently moderating EVO09 Digifolios and Personal Learning Spaces on how to build a professional ID in the 21st century with 3 other educators.

34 Minutes With Me

I am looking forward to connecting online with others for peaceful coexistence and in finding the best ways to integrate technological tools to facilitate instruction and learning. Please feel free to contact me by email

Friday, January 16, 2009


Here is a photo I love because that day I was celebrating the big success we had with a play we put on for our annual concert with our students. It was a great day!

I have been an English teacher since I was 16. First I worked with private students and understood it was my passion.
I started my teacher training at the age of 21 and my first experience in charge of a formal class was in a Computer Institute teaching specific vocabulary. That was ages ago, we didn’t even have internet access in our province those days! By the way, I live in Salta, Argentina. After that I always viewed computer matters as only for experts, so I left the idea of working with computers aside. Then I worked in private and public schools and in English Schools, where I taught almost all ages and levels.
In 1999 together with a colleague we decided to open our own English school in our neighborhood and I run it by myself since 2000. At the institute I am always trying to do new and innovative things and update our teaching resources and techniques. We have reading fairs, solidarity campaigns, annual concerts, Halloween parties, and lots more. Now, apart from the English school, I’m coordinator of the English Department in a private school.
And look at me now! Last year I bought a computer and six months later I joined BAW 08. Very courageous! I learned a lot about blogs and even taught my teachers at the English school. I didn’t work with blogs directly, but coordinated my staff and I’m very proud of their work. We couldn’t develop it very much though as we don’t have computers at the institute and it came to be quite difficult to have classes in cyber cafes. Anyway as we plan not to give in, I joined again EVO courses to learn more and to update what I already know.
I’m eager to learn from you all!

As I didn’t teach last year, I just coordinated, I share with you photographs of the groups we have at the institute.

BubbleShare: Share photos - Find great Clip Art Images.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Carla Raguseo

Hello everybody!

My name is Carla Raguseo from Rosario, Argentina. ( you can find info about my city in Mariel's post) I am an EFL teacher and Computer Lab coordinator at ARICANA Binational Center

I've taught TOEFL ibt courses since 2007. Teaching my students how to improve their academic writing skills at this level has been really challenging. Luckily, the new TOEFL exam focuses on realistic tasks: Independent essays and Integrated writing in which students have to summarize and synthesize information from a lecture and a reading passage on the same topic. I've used web tools like blogs and wikis to brainstorm new topics and to showcase and share their productions with the class.

Here's a link to our class blog:

These are photos from my 2007 regular TOEFL class:
BubbleShare: Share photos - Play some Online Games.

I've also designed a Blended TOEFL iBT course. Students discuss new topics on the class forum and send their essays by mail and I correct them electronically during the week.

BubbleShare: Share photos - Find great Clip Art Images.

There's still a lot explore and improve in this area. I feel writing has always been a dull and rather neglected area in ELT. I think that with the advent of the Web 2.0 writing can be treated as just another meaningful skill in the communicative language class.

I look forward to learning and discussing views on this fascinating topic with all of you!!

Sheila Vine

Here I am with some of my students at my birthday party last year.

Hello everyone
My name is Sheila Vine. These are my two little dogs. I'm an EFL teacher from England but I work in Germany. I work in the Paderborn area in companies and Universities. I've worked in EFL for almost 11 years. I have also taught online and done some blended teaching but the Universities use of technology is still very much an added on topic and does not really make good use of the possibilities. I'm very interested in working with you all and I love the EVO sessions. Thanks to you all for setting up this course. I am a writer of course materials and very interested in collaborative writing ideas. Happy EVO all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vanessa Vaile - Greetings & Expections

Hello all. It feels as though I have been introducing myself over and over all over the place. So here's my blogger profile, my introduction posted to group and my home town blog, Mountainair Arts. I do another local announcements blog as well as a poetry blog. Here are more more pictures of where I live. You may know me better now than some of my cousins do ... hahaha

Sable and me last winter

Yes, I am horse crazy even at 65, never outgrew it and taught riding for years before I taught writing. I trained Sable so she ought to count as one of my students...

I am now editing this page - that's why the font style and color are not the same as the rest of the post. I should have waited to read the specific instructions. Sorry, but I do not have any pictures of me with a class, not with an ESL class or a composition class or a literature class or a Spanish class.... if I dig back far enough, I might find a picture of a riding class to scan...

Brief education / teaching recap for reference: MA English @ UL-Lafayette, PhD work, Comparative Literature @ UC Davis; Composition, Literature, Developmental Writing, ESL online for StudyCom (since 1997), GED, Family Literacy, computer skills & computer mediated writing w/ local after school program.

So far my expectations are to be less confused and better organized by the end of the week. I am also in BaW (trying to keep track of all the other participants as well as all the tools) and and presenting Week 4 of Tips & Tricks, computer apps, software & strategies for evaluating student writing (without going bonkers under the load), Collaborative writing and writing groups will figure prominently. Needless to say you are all invited to show up. That's only fair since I'll be picking your brains and trying ideas and resources out on you. Anyway that makes a total of 3 sessions counting this one - 1 more than recommended. Obviously I am not a math teacher.

I've used different kinds of collaborative and group projects in writing and writing intensive classes over the years. On top of that, I've been surfing and bookmarking sites, articles, handouts, resources on collaborative writing. The term can cover a lot of ground. I was thinking just sharing our understanding of what it is and what other kinds there are might be a good idea. Maybe not all of us understand or use collaborative writing in the same way.

I'm looking forward to learning new ways to use collaborative writing, fine tuning the familiar - making it new again and collecting as many new ideas for projects as possible.

Expectations- Gabriela Sellart

I am an EFL teacher from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been teaching for more than 30 years. I've been struggling* to embed new technology in my classes for the last three years. Struggling. Yes. The institutions I work for still don't see much value in the new possibilities social media offer to build learning environments.

I work in a Secondary School and in a Language School and even though I started to use web2.0 tools as means to enhance my teaching, I soon discovered they were enhancing my own learning.

I'm always asking myself: What can we do now that we couldn't do before? Something we couldn't do before (at least not easily) was the production of a collaborative text overcoming space and time limits. Now technology allows us to do so. However, access to the Internet + use of collaborative tools -such as wikis or google docs- doesn't necessarily guarantee the production of a collaborative piece of writing.

I teach a foreign language, maybe it is due to that fact that I think writing is about finding your own voice. The thing is... what happens to your own voice when you are writing with others? How do you merge those voices so that the outcome is a new one? What is modified in you, as a unique subject, when you go through that experience?

I tend to search for questions rather than answers. I know the answers will eventually come in the shape of the new questions. New questions is what I expect to come across in this session. I strongly believe learning is social. Therefore, I know I will learn with you -my session mates, and with you -the eventual participants in the open environments of this session.

*link in Spanish
PHOTO: one of my last groups, photoshopped to preserve their identities, they are under 18.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nadia Mifka-Profozic

Hi, I teach French at Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland and occasionally have some ESOL students. Currently I am also working on my PhD research study in L2 acquisition at the University of Auckland (just yesterday handed in the report on my pilot study carried out with the English learners of French.) So, second language acquisition, psycholinguistics, bilingualism/multilingualism have recently become the areas of my great interest which I’m very keen to investigate more deeply. Otherwise I have a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature, CELTA Cambridge, Postgrad Dipl. in Teaching and MA in Applied Linguistics from Auckland University.

Although I haven’t been a user of web tools in teaching so far I am aware of the huge potential that lies in the computer assisted/based language learning and teaching. Therefore I would really love to start using it with my students, in teaching both ESOL and French. We do use computers at school but so far it has been limited to using the sites that offer some exercises for languages learners (mostly grammar). I am very keen on exploring more and offer my students the learning though wikis, blogs, and all that I hope I’m going to learn in these six weeks. Otherwise I have been teaching quite a lot of essay writing both in English and French, academic writing (preparation for IELTS), some creative writing with younger classes (13-14 year olds) of mainstream English.

There’s also the issue of motivation – I hope the students will be more motivated to learn and take part in on-line activities and communication.

As a first time participant in EVO I have probably taken up too much, this section and also BaW09, but I ‘ll try to do my best – learn as much as I can and also share, ideas, knowledge, experience, etc.

Yeah, I didn’t say, I have two wonderful kids, actually adults (a daughter of 23 and a son of 29 who I am both very proud of). I have also a cat who has become very lazy these days, having to cope with high summer temperature.

Sure there will be more opportunities and time to add more info.

And, here ‘s just a couple of my photos (the lovely little girls are my nieces). The others were taken not long ago, in Sydney .

Best wishes and warm reagrds from New Zealand,


Mariel Amez

Hi, everyone. I have lived all my life in Rosario, Argentina, where I graduated as a Teacher of English about 20 years ago, and I have been teaching EFL ever since.

Our most important landmark is this monument to our National Flag.

Rosario is called "Birthplace of the Flag", since it was here that it was first hoisted in 1812, during the War of Independence. Here's another website of the city

On an ordinary January day, the banks of Parana River would look somewhat like this.

Since 1990 I have been teaching English Literature (and now Literature in English) at Teacher Education and Translation Programmes both at IES "Olga Cossettini" (state) and ISPI "San Bartolomé" (private).

This is a picture of teachers-to-be at IES "O. Cossettini" in 2007. Many of them have already graduated.

In addition, I teach General English at a private language school, in courses preparatory for FCE and CPE Cambridge exams, and I am an Oral Examiner for Cambridge Esol.

I find teaching writing at CEFR B2 level (ie FCE) extremely challenging, and I hope this seminar will help me to design new strategies to cope.

I am mamez on Yahoo, and marielamez on Skype and Delicious.

Looking forward to working with you.


Hi ! I'm very excited to start collaborative writing EVO 2009

My name is Liliam Prytz Nilsson, but my nickname is Vicky (do not ask why). I've been an English teacher since the 80's when I graduated from a teachers training in Misiones, Argentina. I've taught teenagers at public schools and children at my own private institute for many years. In 1998 I graduated from University on literary studies and in 2008 I got the second University degree on linguistics. Since 1998 I teach Applied Linguistics at the teachers training and I also work at the Ministry of Education where I coordinate the Area of Intercultural Bilingual Education.
There are two most interesting projects, one is directed to Guarani indigenous people , the other to two schools situated on the borderline with Brazil where the teaching of Spanish and Portugues are the focus of the pedagogical proposal.
I have participated at EVO 2008 and I enjoyed learning and putting into practice some of the many techniques introduced during the on line sessions. I'm eager to put hands on this new proposal, mainly because, on the one hand, I really believe blogging is an excellent pedagogical tool for language teaching, and on the other, because the collaborative generation of knowledge through writing is a potencial still not developed in full depth, but which deserves a wider exploration within academy.
Well, i do expect to be able to contribute to this social learning space and get many friends from around the world.

Veronica Baig

That's my official photo on the left. I currently work for Athabasca University, Canada's Open university--I don't have any photos with students as all of our students are at a distance. I stay in touch with them through e-mail, a toll-free telephone number, and moodle.
As Academic Coordinator for English Language Studies, I look after a variety of courses designed for ESL students and native English speakers to prepare them for regular undergraduate studies in an English speaking environment. There are some specific skills courses, some integrated courses, and a remedial writing course. Because we use individualized study (there are no classes, terms, or semesters--new students start the 1st of each month and have up to 6 months to complete a course--it's something like a revolving door) it's perfectly possible to have NS and NNS take the same courses. The emphasis in on writing and the skills needed for undergraduate study.
The other photo was taken at the TESL Canada conference last May where I co-presented a
symposium on "E-Tools and Teaching ESL through Distance Education." My contribution was to share the work I have done on blogging with my students. These are not traditional blogs, but they are an attempt to reduce the isolation of students studying at a distance and to to help them understand many of the grammar vocabulary and tools necessary for good writing. I update these blogs on a regular basis, and some of the students really get into it. I have three course blogs in total, they are all somewhat similar: here is a link to the one on English 177.
The road I have taken to where I am now is not a traditional one. I grew up in England, and my first degree was in Geography from the University of Wales. I emigrated to Canada--many years ago--and continued my studies at the University of Calgary. While I and my husband were living in Kenya (a long story), I was asked if I would help a young French girl improve her English skills. Needing the money, I gave it a try! When we returned to Canada, I went back to university to get the qualifications I needed to teach ESL--I wanted to make sure that I could get a job no matter where we travelled, and that I would know what I should know in order to teach ESL. I've worked in the volunteer sector, in public and private language schools, I have been a teacher and an administrator, and ten years ago I started working at Athabasca University.
For those of you for whom snow is a novelty, here is a photo of AU at this time of the year. Luckily, I also work at a distance; I can usually stay at home and work from there!
I'm particularly hoping that I can learn or see how to adapt some collaborative writing technology to my own asynchronous teaching situation.

Joel Bloch

I am taking two EVO sessions this session.I have taught ESL composition for about 15 years. I have a PhD in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University and a MA in Education/TESOL from the University of Michigan. I recently published a book on the use of technology in the L2 composition classroom. I have a number of publications on plagiarismthe use of technology in composition class, and academic writing. I have served as guest editor for a special issue of Language, Learning, & Technology on technology and writer as a reviewer for a number of academic journals.  I am currently teaching a variety of academic courses to graduate and undergraduate international students and a graduate course on teaching composition, including one composition course that focues entirely on plagiarism. I have been married for twenty-five years. My wife is from Guangzhou, China. I have a 10-year old daughter who attends the Columbus School for Girls. 

Hi from Berta

I am Bertha/Berta Leiva from Venezuela where I have taught EFL English for about 30 years. I have a B.A in Modern Languages from Metropolitan University, Caracas, and a Master´s in Education (Policy, planning and administration) from Boston University, MA. I am also a certified public translator in my country.

I have taught EFL English in different settings (in-company courses in Italy and Venezuela, to professionals at the training center of the national oil company and at three universities). For the past 16 years I have worked in the Language Department of Universidad Simon Bolivar where I have also held different administrative positions (Coordinator of Freshman studies, Head of Department, etc.) I think I already mentioned to the group that I am currently associate profesor but just submitted my promotion thesis to full profesor on socioculturally oriented EFL writing by means of web 2.0 tools. It is still under evaluation and I owe all I know about this research area to EVO, and especially to the Webheads in Action.

When I saw this session, I got really excited and immediately signed up. I expect to meet colleagues from all over the world who would like to take part in international projects where students from different cities could be able to practice writing in a collaborative environment and to learn together about new possibilities in EFL writing teaching and learning in a sociocultural environment.

The photos? Too many, right? I am very visual and love pictures. My office on the upper right, collage of reading and writing students (in computer lab) last July, our main library building, student protest in 2007 in favor of democracy and against the present government, and finally two students with me during consultation hours last term.

I am bleiva2003 in yahoo, gmail, skype, messenger, delicious, etc.

I am excited to be here with all of you. Let the learning begin!!!