miércoles, 17 de diciembre de 2014

Here´s to my PLN, a thank you toss.

A couple of weeks ago several of my Argentinian teachers of English friends shared this article (in original Spanish version, sorry!) via different social media.  It shows the result of a survey stating that Argentinians scored the best results in a certain English proficiency exam.  Somehow the ones sharing it felt and shared the pride of a job well done.  It came as no surprise to me.  I am from Argentina.  I´ve been shaped by and learned from Argentinian teachers.  I have worked with them and I am lucky to have many EFL teacher friends.  I witness how hard they work daily to share their passion for the English language.   As I was reading the post I remembered the many other language teachers I met face to face in the three congresses I attended in my country this year.  I heard their stories, all different yet fascinating.
     I also met other Latin American colleagues face to face and online and I am looking forward to meeting more and hear about what they are up to, their challenges, and achievements.  And I don´t need any article to tell me that they are doing the best that they can with what they have.
     If today I can read books, watch films and interact in English it is thanks to a teachers who helped me at different points of my life.  I am also lucky to be a native born Spanish speaker.  When a student asked me to teach him Spanish this year, I came to appreciate those souls who decide to teach Spanish as a foreign language. (ELA: Español como Lengua Extranjera) This one proved to be another path to grow as an educator, by acknowledging my own language.  It was also a humbling experience, my admiration goes to those who decide to swim the waters of the Spanish grammar.
One must love a language a lot in order to decide to become a teacher of that language withou being born a native speaker.
My toss  this last month of the year goes to those whose job is to spread their passion for a language and in so doing assume as their mission to ignite the fire in others.
Thank you so much native, nonNESTs, ELA, ESL, EFL and all of you passionate educators out there from whom I get my daily inspiration, encouragement, insights, knowledge.
Salud! Cheers! 

miércoles, 3 de diciembre de 2014

E-Learning and Digital Cultures, the University of Edinburgh, Coursera

Final Assignment

E-learning and Digital Cultures - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

As with many things in life, taking the middle way as regards the use of technology in education poses a new challenge to the practicing teacher.  I meet the pro-technology and the moderates online and the naysayers offline.  At this point I have stopped being an advocate to just relax and enjoy my ride, which is precisely what I have been doing since I started mingling with likeminded educators in all the online opportunities out there for learning with others.
As far as I am concerned the interactions that occur in the various networks I have online have helped me in several ways to get outside the narrow boundaries of my classroom.  I have learned how to personalise my materials to suit my students´needs, I have appreciated the value of reflection and learned how to make it available online by means of online platforms.  I browse new material and methodologies on a regular basis.  I have learned not to be afraid about asking questions and try out new things.  
At the same time I have often wondered where my colleagues are and wondering why they are not here with me enjoying themselves.  As my husband says "They´re probably busy working, Maria!"  This led me to ask myself another question: Why isn´t it a national educational priority to connect teachers and classes around the globe?  Maybe I am carried away by my enthusiasm, I teach English and I find that all the contents in the textbook can easily become adapted to be learned with others. In fact adding a global perspective would give a relevant purpose to the idea of learning a foreign language.
Technology will certainly not solve all educational issues, but we can´t teach pretending we don´t know about the possibilities afforded by it. Today more than ever we crave for human contact, for acceptance.  Let´s take the chance today to bond, to share and to learn by teaching. Otherwise we run the risk to live how Robbie did, isotated, and when the time comes for our batteries to die out, we will do just that: wait patiently for our teaching years to finish.

sábado, 29 de noviembre de 2014

A day in the life of a connected educator in progress, Thursday 27th November, 2014

Meeting for next Sunday confirmed by Vance Stevens via e-mail.
Impromptu Skype session with Katherine Zablatnik´s students in Austria.  Topic: the weather, Christmas preparations.
Checking out OCLMOOC by Edinburgh University on Coursera´s resources for week 4.  Interesting!  I found out in the announcements that there is a live meeting called Office Hours scheduled for today via Google Hangouts.  I would like to attend it, let´s see how...
Using the course hashtag (#OCLMOOC) I tweeted asking for a place in the hangout.
Jason Levine invited (from Paris?!) via Facebook to a session with Dr Nellie Deutch in Wiziq.  Topic: Microteaching. This term is new to me! Let´s check this out!
I read Dr Nellie´s description of Microteaching in her blog.  I find it very interesting, lots of potential!
Confirmation via twitter of my place in Office Hours session of OCLMOOC
Hangout session/Office Hours.  Topic: Redifining the Human and the last week assignment.
I took the chance to thank the organisers for the great choice of materials in the form of readings and short clips and films.
Family Lunch!
Dr Nellie Deutch Wiziq session "Microteaching", in this session Nellie gave practical ideas on  how to organise  microteaching sessions using the Wiziq platform.  A great way to learn and teach based on the premise that we all learn by teaching.
Wrote a draft blog post based on the material of week 4 from the OCLMOOC, still have to decide what shape my artifact will have, I will need to re-read the assignment lineaments.
Set things ready for my pre-scheduled Skype session with my friend Athalo´s students from Brazil.
Jason Levine (again!) suggested via Facebook a storytelling Facebook page and blog interesting for teaching English, inspiring!  Re-posted the link to one of my students who will be absent next week.
Skype session with Brazilian students.  Amazed to see they had prepared a presentation! Topic: various: soccer (local football teams), rivers (I mentioned that we share the same river: the Paraná, which is my favourite place to go in the summer)  These students are sooooo nice!
My Spanish language student (a German exchange student) tells me via Facebook that he needs to reschedule the class (probably hanging out with friends!!).  We´ll meet tomorrow.
Inspired by the storytelling session seen before I decide to draft a sketch of my favourite short story by Julio Cortazar: "Continuidad de los Parques" my drawing are not very good but it would be a good way to introduce storytelling in my Spanish class.
I realised that I missed  #whatisschool tweetchat (again!)
Thinking about Jeff Lebow´s students as I watch some kids dance K-pop on national television :)

martes, 18 de noviembre de 2014

Global Education Conference, Vance Stevens and myself, a joint venture

Gec 2014 Presentation by Maria Colussa and Vance Stevens from Vance Stevens

Conference Session Recording
How did we meet?
It is often difficult to trace back when exactly one meets another teacher online, that´s why I had to write down the dates shown in the slide to try to remember when Vance´s and myself first crossed paths for the first time.
Between Electronic Village Online sessions and Global Education Conferences there have been lots of other online events where I also came across the same people or met new ones.  Instances of these are Virtual Round Table, Wiziq courses run by Jason Levine, the ITDI Summer (my Winter) course, IATEFL broadcast of plenaries and the many events organised by Vance and Jeff in their weekly meetings.
So many times I found myself saying: "This is awesome!" that I started presenting sessions online as well as face to face.  Always with the aid and support of my new teacher friends.

What do I get from connecting?
Free PD.
The present day scenario was unthinkable when I graduated from teacher training college.  I am making up for the things that have been going on since then.
Access to experts
Materials that people share.  Ideas and inspiration,  It´s invigotating to hear stories of achievement, resilience, challenges conquered.  I don´t know who or what type of student will come through my classroom door.  Being connected exposed me to a variety of experiences which in a way prepared me for future scenarios.  I know I can teach anywhere now!  Interacting online has given me the drive to try out new things, I am teaching a visually impaired student and I am also teaching my own language, Spanish, in English!

Collaboration among classes can be very simple sometimes it is just filling in a survey or adding a picture in a Padlet wall
I am very active in the Hello Little World teachers skypers community and have fun and learn in each of the sessions I have had with my friends´classes.  They are usually delighted to hear I am from the same province as Messi, the famous Argentinian football player.  However that is not the end of the conversation because I take advantage of their interest to show them bits from my culture such as "dulce de leche" or "mate" both very important items in our culture.
Check mate and its process from my Flickr page

I often prepare "presents" for them such as pictures of the river nearby or a short video I record while in the islands near my city.
Connecting has also helped me in another aspect.  How do I keep my advanced students engaged? By providing interesting material.  My connections are an ongoing source of up to date material that I use with those students.

As I was walking the five blocks to my friend´s language school, it really felt I was going to a party.  And in a way it was!  Bettina, my friend, was there together with two more teachers, Marcia and Sofia, and we were joined by my South African friend Steve Sherman, who helped me sort out technical difficulties.  Jeff and Vance also offered me their platforms, for me to use while they were sleeping on the other side of the globe.  We were joined by Benjamin Steward, from Aguas Calientes, Mexico.  The whole thing was possible with only two things: a government provided netbook computer (from the Conectar Igualdad National Scheme) and an internet connection provided by my friend.  However the inspiration to go out there came from the OCLMOOC.
The power of the herd
Many teachers believe that they are alone in the world.  Today it is possible to join other educators who share our same situation.

PLN, stands for People you Learn New Things with
As we wait for that ideal time when "global learning" is just "learning" and the research findings get published, we might as well take advantage of the opportunity to become better teachers.

Which is your favourite beach?
At times I like a solitary stroll by the river.  That is when I reflect and think about a future lesson or a blog post.
However, mingling with other educators online looks more like the second picture with lots of people whose paths intercept sometimes and they show us the way, making our lives easier.

The future
It will be exciting to see what outcomes these global interactions will bring about in the future.
As we see scientists and artists already collaborating to solve problems and create content together, our classrooms can become laboratories where we can try out what we model with our global connections.
I am spoiled by global learning.  I know that if I miss an event I can catch up with the recording later.  I know that it is ok to just lurk or fall behind in a MOOC. I have discovered the value of reflecting in my blog.  I have re-discovered the magic of learning in a community and I can just think of a word: thank you!

lunes, 20 de octubre de 2014

My Reflections after teaching (and learning!) for over 21 years.

As I was writing the title of this blog post I realized that not only did I start teaching 21 years ago, I also began a journey of discovery that would make me the teacher I am today.  On the road, as in every trip I had my ups and downs and here I will reflect about some of them using the guide my friend Benjamin Stewart prepared for the upcoming ELT Live session with his students on Wednesday.
What techniques educators are using to promote reading, writing, listening and speaking?
Apart from the usual textbook material I am also using interesting things I come across online such as Blog posts, Students Facebook groups, podcasts and material from You Tube such as commercials or short films.
What problems do these techniques have?
If you base your lesson on online material, you have to think of an alternative plan in case your internet fails or there is a power outage.
What is your favourite language skill or course to teach and why?
It depends.  Grammar based lessons are predictable and I find them easier to teach, but conversation lessons with young adults and adults (intermediate and beyond level) are so enriching! However, you must embrace the fact that conversations can lead you anywhere and that you might not always know all the words for example.  Even in the most structured class I find opportunities to personalise the content to make it more interesting and an opportunity to get to know my students.
What was the most difficult experience as a teacher and how did you deal with it?
My worst nightmare used to be disengaged students.  When I started teaching I thought that students would be naturally motivated by my wonderfully planned classes.  It turned out that it was not always the case.  I remember myself not knowing how to deal with it.  The answer, I learned with time, is to know your student and to plan within their scope of interest.  Today of course it´s much easier with all the available material on the internet.
What are the biggest challenges and how do you address them?
I teach from home one on one mainly to adults.  My biggest challenge is to help my students  become aware of their capacity to learn English.  Also to provide material that show the relevance of what they are doing ie. learning a foreign language, contextualize content. And of course keeping them motivated by praising their successes and learning to laugh at our mistakes!
What´s more appropriate to teach skills in isolation or in an integrated fashion?
It depends on our students´preferences and goals.  Once we have considered these elements, there will be times when we should concentrate on isolated skills as the course develops and we discover that there are specific problems to be addressed.  There are ways in which we can assign the more structured part to be done at home in a sort of "flipped" mode of teaching and concentrate on less structured and open activities in class, thus optimising classroom time.
Do low level students need to spend more time on receptive skills or equal time on receptive and productive skills?
Probably at first to build up confidence we should provide plenty of comprehensible input to our students, however production shows achievement and the sooner our students begin experimenting with the language the more opportunities they will have to perform and perfect what they are learning.  On the teacher´s side I learned to be patient with my students, consider that there is a silent period when they need to feel the language and adapt to the, sometimes for certain people,threatening scenario that constitute the language class.
Things I wished I had known or understood when I was starting out as a teacher.
It´s not always a good idea to force students to participate.
Invest time on getting to know your students.   I should say that your whole lesson can fail if you fail to plan according to your students´ preferences, age or level.
How does a language educator design classroom assessment and instruction around conversational language?
Designing conversation classes is very entertaining.  Whenever I come across a piece of  thought provocking material  I make sure I save the link and, sometimes, when I´m inspired, I prepare questions or look for additional related material.  I sometimes try the lesson with different levels and it never ceases to amaze me how many different interpretations can arise.  I don´t carry out formal conversation tests, having said that  the student who is able to articulate his thoughts successfully has a passing mark!

jueves, 25 de septiembre de 2014

My impressions on the Congress of Argentinian teachers of English as a foreign language

FAAPI Conference, Santiago del Estero, Argentina, September 18th., 19th. and 20th, 2014

This year the Conference of teachers of English as a foreign language was held in Santiago del Estero.  A city which is called "The Mother of Cities", because it was here where the first Spanish settlers decided to establish the first settlement before continuing funding cities such as Córdoba and Salta.  The whole province is also famous for its dance "The Chacarera", which is a lively folklore dance with clapping, easy choreography and swinging of skirts (on the women´s side).  In this province they manufacture an instrument which is an important element in all folklore songs: the "Bombo Legüero".  These drums made of emptied tree trunks and animal skin (my husband´s has goat and donkey skin) are beaten with sticks and they accompany most of our folklore songs with its rhythmic beat. The name of this drum "legüero" (league drum) comes from the fact that its sound is so loud that it can supposedly be heard from the distance (leagues) across the empty flat pampas.
What I heard at the conference was the voice of my fellow teachers.  And I liked what I heard.  Teachers who love their jobs and their students.  Teachers with no wifi connection in the schools.  Teachers who teach a first year of 60 teacher training college students trying to find a clean space on the wall to project their slides, again with no wifi connection.  Teachers who decided to get together with colleagues to study about autism and who decided to present in the conference in front of a full house of teachers who shared the same concerns and similar scenarios.  Teachers who volunteer their time to put together a journal of applied linguistics without getting any money out of it, just for the sake of the development of the profession.  Teachers from the "Plan Ceibal", from Uruguay, brave educators who partner with classroom teachers who don´t know the English language, but volunteer to offer their students the chance to learn a foreign language from the distance.  Teachers who came from Colombia or Ecuador to attend the conference.
The theme of the conference was "Teaching in the Post Method Era" .  The way I see it this is the best time to be a teacher of English.  We are freed from the dictatorship of a single method, but at the same time we have a huge responsibility: to question ourselves about everything we do, to share our practices and to reflect on what we do.  A call to theorize our practices.  A call to use our common sense, to work with what we have and to make the most of it.  A call to get together to start meaningful conversations.  The point of my presenting in congresses is to share my journey so that other teachers can benefit too.  I hope that in the future more colleagues embrace the challenge and make their voices heard  frrom the distance, like the sounds from the "legüero" drum.

AJAL, Argentinian Journal of Applied Linguistics

sábado, 16 de agosto de 2014


Well, what to say to these wonderful crowd of people who have been my company during the hard times of my convalescence from a broken ankle.  I had the chance to listen to many teachers who had something to share.  My sincere gratitude goes to all of those who presented and those organising these sessions.  What you can see here is a badge but what you can´t see here is what I feel: A glowing warmth in my heart!

lunes, 11 de agosto de 2014

On the joy of using Twitter for connecting and learning together

Every now and then I participate in tweetchats, a meeting of likeminded people around a particular topic.  I started getting involved in this great opportinity for networking as one friend, Michael Graffin asked me to help him moderate the Global Classroom Chats, not really knowing what I was up to at the time, I got help from teachers whom I had never seen in my life and started interacting right away.  Being a global educator, I just couldn't say no, but at the same time I did not quite know how it worked.  I learned by doing and soon I had bookmarked a few weekly chats that matched my interests. 
 The one I attended last week was particularly special due to the amount of people attending and the many interacions that the conversation encouraged.  It was great to meet some friends and to make new ones.  Having met so many educators interested in global learning renewed my enthusiasm and reminded me that 'This is the best time ever to be a teacher!'

#whatisschool Tweetchat questions

When? Every Thursday 11 pm GMT

Storify Slides of the chat

Tweetchat favourite quotes - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Coursera Course: Learning to Teach Online

My Goal
I have been intrigued by online teaching and learning ever since I began interacting over the internet, and find the possibilities of teaching online fascinating, however I feel that I need a background against which to base my practice, that´s basically why I am here: to collect ideas, and to check what I am already doing with more experienced people.

Stated intent

I want to use my knowledge to develop a personal online teaching strategy
Module 1: Why is online teaching important?


Activity 1.1
Where are you in the current educational landscape?
My current educational landscape is quite varied right now.  When I decided to quit my job at a local Town Hall Languages and Arts school, I decided to start doing something else.  After a couple of years some friends in need of practicing their English made me go back to teaching.  This is how I began teaching again to a bunch of friends.  They are not many, adults most of them, and each one has a different agenda.  I have the ones who travel,  the ones who love the language, and I have others who just want a break from their routine or an advance and challenge in their careers, which involves knowing how to speak English.  Lately I had an English teacher friend who sent me her own son and nephew, both of whom have gone through all the possible exams, but want to continue practicing.  I teach from home and our classes are very flexible, I must admit that I am so used to forgetting about what I have planned that I hardly ever end up doing what I had imagined for the class.  I have internet access in the classroom as well as coursebooks, which I still use especially with lower level students or with students who feel they need to regularly practice at home.  Since I interact a lot in online courses and groups, I often come across interesting material and I add that in a google document that is a kind of resource page where I drop all the links that I consider that might be of interest to each of my students.  I believe that knowing our students interests is key if we want them to be engaged in their process, especially  when they have already reached an intermediate level of proficiency that might allow them to express themselves as individuals.  
Activity 1.2
What technologies are you already familiar with?
I am familiar with the use of conference tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts as well as the many platforms used by online conference organisers such as Blackboard Collaborate, Wiziq, Adobe Connect.  I am a frequent online student and I try to take advantage of every online Professional Development opportunity available.  
As regards my own practice I keep separate google docs for each of my students and I aggregate content with tasks there. (videos, podcasts, tutorials, pictures, stories, web sites)
I have produced some content myself, audio, video and presentations. I am always hunting the web for free tools that I might use to do this. Luckily there are a lot of generous teachers willing to share their experiences with me, which makes my own journey more interesting and easier at the same time.
Activity 1.3
Define your own personal learning goal to guide your learning within the course.
Since I have been exploring everything connected with online learning on my own without anyone else imposing a schedule or a curriculum on me, I feel I need a systematic approach to sort of putting everything in order.  The same objective inspired me to join a MOOC on Digital Citizenship.  I believe that learning is a social activity and I personally like the connectivist element in MOOCs, those interactions that spice up and enrich our own vision.
Ok first misunderstanding in this course:  I thought I had to submit a reflection, which I had prepared above.  Just as I was about to copy and paste it into the Submit Activity section I came across a multiple choice questionnaire which I was meant to complete by just selecting the correct answer.  Adding to my disappointment was the fact that I later on checked that the system had made a mistake in one of my answers: No. 9 regarding digital citizenship (forgive me Alec Couros!) I was sure that I had submitted the right answer!
My favourite quotes:
...seeking to provide learners with a more customized, personalised learning experience
...in the current world of ubiquitous  social media it is web tools that provide an excellent vehicle for global connections...
...today´s learners need to survive in a digital participatory global economy...
...open source movement; expressions of efforts of people worldwide to connect and create...
...learning; collaborative and social
…. Tapscott (2009), puts it: “the global economy and the digital age require new abilities  –  it‟s not what you know that counts anymore, it‟s what you can learn ...
(p. 127)”.
….sharing, collaborating, networking, customising, personalization Digital citizenship" is now being dubbed as "citizen 2.0" and in the simplest terms it refers to the ability to participate in society online and to use technology appropriately. Digital citizenship represents capacity, belonging, and the potential for political and economic engagement in society in the information age (O‟Brien, 2008). Digital citizens practice conscientious use of technology, demonstrate responsible use of information, and maintain a positive attitude to learning with technology (ISTE 2007 cited in Richards, 2010)
The network effects or benefits of bringing people together online exceed the satisfaction gained by individual participants - creating what economists call "positive externalities" or spill over benefits.

Assignment 1
(500 words max.)
Critically analyse and reflect on the following:
Your understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the use of both open Web 2.0 technologies and institutionally supported technologies like a learning management system (LMS)
Considerations of using both types of technology, using specific examples related to your own teaching context and practice
Your institution’s policy and strategies about the use of different technologies for online learning and delivery approaches (i.e. technical support, pedagogical guidance, availability, usage restrictions, privacy, etc).

With these points in mind, write a short statement in the text box below that best describes your personal perspective on each, in the context of your own teaching practice.

Related Learning Outcomes

By completing this assignment, you will demonstrate your achievement of the following course learning outcomes:
Describe and understand the importance and use of a range of online technologies in learning, teaching, and course design in contemporary education from multiple perspectives

Demonstrate collaborative and independent enquiry and reflective practice

Things to think about

This assignment should be written from your own personal perspective – there is no right or wrong answer, but the clarity of your submission and the depth of analysis will be examined.

While you may already have an understanding of the three points above, we do expect you to be critical in your analysis of this understanding.

It is fine to identify things that you want to find out more about in your response.
In completing this assignment, we expect that you will undertake some research at your own institution, engage in course discussions, and reflect upon your learning within the Module 1 and Module 2 activities.

Below the submission text box on this page, you will see the evaluation and feedback rubric. This is how others will assess your submission. Ensure that you address each criterion before you submit your assignment.

Submission requirements

Your submission should aim to be no longer than 500 words. Please write in English.
You may upload files (such as images) to support your submission.
You can save your work as a draft if you are not ready to submit, but make sure that you remember to submit it before the due date.

Assignment 1
typewriter, by Oxygen Team, via Iconfinder.png(typewriter icon, via Oxygen Team, Iconfinder)
For teachers like me who went all through their teacher training college with the typewriter as the only tech available coming to terms with the wide range of educational technology tools and resources poses a challenging mission.
This mission has several aspects and we have to systematically train ourselves to consider at least three of them when evaluating the implementation of technology in our classes. I have always  found the SAMR model very useful to assist me when in doubt, aiming to TRANSFORM education whenever possible.
In an age when everything we do has the imperative of technology, sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether what we are going to do is really pedagogically relevant, if it is going to make our lives easier and if it is simple enough for our students. The notion of TPCK is very useful here. Ideally technology is here to assist ourselves to plan activities that are not only relevant for our learners but also conducting to independent learning as well.  When a student comes to class to proudly show me that she has successfully downloaded a podcast into her mobile phone and wants me to clarify some vocabulary from it, I would gladly answer her questions and listen to the summary of the episode that she had been listening on the bus.

My context demands for personalized learning since each of my one to one classes is unique dictated by the objective and interest of my students.  In my exploration of tools to enrich the learning process I tried Learning Management Systems such as Edmodo, without much success. My adult students did not check the posts on a regular basis.  I am now using a Google Doc, which I customize with links and activities.  However, each student is unique and will relate to the content differently. Books Adults   Google Drive.png

I have to add another element to the equation.  If we are here it's because we love communicating, hence the global dimension would provide the touchstone against which to try out the language I am teaching.  There are various ways we can explore this, and again it will strongly depend on what our student knows and how much he/she is willing to risk.  Again here my students range from the ones who tell me: 'I have no problem in doing anything!' (my favourite ones!) to the ones who would never allow me to expose them to a stranger.  Regardless of level of proficiency the student's preferences are to be taken  into account when planning to go global.  Here the tools to consider are those which will enable the (synchronous/asynchronous) conversation such as Skype or VoiceThread and also collaborative tools such as Padlet or Google Docs.
Collab tools.jpg
It takes time and practice with our students to narrow down our choices and come up with a list of 'killer apps', however, the outcomes  will differ from student to student.
The ideal scenario would be one where both teachers and students feel comfortable enough to use an array of tools and programmes integrated seamlessly into the lesson.  Today the notion of classroom time is also flexible, since students  have ubiquitous access to online material after the class has finished.  Some of my students want to watch, read again or share with  another member of the family what we have dealt with in class and the conversation transcends the classroom walls..  Having all the material together in one virtual place enables this to happen.  There are alternatives to Google Docs such as Flipboard, Pearltrees or Scoop it for the curation of classroom material.
Facebook and Whatsapp might be used to confirm classes, and provide opportunities for conversation.
If I am here today it is because I lack a systematic approach due to the flexible nature of my conversation classes and my concern is that maybe there is a way I can optimize my teaching by implementing a model which could aid me to adapt myself to the ever changing nature of the classroom reality in our fascinating field of language teaching.

Pleasant Surprise!
As I was checking the course material I discovered that our moderators had recorded videos answering the week 1 most voted questions from the discussion threads.  This videos were very reassuring in the sense that I felt accompanied not only by my moderators but also by my fellow moocers whose concerns were similar to mine as regards certain aspects of online teaching and learning.

viernes, 18 de julio de 2014

Reflections after a circus show

Corteo, by Cirque du Soleil

The Cirque du Soleil has always attracted me. Several things make me admire how an idea born from a small number of people has grown into becoming a worldwide fenomenon. The show we finally were lucky enough to see in Buenos Aires last saturday with my family is the result of a long teamwork process.  My admiration goes to these people who got together to make their ideas a reality. They let you know this by giving credits to every creative mind who took part in the process. Art Designers, choreographers, writers, composers, coordinators.  I was eager to ask each one of these people how had school prepared them for this, who they got their inspiration from, what is the creative process like?  At the same time as I was watching some girls climbing giant  chandelliers at the begining of the show I ventured that maybe they fancied climbing trees when they were children.  I also regretted having scolded my own children as they were bouncing cheerfully from bed to bed  like the artists in another scene.  
The show also made me reflect on the concept of what we consider appropriate. The name of the show: 'Corteo' (Burial Procession/Cortejo) The opening line: 'Soñe mi propio funeral' (I dreamed  my own funeral) No sad notes, though.  A celebration of fantasy, which made me want to have a funeral like that one, full of angels and memories and music.  Totally appropriate for children, however, we continue ignoring this  topic in our schools curricullums. 
We enjoyed the experience of travelling to a dreamland of clowns, giants and small people, musicians, singers, high rope walkers, jugglers, acrobats and whislers.  But what I sincerelly admire is the capacity of this large group of artists to join forces to achieve a common goal.  

sábado, 28 de junio de 2014

Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Jornadas Internacionales de Lenguas Extranjeras

25th, 26th and 27th June, 20014

Here´s the full programme of the event.

My Proposal to this event and the feedback I got from the evaluation team.

Even though you can see that the proposal to the event was in English, I had to use Spanish to talk about it since the audience consisted of teachers of different languages.  However our colleagues from Brazil spoke Portuguese and it was a great satisfaction for me to be able to follow their speeches quite well. As I said, it was not until I was driving home that I realised this has been the first time I had used my own language to talk about the things I have been learning and doing online.
During the event a number of issues concerning curricullum reform were put forward as well as several initiatives to support or aid the teaching of English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian.
A group of colleagues from Misiones (the province famous for its Iguazu Falls), which borders Brazil and Paraguay put up a book called Portugues para meus amigos They also told us about the challenges of teaching a foreign language in a region where the children use a blend of languages: on the coast of the Uruguay River the language is Portuñol (with of Portuguese and Spanish) and by the Parana River bordering Paraguay some people speak Guarañol (a mix of Guarani and Spanish).
Another interesting proposal came from Bruno Ramires Zilli, from the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil, who put up an online course to teach Spanish to the blind.
Jackeline Miazzo from Universidad Nacional de San Luis presented on Spanish pronounciation and its varieties, given that universities located in different places of Argentina are receiving overseas students.  What variety of Spanish is the one these students should learn?  The uncomfortable question of deciding what is the "best" and "most prestigious" variety emerged as well as an exercise of self awareness on what Spanish we speak, what variety should a student learning Spanish learn while living in a specific location and when should a teacher intervene to correct mistakes.  I found this comment very useful: (I will quote her by providing my humble translation) " ...to wake up in the learner a desire to learn in order to allow an intercultural exchange..."  I must say that the need to focus on use and appropriateness was stressed without so much emphasis on grammar, which I found very healthy. When it comes to  my  mother tongue I have witnessed the speakers struggling with gender, number and verbal tenses while trying to communicate, these grammatical features are complicated enough to kill the most eager student´s motivation.
Sonia Bierbrauer from the university of Cordoba delighted us by sharing the creative process of writing a Spanish coursebook, which now consists of 3 levels.  She concluded that it was a challenge that allowed the team involved to grow not only professionally but personally as well.  The book is called Horizonte ELE, unfortunatelly I don´t have a link to it but if anyone is interested you can surely mail her for details (sbier@gpecla.unc.edu.ar)
This congress was an opportunity to celebrate the 10th birthday of the CELU ,Certificate of Spanish, Language and Use,  a venture of epic characteristics that begun as one of the worst crisis in the history of our country was taking place.  Unfortunately it has not a virtual component, but anyone wishing to attend the exam can do so in several evaluation centres all over the world as well as in any of the 35 universities belonging to a consortium of institutions that are in charge of administering the exam.

martes, 10 de junio de 2014

Digital Citizenship MOOC, Week 5 Final Questions and answers

As the last week of the DCMOOC starts and in order to prepare myself for the upcoming Core Session 5, with Alec Couros and the rest of the participants of this course, I sat down to write down my reflections on several things regarding not only this particular topic that gathers us together here, but also about learning in general and where I stand as someone who has been a regular attendee to several opportunities for free open learning ventures.

Before the computers arrived to the school my son´s Physics teacher invited us to a parents meeting where our son would present on Energy Resources in our country as well as exhibit a lamps they had made in groups as part of their semester´s project.  I had been asked on several occasions to participate as part of an audience for teacher friends´classes from USA or Germany who presented on different topics, and felt that my son, his friends and teacher were missing an opportunity to broadcast their work to the world.

Looking back I remember asking several teachers about the digital policies in their schools.  The arriving of the goverment computers (in the picture above) made me want to investigate the subject of how schools dealt with questions such as safety or privacy.  I received several general answers, however the practices were tied to the teachers´ unique classroom settings.  I also tried google and posting general twitter questions without much success, the information was too much, theoretical or did not apply to my own country.  So I ended up ignoring the questions that came to me.

Then I joined this MOOC.  A group of teachers reflecting together, adding experience and a little theory, but mostly practical ideas about real classroom issues which come up on a regular basis.  The reflections produced content that was shared.  Simple idea.

I strongly agree with Matthew Johnson when he talks about the efficiency of the Digital Literacy/Citizenship model over the Safety Model, as I come to think about it that is the approach I have applied with my own children as they grow older and gain more rights and responsibilities. A model based on trust with clear rules where adults and students together concentrate on the positive uses of social media and build from there.

We shy away from the internet sometimes because of fear.  Fear of things we don´t know.  The best thing we can do, in my humble opinion, is to talk about those fears in a spaces such as this one, where it´s ok not to know and it´s ok to ask questions, knowing that the person next to us may not be an expert but someone who will do their best to collaborate because we are on the same boat after all.

The big answer today is learning together.  I have my own favourites: my friends from Hello Little World, teachers skypers, whom I interact with on a daily basis, Learning2gether, by Vance Stevens, who organises Sunday or Monday meetings to talk about general topics that concern educators, and my last discovery the people from EdTechTalk, who broadcast via You Tube regular meeting called IHAQ (I have a question).

I guess that what I am trying to say here is thank you to all of you who made this MOOC possible and for sharing all this with the world.  It´s our turn now to spread the word and start the discussions in our own environments.  See you around!

(a view from the country surrounding my city, Santo Tomé, Santa Fe, Argentina)

viernes, 23 de mayo de 2014

Digital Citizenship and the importance of including it in our teaching

Let´s begin by saying that if we talk about "digital" citizenship, some teachers may argue that they don´t need it since they don´t use any technology in school.  This is the case of many classes in Argentina where digital technology is being slowly introduced either through government or private iniciative.  What happens outside  the classroom may vary from children who have access to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and are already using it profusely with their friends to those who are not allowed to use any social media at all, this group is the minority.  As regards teachers, we range from those who are connected via facebook, to those who have a twitter account but never check it or don´t see the pedagogical implications of using twitter (or any other social media) for professional development or any other school purpose.  However the conversation in classrooms about "digital" citizenship has not started yet.  It seems that we are waiting for the computers to arrive, the wifi connection to work and the curricullum to adjust itself.  Meanwhile children are already producing content, interacting through social media, and using the internet to look for materials for homework assignments.  All these without having had the chance to actually do what we have been doing during these two weeks of DCMOOC:  reflect and share our opinions about the elements that should be present in the "good digital citizenship" equation.
Not having access to technology may not be that bad after all, since it would allow us to focus on different aspects one at a time, or to establish priorities.

lunes, 19 de mayo de 2014

Digital Citizenship MOOC


Digital Citizenship MOOC homepage

I can say that I was thrown into the waters of the web without having any idea of the protocol of behaviour to follow during my interactions with educators from around the world.  Learning how to behave online was not something I sat down to do, since there were so many exciting things to learn and catch up with that I often postponed the systematic study of this matter.  However, and as I got more involved in social media interactions with other educators I felt the time has come for me to reflect on where I stood regarding digital behaviour.
I agree with Alec Couros when he says that chances are that we are going to see more and more technology in our society, so it is only natural for a connected educator to get involved in the conversation about what we mean when we talk about Digital Citizenship.  It also resonated with me when he mentioned (I watched the recording today) that he has three children and I remember how I tortured mine in the early times of the internet at home.   Being a parent is also a strong reason to be here as well.
Digital Citizenship is also another example of those things that you learn by doing, that is why I believe the connectivist approach to this subject is the most appropriate one.
My aims for this course are getting to know what other teachers have experienced so far, learning about classroom techniques to foster good practices, and participating in discussions regarding what miths should be destroyed and what paths should be taken in order to focus our work on the best that the internet has to offer: people getting together to make this world a better place.

PS.  As I was sipping my tea after I published this post I remember another reason why I wanted to join this MOOC.  Last night I watched the recording of one session from the "Learning Together" series by my friend Vance Stevens with Alexander Hayes.  Link to the you tube recording.  In it I was able to have a glimpse of the research he is carrying out regarding the impact of the use of wearable technology in education and society.  The conversation brought about interesting but disturbing issues concerning privacy and transparency (and obscurity!) Technology is being blended into society and we are faced with new predicaments as we go along.  At the same time, and why not, it also has the potential of making us become closer, so close that we could become the person wearing the device, when it comes to seeing the world through somebody else´s Google Glasses.  It is an educators´responsibility to address the issues that come with this by discussing technology, not by demonizing it.

sábado, 17 de mayo de 2014

Artesol, Jujuy, Argentina May 9-10, 2014

Here are some pictures

Now that things have come to some kind of normality around the house and at work, I sit down to write a few thoughts on what has been my second experience with the people of Artesol here in my country.  
Getting there and back from home was an entire adventure to me, due to the lack of connectivity by land among our provinces.  I live in the capital of the province of Santa Fe, in the center of the country and I had to travel to a province which borders Chile and Bolivia, and in order to do so I had to change three buses and the whole trip (1100 km) lasted 18 hours.  All this because I refused to go to Buenos Aires and take a plane to Jujuy from there, which would have been the most sensible thing to do considering the hard time I had on my trip to and from the conference venue.
The reason I attended this conference was to present about the TESOL EVO Sessions, which I had been my greatest source of inspiration and learning the past two years.  Apart from presenting I attended several workshops and presentations from teachers interested in sharing things they consider important.  I am afraid I will not be able to share links, apart from my material, since the presenters handed out paper copies of material which I don´t plan to scan.
In the conference I met enthusiastic teachers who reminded me of the reason why I keep going to conferences: to meet like minded educators.  I got some new classroom ideas, such as the use of famous self portraits to include in a lesson based on Selfies, by Mathilde Verilleaut.  I also reviewed some of my practices, such as personalizing material,  in the light of the Taxonomy of language learning strategies (from Rebecca Oxford´s,  Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. Boston, Heinle and Heinle, 1990) provided by the presenters Mariana Lloberas and Silvana Irusta.  
I drank from the enthusiasm of some teachers like Mónica Rodríguez Salvo, who presented on 21st Century Skills,and also Susana Company and Maria Soledad Loutayf whose demonstration called Digital Literacy for Dummies: ELT in the 21st Century was packed with teachers eager to know more about what they had to say.  These teachers I hope to keep in contact with.  In a way I feel that we “speak the same language” when it comes to language teaching.
However, I´m afraid, connectivity  is still absent from the conferences workshops, plenaries, or presentations.   I found myself exchanging facebook names, twitter handles, email addresses in the hope of changing this for future conferences. I am aware that in my country there are teachers with poor internet access who are finding it difficult even to open their email boxes daily. (one of my workshop attendees told me she had to wait for 3 hours for her email account to open)
I have experienced learning with other teachers, some of them were not teachers of English, but we are in the field of education and we have many things in common.  My wish is that one day those teachers from geographically isolated places join me in the fun of learning together with the world and by so doing making this a better place for our children.
Meanwhile I will share today with you what I went to present up North and I really hope you find it useful.  

Artesol annual convention, Introducing TESOL EVO Sessions from Maria Colussa

TESOL Electronic Village Online
Your Passport to Professional Development.


In an age of rapid change and innovation professional development is a must.  Tesol EVO (Electronic Village Online) is a yearly opportunity for us to get updated as regards the latest methodologies as well as an opportunity for networking with other teachers in our field of interest.  Come to see how to get the most of this amazing opportunity!

These sessions are held during a period of 5 weeks prior to the TESOL Convention, generally by the end of January and beginning of February. They are free of charge and they are moderated by outstanding educators.  After attending my second one this year I want to share my learning journey.  Each one of us has a different scenario and how we decide to pursue our own professional development will be strongly dependent on what we want to achieve in our classrooms.  The EVO sessions have multiple opportunities for further develop our professional skills, and also provides a space for reflection on our practice together with other teachers from all over the world.
The participants in this workshop will leave with an idea of what the EVO sessions are, how to choose the best option according to their particular situation and also what are the tools to get acquainted with beforehand to make the most of this experience.
EVO Sessions are the future of professional development, a virtual space to share, grow and learn with other teachers who are looking for the same things we are:  becoming better language teaching professionals.

Maria del Carmen Colussa, a graduate from Alte Brown Teacher Training Institute, Santa Fe.  Over twenty years of experience as a teacher at the VIP Institute Santo Tomé, Liceo Municipal Santo Tomé.  Currently teaching freelance mostly to adults and in my journey to become an online teacher. http://mariacolussa.blogspot.com.ar/

EVO Sessions  
The ideal starting place for a beginner's journey on their road to tech integration and pd.


Free: perfect for economically disadvantaged teachers
We learn TOGETHER, which is  essential to ease every beginner's anxiety, moderators are available and willing to help.
It's custom made: everyone chooses their own level of commitment by submitting work/deciding how much to participate.
Online, we can do it from the comfort of our own coach/sofa/(in Argentina) under a parasol by the swimming pool!
It fosters networking: helps us build our PLN if we are here it's because we want the same things, the general tone of the sessions is one of celebrating learning no one is competing for any prize!
Moderators carefully plan each session by gradually leading participants into the themes, but at the same time they challenge participants to take risks, the question is: Why not, rather than Why?
Online also means everyone has access to the material, which is convenient for geographically isolated teachers with limited wifi, even if there are live sessions in your chosen session, everything is recorded and can be accessed asynchronously.  This is also convenient if you cannot follow a fixed timetable (my case!).

Collaborative, Connectivist great to start building your PLN
Self paced, no rush.  Keep calm and carry on!/Sign up for EVO
Chaotic, it's the way we learn these days!  However it´s up to you to find a way to organize your learning.
Varied: There's one session for you, no matter where you teach you will surely find something of interest.


1.Study the sessions' proposals by reading the summary, the mods bio, the platform where they will be held, the tools that will be used.

It will probably be a good idea to familiarise yourself with: Edmodo, WIKI pages, Google Plus (and the fabulous Google tools like Google Hangouts, Gmail, Google groups/docs, Blogger).  These days there are tutorials available on you tube for virtually every tool you want to learn how to use.
It would be a good idea to choose a session based on tools which you feel comfortable with.    However, don't discard a session too soon.  In my case the first year I was absolutely terrified by sound files, so I signed up for the podcasting session, and I never regretted that decision since then I have felt more confident to try out new things, just because I had already experimented knowing that there was a safety net of teachers who would gladly answer any questions I might have.

2. One session at a time please! Resist the temptation to sign up to more than 1 session.  Next year there will surely be another chance for you to do it.  Besides you can always browse the materials and tasks of the rest of the sessions as a visitor.  You can also attend live sessions too.  Concentrating on just one session will help you focus on what you need to learn today, however sporadically visiting other sessions will probably give you an idea of things you might like to explore in the future.  Have a notebook and pencil nearby every time you attend a live session you will have to write down many things!

3.Timetables: yes, they exist and they're there for organization purposes, however  no one dies if we fail to submit an assigned task in due time and form.  We could always join in the discussion forums/threads, and listen to what people who were lucky enough to squeeze the task into their busy schedules  have to say about  it.  Even if you find no time to follow a week´s task, join the group discussions anyway, or read what others have posted and respond contributing to the discussion, not just praising and agreeing, this really adds value to the group content.


It's ok not to know. ASK QUESTIONS, there will always be someone there to give answers.
Learning is serendipitous, you never know what you're going to learn, and sometimes you don't even know what you are learning!
Be patient with yourself.
Above all ENJOY THE RIDE!!!

It´s ok to lurk, Go Lurkers! Our brains need time to adjust to new things, just be patient with yourself.