Saturday, February 28, 2004

A reflective personal student blog for Project Based Learning

Spent half of the afternoon trying to imagine how to format a blog for my students who are doing TPE (Travaux Personnels Encadrés). These are the French counterpart for project based learning. Students are required to have a carnet de bord (logbook) to record their research and work trajectory which will lead them to defining a problématique (big question), imagine and produce something which will transform the knowledge they acquired into something new, an abstract which summarizes their work and finally orally expose to a jury their findings and justify their research and product.

This is very challenging work and I find it extremely interesting. However, neither students nor teachers are given the means to do a good job
- students because they are overloaded with very heavy program requirements in umpteen disciplines, have a very loaded timetable so have very little time to give to this kind of project,
- teachers, who are not given some time together to talk about what needs to be done as a follow up or reflect on what has happened. Many have not even had any training on how to work this way and do not have any computer skills.

I have been trying to introduce technological tools to make the work of both parties involved easier but find there is much resistance from teachers and students alike to abandon their traditional ways.

I have opened a virtual community last year, where we could leave messages, share documents (instead of photocopying and systematically not having them when needed)
it was a flop... only two students entered it and the three other teachers involved did not even acknowledge it although they enrolled and knew how it worked.

This year I will try to substitute the notebook for the blog - students are marked on their logbook and should have it at all times when teachers ask for it. However, this is a permanent path of war as this rarely happens. A blog is much easier to keep, you can keep it open and note down the results of your research immediately as you go along, link directly to the sites you have found without having to copy the url, the citation and the explanation by hand.
We can give them link lists to refer to and leave on their template just a click away. As they are working most of the time on the web, it is much easier to post directly to the blogger.

Tell me what you thing about the model I have imagined (warning: it's in French)

Friday, February 27, 2004


I have just downloaded bloggar - an interface between you and blogger which gives you more flexibility to edit your posts.
It is freeeware, easy to post and much more efficient than Blogjet.

I am going to suggest it to some of my students who would like to jazz up their blogs without having to go into the html template.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Carnival is over

I have just come back from my four-day weekend in the countryside, where I spent the Carnival holidays. It was pouring with rain and I did not manage to go hiking or do any kind of exercise except for correcting homework, lifting the fork and glass, zapping the TV channels to see the different samba schools parading or playing solitary spider on the computer...

Carnival parades were fantastic and people had a wonderful time in spite of the rain. Mocidade Alegre is the big winner in Sao Paulo and we are still waiting for the results in Rio de Janeiro, which should come out this afternoon.

Blogging my life away...very often I have the impression this takes too much from me and stops me from enjoying the life flowing outside...

Ash Wednesday today ...about time to look ahead and think about working seriously :-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Presentation at Tapped IN: Blogging and Presence Online

Yesterday evening about 20 BaWs joined me at the BaW presentation at Tappedin. I structured the presentation around the questions I had received and decided to answer them by writing and illustrating the different phases in an e-book.

This, I believe, gave some added value to the presentation as teachers also became acquainted with a different possibility of storing and presenting work online.

What was fun to notice was how people's gut reaction was to pay attention to the layout first and almost forget the content. All were so excited and impressed that I had almost no content questions in the chat area... just sat back and relaxed :-)

One of the participants even commented:

Bee ,next time you should give us just a dull word document so that we actually pay attention! Instead of such a great document!

So as many of you are about to embark on the adventure of creating a web page or using a are some questions for you to consider:

  • Does the architecture of the environement online (blog, web page, wiki, message board) affect your stds' motivation and the way they learn, communicate, interact?

  • Will a page with text only make students read more and pay more attention to the text ?

  • What kind of balance should there be between design/layout and content online?

Sunday, February 15, 2004


I have managed to bring the blog back to form, but do not remember if this is the way it looked before and if all the links on the right hand side are there. If you notice some that are missing, please let me know.

A disastrous move

I have just accidentally erased my template page completely when instead of clicking on preview, I saved it. ...argh

Fortunately the posts have not disappeared, but I have lost all the changes I had made to it (colours, layout, comments and links) :-(

Will have to work on it again!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Back to School

I am back in Sao Paulo after three very full days in Curitiba. When I started writing on Saturday about it, I thought I would be able to sit down and write my impressions after the sessions but this was just as impossible as go to sleep at a normal

On Sunday we stayed the whole day in the conference room of the hotel listening to the different speakers. I was very impressed by the work some state teachers are developing in their classes in spite of the unfavourable environment they face. Flat Stanley, a Canadian project caught my attention. I must pass it on to the BaW working with children. It is much fun and I am sure they have lots of creativity to adapt it online, using bloggers/webpages.

Theory sessions and discussions turned around post-modernism in education and the dilemmas an educator faces with the relativisation of values, multi-culturality and the ever-changing and constantly evolving identities.
Ethnographic research was introduced as a means to alleviate this problem as it describes, analyses and interprets the relationship of a particular person or group of people interacting in a situation at a moment in time. Although these presentations gave us food for thought, and some of us stayed afterwards to discuss it, I noticed many of the teachers who were the target of this seminar did not see the point or plainly did not understand what was going on or how to include this into their practice. They had come for a more practical reason: how to face their classrooms and how/what to present to their students.
I have not had any formal training as I have built my teaching philosophy from practice and reading on my the two things blend somehow. I would find it very difficult to have the theory first and then apply it to practice. I believe theory-practice is an intertwined process as you construct and change your practice from reflecting on it...and vice-versa...

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Intercultural Studies Seminar

I have just arrived in Curitiba in the state of Paraná to take part in the Intercultural Studies Seminar led by professors from the University of Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul, Braz-Tesol Teacher Education SIG and sponsored by the British Council. The aim is to design and develop web-based ELT materials for intercultural education in state schools.

I was already wearing my pyjamas and was about to finish this paragraph when Roberta, my very energetic and talkative room mate arrived from Palmas, Tocantins. After a few phone calls, she discovered that the rest of the group (whom I had not yet met) was having fun in town. She urged me to change again and off we went to Santa República, a dancing spot in the Santa Felicidade district.

There I was introduced to a number of people... Mariza de Almeida from UFPR and leader of the project; Julian Wing from the British Council. The most unexpected was when I discovered there were two other EFL teachers...who also spoke Polish. One was born here, while the other, who was born and raised in Poland, was accompanying her British husband working here. So there we were , 3 Poles , finding information about each other in the small hours of the morning. The world is small and definitely full of coincidences!

We were back much too late for me to continue writing this bit, so I am jotting these words as I try to focus and get ready for a long day of conferences and work. Mariza told me she expects to see about 40 people, teachers coming from every corner of the State of Paraná. This evening we will also be having a video-conference with John Corbett, from the University of Glasgow. (to be continued)

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Use of Voice in Online Language Learning and Teaching

This evening Michael Coghlan (TAFE - Australia) gave a very interesting voice conference presentation on Yahoo Messenger showing us the advantages of using this kind of tool in teaching. There were about 35 webheads present, listening, questioning online and also participating through text chat. Michael had previously prepared a PPT presentation which the participants downloaded beforehand... so we also had access to the main points visually.

At the beginning, the moderators asked all interested people who had expressed their wish to participate and were online to join by sending a join conference invitation. Then, they checked whether the voice volume and level were adequate. Michael's voice was a bit too deep and there was a lot of ressonance and a slur at the end of the sentences when he seemed to be breathing more heavily. This was quickly corrected when Michael spoke more slowly and articulated better. Participants from many different locations (eg. Spain, Japan, Poland, USA, France...) also intervened and the sound quality was usually good and stable without interference.

I do not know why, my YM voice did not work...instead of voice, people reported hearing a lot of noise...:-( YM was working perfectly all right last Sunday during the Polish lesson with Agata and Babi. A glitch I must check out.

During the presentation, the chat text distracted me a bit and at certain moments, I felt more like interacting with other people than following attentively Michael's presentation. I believe this comes from the fact that I had read the slides before, knew and understood what he was going to talk I listened with one ear and occupied my hands with the keyboard. I apologize for my disruptive behaviour.

Renata called my attention in a side window saying I should chat on the side. However, I felt that chatting on the side disrupted even more because everytime a window popped there was an annoying accompaying sound that I suppose could be heard by everyone else logged in YM. This is something that does not happen in the Tapped In chat window. Just like in class, many people are multi-tasking...they can write and listen at the same time so when you have streaming audio, this allows you to have a parallel text chat without too much interference...when you only have text, these sidetracking comments can make your presentation a flop because all is in the same window.

Some good points came up in the text chat though:
- the obstacles raised by administration and the technical department when trying to implement new teaching ways which go against the established practice;
- the size of classes in secondary schools and reduced number of computers per student
- the need for alternative material in case technology fails you
- how to analyse, interpret and react to the disruptive behaviour of students in your classroom :-)
- how to draw the line between school and home, your work hours and your privacy when you have a computer at home.

All in all, I feel this was a great presentation because Michael not only summarized in PPT but also illustrated in his chat the different views people have of the use of ICT.

The two greatest things about online technology are that you can find and bring the real thing ( be it video, sound or text) closer to your students.

At a higher level, social tools offer the stds the possibility to interact with a native speaker, expert or just another human being different from their teacher. This surely adds a new dimension to their learning, detaches them from the teacher and helps them to chart their own course.

The transcript of the session can be found HERE
And the sound file HERE

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Learning Polish

Today I had a most productive class in Polish on YM (both text chat and voice) with Agata from Poland and Babi from Hungary.

Agata is a native speaker, formally educated in the language and living in Poland. Babi is Hungarian, learning Polish (chatting with a native speaker once a week but mostly on her own with a book). Polish is my mother tongue so I speak and I understand it. However, I have learnt it with my parents and have never had any writing or reading classes. so getting to write it is a bit difficult with all the consonant groupings (cz, sz, rz ) which are so different from what we know and the new letters like ę and ą and ż and ł.

Babi has more experience than I do in writing but I managed to express myself. Agata corrected my spelling and I rewrote the sentences. She suggested a site with jokes, but I found it difficult to read as the special letters did not show and sometimes I could not decipher the meaning. Later in the afternoon, after consulting with her brother, Agata also showed me how to change the keyboard so as to be able to display the different letters on the screen and text.

I am very excited about the whole experience and happy to have such a kind and patient teacher. It was a nice experience for us to be learning and teaching each other at the same time. I hope Jenny from New Zealand can join us as well...her time however is so different from ours!

I am planning to make a multi-lingual page for myself in Polish, Portuguese, English and French and embed some audio in these languages as well. I will try to find some pictures to illustrate my different contact with these languages. Homework ahead!

Back from the country

So here I am, back to blogging my way to
Came back from the country yesterday under a torrential rain...we haven't had a nice summer...I bet the sun is going to appear as from tomorrow when we go back to class...Murphy's Law...If anything can go wrong, it will!

Anyhow...I deleted all the comment boxes ...squawkbox shows your IP and flooble chatterbox or whatever it is called does not display the comments was too squeaky, the other too So back to Haloscan with a different user name.

Wonderful! As smooth as silk! I have placed the HTML code as instructed...the explanation is quite can post your comments again!