Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Creating a CALL Lesson in Canvas (preview)

What's hot? Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) that's what!

For one of my classes this quarter we have been assigned the project of creating our own CALL lesson using the CANVAS online learning tool. As a student I only get a limited access to this site and in essence I mostly create "pages".

I have been developing a lesson for the content of photographic narratives for an intermediate ESL / IEP class. I'll let you know that the only "web developer" experience I have is from blogging all these years.

To spiff up my lesson I decided to use infographics and managed to find a website that gives you free templates. From there I changed these using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Hey! I guess those graphic design classes I took way back when are going to good use.

I really want to share all my hard work with you guys, so that you can see what this sort of thing ends up looking like. I spent all day today further developing my lesson, so I'm pretty pooped. With that said, I'm going to share just the first few pages I created.

The following is my "Welcome Page", it is what students will start off on and is supposed to be their guiding map for the whole lesson. I managed (through a rigorous few hours of tinkering) to download it as a PDF. The text isn't exactly the same, but imagine it looking better...okay!

Students are prompted to go to the other pages labeled as "modules". Here is an example of the very first module they will go to start learning. I have "copied and pasted" the content onto here so you can get a more interactive feel.

Module 1a

Introducing Photographic Narratives - Key Elements
(By now you should of read pages 182 & 183 in your book. The following is a review of this information with an activity)

compo copy.jpg







TO COMPLETE MODULE 1 Go to the next page: Module 1b

I really want to share my reflections on all of this and also expunge the difficulties of making an online class. Furthermore, it has to be for language learners! So far I've mostly been experimenting with layout and different online tools I can use to aid in the learning process. I hope to share more about all this after I get some rest from the old computer screen. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mid-summer Musings

Is it mid summer now? I love the summer because you can slip out of your house with shorts, a tank top and sandals on and not be bothered by feeling cold. Of course the PNW has it's summer weeks of cold and rainy weather but overall you get those hot days.

This summer I have been riding the wave of academia getting through my classes and preparing for the Comps exam. I have so far compiled two binders full of notes and have yet to print my self-made notes, which will fill up another binder as well. The comps exam isn't till next January so I guess I should give myself a break. (ha)

I also have begun my internship at CISC (the Chinese Information and Service Center) here in the international district. I could have done a lot of hard work and research to find the "perfect" location for my internship, but in the end I took it upon myself to pick which was the most convenient. The CISC is a 20 minute walk from house and my schedule will be light. If I were to go with a gig at a community college I would have had to commute and be there about 5 days a week. Since I still have to take classes during my internship I decided to go with what would be less stressful.

The CISC is mainly meant for helping Chinese citizens obtain their citizenship or improve their basic English skills. This summer I will be helping tutor students in their citizenship interview test. One might think that this is very boring work and also strict in the sense that students have memorised the questions and answers. However, it calls for careful attention from the teacher to hear for their difficulties in pronunciation and distinguishing any interference going on from their first language.

This Fall I will be switching to teach a regular class at this site for about 2 days a week. I will commence the internship in the winter, so I am dragging this out but I believe it's the best way (for me) to do it.

As you can see rainy days do come along sometimes here in Seattle, but they're a time to cool down and reflect on the summer fun you have been enjoying.

Thomas has also been sort of enjoying the outdoors. I've been trying to introduce him to the surrounding lawn area near my building. But yesterday this proved to be a bad idea. I tried taking him on his leash but some folks came out of the building and spooked the poor thing. He panicked and leaped and jumped all over the place. I finally got him back inside but soon discovered he hurt one of his toenails again. So I don't think we'll be going outside again until it's healed.

Classes this quarter have been interesting and it's been helpful studying for the Comps at the same time. I feel now I'm making more connections with all the previous stuff I learned and how to apply it to teaching.

I am putting together an Computer Assisted Language Learning mock class via the tool Canvas, and it's coming along. Just that we don't really have access to all the tools Canvas offers which is kind of annoying. I hope to post up here my final product, since in the end it's going to get lost in the data-mine of the internet.

I think it's going to be all 80's F this week! Bring on the frozen coconut bars!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo

This weekend I went with Ian to the Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle. Summer seems to be disguising itself behind clouds and cooler air but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. I really liked the Woodland Park Zoo because it felt more like a park than some amusement kind of establishment. Also the enclosed areas for the animals were very thoughtful and well designed with "naturalness" in mind.

I think the educational and interactive areas could have been more engaging but oh well.

Seeing the Sea Eagle was fascinating as I guess you could also call it a Seahawk...which is our football's team mascot (of course).

Probably the most amazing animal we saw was the taypur, which is a vegetable eating animal but the size of almost a cow.

 Wildlife within the zoo...

They had a good share of snakes and reptiles too...

One really nice area was an enclosed rain forest habitat for birds...

The gorillas seemed to have some kind of social politics going on...

We didn't see all the animal so I guess that means I'll have to head back to the zoo someday. Overall though a good time was had and I was reminded about endangered species and how much we (humans) have taken over the planet. Something to think about...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Language and Culture

There are some good post-chapter questions in the book I'm reading for my EAP course this quarter. The book is "English for Academic Purposes: an advanced resource book" by Ken Hyland.

One of the questions posed in a recent reading highlights the concepts of how culture influences language learning. Hyland (2006) asks:
In what ways are cultural factors likely to influence the ways students write and learn to write or to speak in an academic variety of English? Are these factors only likely to impact the writing of L2 students? How might you accommodate these differences in your teaching and assessments?

For one there is the notion of contrastive rhetoric, which says that there are differences based upon a students' L1(and cultural background) that inform what they know about writing or academic tasks. Some have posited that in China they write in a more circular way. But you can sum up that writing in Western standards do contrast with those from other cultures. However, with the fact that the world is an open space today it could be said that anyone around the world is learning in a universal manner...thus our students (although from a specific country) may not show signs of that particular form of contrastive rhetoric. So we have to be careful about this.

Yet, I would still say culture can influence the ways students write and learn. If they do come from a background where learning was strictly teacher-centered, with little-to-no group work or experience with cooperative or collaborative learning, then for sure students will find themselves in new learning situations. But that isn't to say this will have a negative impact on their acquisition. Instead we need to consider the processes students are going through when confronting this intersection of language and culture in their learning experiences. To do so, we could give students self-assessment tools and also have discussions on the subject.

I also strongly believe that students also come with more than just cultural backgrounds to the table but ideals and standards that relate to the communities of English they are memberships of. For example, they may feel they need a certain standard of writing they heard about or thought exists because of the community of practice they come from.

Language and culture is a very interesting topic and we have to consider not just the students' influence of their L1 but also that of the "native speaker" and "standard English" standards that play a crucial role in all of this process.